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Category: traffic engineering

Could you run an MPLS-TE-only MPLS/VPN network without LDP?

One of my readers sent me a surprising question: “We run only LDP in our MPLS network and need to run RSVP for TE and then phase out LDP. How could we do it?

My first reaction was “Why would you ever want to do that” and I got no reasonable answer (suggestions, anyone?) but let’s focus on “Could you do it?

TL&DR summary: You could, but that doesn’t mean you should.

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Secondary MPLS-TE Tunnels and Fast Reroute

Ronald sent me an interesting question: What's the point of having a secondary path set up for a certain LSP, when this LSP also has fast-reroute enabled (for example, with the Junos fast-reroute command)?

The idea of having a pre-established secondary LSP backing up a traffic engineering tunnel was commonly discussed before FRR was widely adopted, but should have quietly faded away by now.

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MPLS TE Autoroute Fundamentals

An MPLS Traffic Engineering (MPLS TE) tunnel is a unidirectional Label Switched Path (LSP) established between the tunnel head-end Label Switch Router (LSR) and tail-end LSR. Once the tunnel is established and operational, it’s ready to forward IPv4 data traffic. However, no traffic will enter the tunnel unless the IPv4 routing tables and CEF tables are modified. You can push the traffic into an MPLS TE tunnel with a static route or with policy-based routing (PBR) or modify the behavior of the link-state algorithm used to implement MPLS TE in your network.

The autoroute functionality configured with the tunnel mpls autoroute announce interface configuration command automatically inserts the MPLS TE tunnel in the SPF tree and ensures the tunnel is used to transport all the traffic from the head-end LSR to all destinations behind the tail-end LSR.

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Specify MPLS TE bandwidth as percentage of interface bandwidth

When configuring MPLS Traffic Engineering in your network, you have to specify the amount of bandwidth that the MPLS TE tunnels can request on each MPLS TE-enabled interface with the ip rsvp bandwidth command.

Until recently, this command accepted only fixed bandwidth (in kilobits), which could be pretty inconvenient if you wanted to use common interface templates or deployed MPLS TE on links with varying bandwidth (for example, Multilink PPP bundles). IOS release 12.2SRC introduced a variant of the same command (ip rsvp bandwidth percentage) that allows you to specify reservable bandwidth as percentage of the current interface bandwidth. Unfortunately this feature didn’t make it into 12.4(20)T.

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Do you need LDP with MPLS TE?

An anonymous commenter to my implicit NULL/PHP post made a very valid point:

Most Cisco documentation states that you must enable LDP before doing MPLS-TE, which is a complete fallacy.

If you're using MPLS TE simply to shift IP traffic around your network, he's absolutely right: there is no need to run LDP if you have an IP-only network. If you're running MPLS VPN or BGP on edges/MPLS in the core, the answer becomes “it depends.”

I documented the detailed rules and undesired side effects if you ignore them a long while ago, but that article disappeared into /dev/null. Fortunately caught a copy before that.

Would you like me to migrate that article to Send me a message and I just might do it...

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MPLS Traffic Engineering without a Link State routing protocol

You've probably heard the joke about the honest salesmen: it's not that they're lying, what they know isn't true. I had a similar problem recently: in the 10 MPLS traffic engineering myths and half truths I wrote “Half-truth: MPLS TE only works with OSPF and IS-IS routing protocols.” Ivan Kuchin understood that as “You can run MPLS TE without OSPF or IS-IS.” Although I haven't written that anywhere, I also thought that was the case … so let me try to weasel out of this mess.

I remember being involved in a situation years ago (around the 12.0T release) where someone wanted to use MPLS TE without IS-IS (which was the only supported protocol in those days) and somehow the solution was to set up tunnels using explicit paths, where you have to specify hop-by-hop IP addresses. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense: if you list every IP address in the path, there is no need for constraint-based path calculation (PCALC). However, as it turns out, the later additions to MPLS TE (loose source routing, address exclusion, inter-area MPLS TE, inter-AS MPLS TE) changed the IOS code sufficiently that even the hop-by-hop tunnels cannot be set up without operational OSPF or IS-IS:
  • In order to have MPLS TE running on a router, you need an MPLS TE router-id, and you can only specify that in OSPF or IS-IS routing protocol.
  • Even though the hop-by-hop explicit path is static, the router wants to run PCALC for every hop in the path. If the next-hop IP address is not in the OSPF topology database, the router will not even try to set up the tunnel.

If you want to run MPLS TE in your network, you thus need to run OSPF or IS-IS, even though you might not want to use them for IP packet forwarding. For example, you could enable one of them only on the links actually used for MPLS TE and set the distance to 255 to prevent their routes from getting into the IP routing table (and I've tested it in the lab before writing this post).

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