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Routing Overview

Routing is the transmission of data packets from a source to a destination address. It involves delivering a message across a network or networks. This process has two primary components: the exchange of routing information to forward packets accurately from source to destination and the packet-forwarding procedure.

For packets to be correctly forwarded to the appropriate host address, the host must have a unique numeric identifier or IP address. The unique IP address of the destination host forms entries in the routing table. These entries are primarily responsible for determining the path that a packet traverses when transmitted from source to destination.

To use the routing capabilities of a Juniper Networks device, you must understand the fundamentals of IP routing and the routing protocols that are primarily responsible for the transmission of unicast traffic. To understand this topic, you need a basic understanding of IP addressing and TCP/IP.

Note: When configuring IPv6 addressing and routing on a J Series device, you must enable IPv6 in secure context .

  • NetFlow V9 Support

    NetFlow Services Export Version 9 (NetFlow V9) provides an extensible and flexible method for using templates to observe packets on a router. Each template indicates the format in which the router exports data.

    NetFlow V9 is supported in Junos OS in the adaptive service PIC module.

    This feature supports Netflow V5 or V8 for flow-based devices.

This topic contains the following sections:

Networks and Subnetworks

Large groups of machines that are interconnected and can communicate with one another form networks. Typically, networks identify large systems of computers and devices that are owned or operated by a single entity. Traffic is routed between or through the networks as data is passed from host to host.

As networks grow large, the ability to maintain the network and effectively route traffic between hosts within the network becomes increasingly difficult. To accommodate growth, networks are divided into subnetworks. Fundamentally, subnetworks behave exactly like networks, except that they are identified by a more specific network address and subnet mask (destination prefix). Subnetworks have routing gateways and share routing information in exactly the same way as large networks.

Autonomous Systems

A large network or collection of routers under a single administrative authority is termed an autonomous system (AS). Autonomous systems are identified by a unique numeric identifier that is assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Typically, the hosts within an AS are treated as internal peers, and hosts in a peer AS are treated as external peers. The status of the relationship between hosts—internal or external—governs the protocol used to exchange routing information.

Interior and Exterior Gateway Protocols

Routing information that is shared within an AS is transmitted by an interior gateway protocol (IGP). Of the different IGPs, the most common are RIP, OSPF, and IS-IS. IGPs are designed to be fast acting and light duty. They typically incorporate only a moderate security system, because trusted internal peers do not require the stringent security measures that untrusted peers require. As a result, you can usually begin routing within an AS by enabling the IGP on all internal interfaces and performing minimal additional configuration. You do not need to establish individual adjacencies.

Routing information that is shared with a peer AS is transmitted by an exterior gateway protocol (EGP). The primary EGP in use in almost all networks is the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP is designed to be very secure. Individual connections must be explicitly configured on each side of the link. As a result, although large numbers of connections are difficult to configure and maintain, each connection is secure.

Routing Tables

To route traffic from a source host to a destination host, the devices through which the traffic will pass must learn the path that the packet is to take. Once learned, the information is stored in routing tables. The routing table maintains a list of all the possible paths from point A to point B. Figure 1 shows a simple network of routers.

Figure 1: Simple Network Topology

Simple Network Topology

This simple network provides multiple ways to get from host San Francisco to host Miami. The packet can follow the path through Denver and Cleveland. Alternatively, the packet can be routed through Phoenix and directly to Miami. The routing table includes all the possible paths and combinations—an exhaustive list of all the ways to get from the source to the destination.

The routing table must include every possible path from a source to a destination. Routing tables for the network in Figure 1 must include entries for San Francisco-Denver, San Francisco-Cleveland, San Francisco-Miami, Denver-Cleveland, and so on. As the number of sources and destinations increases, the routing table quickly becomes large. The unwieldy size of routing tables is the primary reason for the division of networks into subnetworks.

Forwarding Tables

If the routing table is a list of all the possible paths a packet can take, the forwarding table is a list of only the best routes to a particular destination. The best path is determined according to the particular routing protocol being used, but generally the number of hops between the source and destination determines the best possible route.

In the network shown in Figure 1, because the path with the fewest number of hops from San Francisco to Miami is through Phoenix, the forwarding table distills all the possible San Francisco-Miami routes into the single route through Phoenix. All traffic with a destination address of Miami is sent directly to the next hop, Phoenix.

