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    OSPF Areas and Router Functionality Overview

    In OSPF, a single autonomous system (AS) can be divided into smaller groups called areas. This reduces the number of link-state advertisements (LSAs) and other OSPF overhead traffic sent on the network, and it reduces the size of the topology database that each router must maintain. The routing devices that participate in OSPF routing perform one or more functions based on their location in the network.

    This topic describes the following OSPF area types and routing device functions:


    An area is a set of networks and hosts within an AS that have been administratively grouped together. We recommend that you configure an area as a collection of contiguous IP subnetted networks. Routing devices that are wholly within an area are called internal routers. All interfaces on internal routers are directly connected to networks within the area.

    The topology of an area is hidden from the rest of the AS, thus significantly reducing routing traffic in the AS. Also, routing within the area is determined only by the area’s topology, providing the area with some protection from bad routing data.

    All routing devices within an area have identical topology databases.

    Area Border Routers

    Routing devices that belong to more than one area and connect one or more OSPF areas to the backbone area are called area border routers (ABRs). At least one interface is within the backbone while another interface is in another area. ABRs also maintain a separate topological database for each area to which they are connected.

    Backbone Areas

    An OSPF backbone area consists of all networks in area ID, their attached routing devices, and all ABRs. The backbone itself does not have any ABRs. The backbone distributes routing information between areas. The backbone is simply another area, so the terminology and rules of areas apply: a routing device that is directly connected to the backbone is an internal router on the backbone, and the backbone’s topology is hidden from the other areas in the AS.

    The routing devices that make up the backbone must be physically contiguous. If they are not, you must configure virtual links to create the appearance of backbone connectivity. You can create virtual links between any two ABRs that have an interface to a common nonbackbone area. OSPF treats two routing devices joined by a virtual link as if they were connected to an unnumbered point-to-point network.

    AS Boundary Routers

    Routing devices that exchange routing information with routing devices in non-OSPF networks are called AS boundary routers. They advertise externally learned routes throughout the OSPF AS. Depending on the location of the AS boundary router in the network, it can be an ABR, a backbone router, or an internal router (with the exception of stub areas). Internal routers within a stub area cannot be an AS boundary router because stub areas cannot contain any Type 5 LSAs.

    Routing devices within the area where the AS boundary router resides know the path to that AS boundary router. Any routing device outside the area only knows the path to the nearest ABR that is in the same area where the AS boundary router resides.

    Backbone Router

    Backbone routers are routing devices that have one or more interfaces connected to the OSPF backbone area (area ID

    Internal Router

    Routing devices that connect to only one OSPF area are called internal routers. All interfaces on internal routers are directly connected to networks within a single area.

    Stub Areas

    Stub areas are areas through which or into which AS external advertisements are not flooded. You might want to create stub areas when much of the topological database consists of AS external advertisements. Doing so reduces the size of the topological databases and therefore the amount of memory required on the internal routers in the stub area.

    Routing devices within a stub area rely on the default routes originated by the area’s ABR to reach external AS destinations. You must configure the default-metric option on the ABR before it advertises a default route. Once configured, the ABR advertises a default route in place of the external routes that are not being advertised within the stub area, so that routing devices in the stub area can reach destinations outside the area.

    The following restrictions apply to stub areas: you cannot create a virtual link through a stub area, a stub area cannot contain an AS boundary router, the backbone cannot be a stub area, and you cannot configure an area as both a stub area and a not-so-stubby area.

    Not-So-Stubby Areas

    An OSPF stub area has no external routes in it, so you cannot redistribute from another protocol into a stub area. A not-so-stubby area (NSSA) allows external routes to be flooded within the area. These routes are then leaked into other areas. However, external routes from other areas still do not enter the NSSA.

    The following restriction applies to NSSAs: you cannot configure an area as both a stub area and an NSSA.

    Transit Areas

    Transit areas are used to pass traffic from one adjacent area to the backbone (or to another area if the backbone is more than two hops away from an area). The traffic does not originate in, nor is it destined for, the transit area.

    Published: 2012-03-19