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Components of Traffic Engineering


In the Junos® operating system (OS), traffic engineering is implemented with MPLS and RSVP. Traffic engineering is composed of four functional components:

Packet Forwarding Component

The packet forwarding component of the Junos traffic engineering architecture is MPLS, which is responsible for directing a flow of IP packets along a predetermined path across a network. This path is called a label-switched path (LSP). LSPs are simplex; that is, the traffic flows in one direction from the head-end (ingress) router to a tail-end (egress) router. Duplex traffic requires two LSPs: one LSP to carry traffic in each direction. An LSP is created by the concatenation of one or more label-switched hops, allowing a packet to be forwarded from one router to another across the MPLS domain.

When an ingress router receives an IP packet, it adds an MPLS header to the packet and forwards it to the next router in the LSP. The labeled packet is forwarded along the LSP by each router until it reaches the tail end of the LSP, the egress router. At this point the MPLS header is removed, and the packet is forwarded based on Layer 3 information such as the IP destination address. The value of this scheme is that the physical path of the LSP is not limited to what the IGP would choose as the shortest path to reach the destination IP address.

Packet Forwarding Based on Label Swapping

The packet forwarding process at each router is based on the concept of label swapping. This concept is similar to what occurs at each Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switch in a permanent virtual circuit (PVC). Each MPLS packet carries a 4-byte encapsulation header that contains a 20-bit, fixed-length label field. When a packet containing a label arrives at a router, the router examines the label and copies it as an index to its MPLS forwarding table. Each entry in the forwarding table contains an interface-inbound label pair mapped to a set of forwarding information that is applied to all packets arriving on the specific interface with the same inbound label.

How a Packet Traverses an MPLS Backbone

This section describes how an IP packet is processed as it traverses an MPLS backbone network.

At the entry edge of the MPLS backbone, the IP header is examined by the ingress router. Based on this analysis, the packet is classified, assigned a label, encapsulated in an MPLS header, and forwarded toward the next hop in the LSP. MPLS provides a high degree of flexibility in the way that an IP packet can be assigned to an LSP. For example, in the Junos traffic engineering implementation, all packets arriving at the ingress router that are destined to exit the MPLS domain at the same egress router are forwarded along the same LSP.

Once the packet begins to traverse the LSP, each router uses the label to make the forwarding decision. The MPLS forwarding decision is made independently of the original IP header: the incoming interface and label are used as lookup keys into the MPLS forwarding table. The old label is replaced with a new label, and the packet is forwarded to the next hop along the LSP. This process is repeated at each router in the LSP until the packet reaches the egress router.

When the packet arrives at the egress router, the label is removed and the packet exits the MPLS domain. The packet is then forwarded based on the destination IP address contained in the packet’s original IP header according to the traditional shortest path calculated by the IP routing protocol.

Information Distribution Component

Traffic engineering requires detailed knowledge about the network topology as well as dynamic information about network loading. To implement the information distribution component, simple extensions to the IGPs are defined. Link attributes are included as part of each router’s link-state advertisement. IS-IS extensions include the definition of new type length values (TLVs), whereas OSPF extensions are implemented with opaque link-state advertisements (LSAs). The standard flooding algorithm used by the link-state IGPs ensures that link attributes are distributed to all routers in the routing domain. Some of the traffic engineering extensions to be added to the IGP link-state advertisement include maximum link bandwidth, maximum reserved link bandwidth, current bandwidth reservation, and link coloring.

Each router maintains network link attributes and topology information in a specialized traffic engineering database. The traffic engineering database is used exclusively for calculating explicit paths for the placement of LSPs across the physical topology. A separate database is maintained so that the subsequent traffic engineering computation is independent of the IGP and the IGP’s link-state database. Meanwhile, the IGP continues its operation without modification, performing the traditional shortest-path calculation based on information contained in the router’s link-state database.

Path Selection Component

After network link attributes and topology information are flooded by the IGP and placed in the traffic engineering database, each ingress router uses the traffic engineering database to calculate the paths for its own set of LSPs across the routing domain. The path for each LSP can be represented by either a strict or loose explicit route. An explicit route is a preconfigured sequence of routers that should be part of the physical path of the LSP. If the ingress router specifies all the routers in the LSP, the LSP is said to be identified by a strict explicit route. If the ingress router specifies only some of the routers in the LSP, the LSP is described as a loose explicit route. Support for strict and loose explicit routes allows the path selection process to be given broad latitude whenever possible, but to be constrained when necessary.

The ingress router determines the physical path for each LSP by applying a Constrained Shortest Path First (CSPF) algorithm to the information in the traffic engineering database. CSPF is a shortest-path-first algorithm that has been modified to take into account specific restrictions when the shortest path across the network is calculated. Input into the CSPF algorithm includes:

  • Topology link-state information learned from the IGP and maintained in the traffic engineering database

  • Attributes associated with the state of network resources (such as total link bandwidth, reserved link bandwidth, available link bandwidth, and link color) that are carried by IGP extensions and stored in the traffic engineering database

  • Administrative attributes required to support traffic traversing the proposed LSP (such as bandwidth requirements, maximum hop count, and administrative policy requirements) that are obtained from user configuration

As CSPF considers each candidate node and link for a new LSP, it either accepts or rejects a specific path component based on resource availability or whether selecting the component violates user policy constraints. The output of the CSPF calculation is an explicit route consisting of a sequence of router addresses that provides the shortest path through the network that meets the constraints. This explicit route is then passed to the signaling component, which establishes the forwarding state in the routers along the LSP.

Signaling Component

An LSP is not known to be workable until it is actually established by the signaling component. The signaling component, which is responsible for establishing LSP state and distributing labels, relies on a number of extensions to RSVP:

  • The Explicit Route object allows an RSVP path message to traverse an explicit sequence of routers that is independent of conventional shortest-path IP routing. The explicit route can be either strict or loose.

  • The Label Request object permits the RSVP path message to request that intermediate routers provide a label binding for the LSP that it is establishing.

  • The Label object allows RSVP to support the distribution of labels without changing its existing mechanisms. Because the RSVP Resv message follows the reverse path of the RSVP path message, the Label object supports the distribution of labels from downstream nodes to upstream nodes.