After it receives a packet, the Phoenix router performs another route lookup, using the same destination address. The Phoenix router then routes the packet appropriately. Although it considers the entire path, the router at any individual hop along the way is responsible only for transmitting the packet to the next hop in the path. If the Phoenix router is managing its traffic in a particular way, it might send the packet through Houston on its route to Miami. This scenario is likely if specific customer traffic is treated as priority traffic and routed through a faster or more direct route, while all other traffic is treated as nonpriority traffic.

Dynamic and Static Routing

Entries are imported into a router's routing table from dynamic routing protocols or by manual inclusion as static routes. Dynamic routing protocols allow routers to learn the network topology from the network. The routers within the network send out routing information in the form of route advertisements. These advertisements establish and communicate active destinations, which are then shared with other routers in the network.

Although dynamic routing protocols are extremely useful, they have associated costs. Because they use the network to advertise routes, dynamic routing protocols consume bandwidth. Additionally, because they rely on the transmission and receipt of route advertisements to build a routing table, dynamic routing protocols create a delay (latency) between the time a router is powered on and the time during which routes are imported into the routing table. Some routes are therefore effectively unavailable until the routing table is completely updated, when the router first comes online or when routes change within the network (due to a host going offline, for example).

Static routing avoids the bandwidth cost and route import latency of dynamic routing. Static routes are manually included in the routing table, and never change unless you explicitly update them. Static routes are automatically imported into the routing table when a router first comes online. Additionally, all traffic destined for a static address is routed through the same router. This feature is particularly useful for networks with customers whose traffic must always flow through the same routers. Figure 2 shows a network that uses static routes.

Figure 2: Static Routing Example

Static Routing Example

In Figure 2, the customer routes in the 192.176.14/24 subnetwork are static routes. These are hard links to specific customer hosts that never change. Because all traffic destined for any of these routes is forwarded through Router A, these routes are included as static routes in Router A's routing table. Router A then advertises these routes to other hosts so that traffic can be routed to and from them.

Route Advertisements

The routing table and forwarding table contain the routes for the routers within a network. These routes are learned through the exchange of route advertisements. Route advertisements are exchanged according to the particular protocol being employed within the network.

Generally, a router transmits hello packets out each of its interfaces. Neighboring routers detect these packets and establish adjacencies with the router. The adjacencies are then shared with other neighboring routers, which allows the routers to build up the entire network topology in a topology database, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Route Advertisement

Route Advertisement

In Figure 3, Router A sends out hello packets to each of its neighbors. Routers B and C detect these packets and establish an adjacent relationship with Router A. Router B and C then share this information with their neighbors, Routers D and E, respectively. By sharing information throughout the network, the routers create a network topology, which they use to determine the paths to all possible destinations within the network. The routes are then distilled into the forwarding table of best routes according to the route selection criteria of the protocol in use.

Route Aggregation

As the number of hosts in a network increases, the routing and forwarding tables must establish and maintain more routes. As these tables become larger, the time routers require to look up particular routes so that packets can be forwarded becomes prohibitive. The solution to the problem of growing routing tables is to group (aggregate) the routers by subnetwork, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Route Aggregation

Route Aggregation

Figure 4 shows three different ASs. Each AS contains multiple subnetworks with thousands of host addresses. To allow traffic to be sent from any host to any host, the routing tables for each host must include a route for each destination. For the routing tables to include every combination of hosts, the flooding of route advertisements for each possible route becomes prohibitive. In a network of hosts numbering in the thousands or even millions, simple route advertisement is not only impractical but impossible.

By employing route aggregation, instead of advertising a route for each host in AS 3, the gateway router advertises only a single route that includes all the routes to all the hosts within the AS. For example, instead of advertising the particular route 170.16.124.17, the AS 3 gateway router advertises only 170.16/16. This single route advertisement encompasses all the hosts within the 170.16/16 subnetwork, which reduces the number of routes in the routing table from 216 (one for every possible IP address within the subnetwork) to 1. Any traffic destined for a host within the AS is forwarded to the gateway router, which is then responsible for forwarding the packet to the appropriate host.

Similarly, in this example, the gateway router is responsible for maintaining 216 routes within the AS (in addition to any external routes). The division of this AS into subnetworks allows for further route aggregation to reduce this number. In the subnetwork in the example, the subnetwork gateway router advertises only a single route (170.16.124/24), which reduces the number of routes from 28 to 1.

Published: 2012-03-06