Category: Routing

VRF – Virtual Routing and Forwarding

(Part II) Virtual Routing and Forwarding

This is the second part in the series of posts dedicated to network virtualization and path isolation.

Ever needed one extra router? It’s possible to split the router into more logical routers by using VRF. How? Here’s how!

Virtual Routing and Forwarding or VRF allows a router to run more that one routing table simultaneously. When running more routing tables in the same time, they are completely independent. For example, you could use overlapping IP addresses inside more VRFs on the same router and they will function independently without conflict (You can see this kind of overlap in the example below). It is possible to use same VRF instance on more routers and connect every instance separately using VRF dedicated router port or only a sub-interface.

You can find VRFs to be used on ISP side. Provider Edge (PE) routers are usually running one VRF per customer VPN so that one router can act as a PE router for multiple Customer Edge (CE) routers even with more customers exchanging the same subnets across the VPN. By running VRF per customer, those subnets will never mix in-between them.

VRFs are used to create multiple virtual routers from one physical router.

Every VRF is creating his own Routing table and CEF table, basically a separate RIB and FIB.

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Static Route Load Balance

How it works?

If you have two routers / two Layer3 switches connected with two L3 links (two paths) you can route with two equal static routes towards the same prefix and the router will load balance traffic across both links.

The idea is to make two same static routes on the same router but with different next-hops. The question was: Which link or which route will be used? And if the traffic will be load balanced, which mechanism will be used to share the traffic across both of links.

static route load balancing

 

ip route 10.0.0.0 255.0.0.0 192.168.10.2
ip route 10.0.0.0 255.0.0.0 192.168.11.2

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Proxy ARP

I found different kinds of explanations about what Proxy ARP is, just few of them were understandable at first. After merging all of them this explanation came out of my networking workshop:

  • Assuming that a router has an ARP entry of some IP address, if he receives an ARP request from somebody for that IP, the router will respond with its own MAC address.
  • Proxy ARP is fairly simple technique for nodes to get MAC address of a destination host that is on a different subnet but on the same router. Same router different interface.

And this one to:

  • If we have in the network one edge router that is our way out from the local LAN network. That router has Proxy ARP enabled by default. When it receives an ARP request on his interface for a client that is not actually from that local network it will try to be helpful and it will search his routing table if that network is locally connected on some other local interface. If he finds it, it will respond with his own MAC address to tell the source that he is the way to go towards that host.

If we look at the image below, I prepared a more detailed example for those who are still a bit confused about it.

It’s a technique that enables our R7 router on the image below to proxy ARP request from C1 computer which tries to find MAC address of computer C3.

You need to note that C1 has address from /16 range and that is why it thinks that 192.168.50.50 is on the same subnet as 192.168.1.11 . If that was not the case and C1 had the address 192.168.1.11/24, it would send the ARP asking what is MAC address of default gateway. It will go to default gateway because he will know that he is not directly connected to all of network 192.168.0.0/16. We are then talking about standard routing by getting the packets from one subnet to another using routing table examination.

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TCAM and CAM memory usage inside networking devices

As this is networking blog I will focus mostly on the usage of CAM and TCAM memory in routers and switches. I will explain TCAM role in router prefix lookup process and switch mac address table lookup.

However, when we talk about this specific topic, most of you will ask: how is this memory made from architectural aspect?

How is it made in order to have the capability of making lookups faster than any other hardware or software solution? That is the reason for the second part of the article where I will try to explain in short how are the most usual TCAM memory build to have the capabilities they have.

CAM and TCAM memory

When using TCAM – Ternary Content Addressable Memory inside routers it’s used for faster address lookup that enables fast routing.

In switches CAM – Content Addressable Memory is used for building and lookup of mac address table that enables L2 forwarding decisions. By implementing router prefix lookup in TCAM, we are moving process of Forwarding Information Base lookup from software to hardware.

When we implement TCAM we enable the address search process not to depend on the number of prefix entries because TCAM main characteristic is that it is able to search all its entries in parallel. It means that no matter how many address prefixes are stored in TCAM, router will find the longest prefix match in one iteration. It’s magic, right?

CEF Lookup

Image 1 shows how FIB lookup functions and points to an entry in the adjacency table. Search process goes through all entries in TCAM table in one iteration.


Router

In routers, like High-End Cisco ones, TCAM is used to enable CEF – Cisco Express Forwarding in hardware. CEF is building FIB table from RIB table (Routing table) and Adjacency table from ARP table for building pre-prepared L2 headers for every next-hop neighbour.

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Solicited-node multicast address

Some time ago I was working on IPv6 implementation and in that period I wrote an article about NDP (you can read it here). After a while, I received some comments that it is not written very well so I reviewed a huge part of it. It looks my English was far worst two years ago that I was really aware of 🙂

In the reviewing process, I realised that NDP usage of Solicited-Node multicast addresses was not clearly explained. This is the follow-up article which should explain how and why Solicited-Node multicast address are used in NDP. After all, this kind of multicast addresses are there to enable IPv6 neighbour discovery function of NDP to work properly.

Let’s go!

Solicited-node multicast address is the IPv6 multicast address used on the local L2 subnet by NDP Network Discovery Protocol. NDP uses that multicast address to be able to find out L2 link-local addresses of other nodes present on that subnet.

NDP replaces ARP

As we know, NDP in IPv6 networks replaced the ARP function from IPv4 networks. In IPv4 world, ARP used broadcast to send this kind of discovery messages and find out about neighbours IPv4 addresses on the subnet. With IPv6 and NDP use of broadcast is not really a good solution so we use a special type of multicast group addresses to which all nodes join to enable NDP communication.

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