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Controlling Network Access Using Traffic Policing Overview

 

Congestion Management for IP Traffic Flows

Traffic policing, also known as rate limiting, is an essential component of network access security that is designed to thwart denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Traffic policing enables you to control the maximum rate of IP traffic sent or received on an interface and also to partition network traffic into multiple priority levels, also known as classes of service. A policer defines a set of traffic rate limits and sets consequences for traffic that does not conform to the configured limits. Packets in a traffic flow that do not conform to traffic limits are either discarded or marked with a different forwarding class or packet loss priority (PLP) level.

With the exception of policers configured to rate-limit aggregate traffic (all protocol families and logical interfaces configured on a physical interface), you can apply a policer to all IP packets in a Layer 2 or Layer 3 traffic flow at a logical interface.

With the exception of policers configured to rate-limit based on physical interface media rate, you can apply a policer to specific IP packets in a Layer 3 traffic flow at a logical interface by using a stateless firewall filter.

You can apply a policer to inbound or outbound interface traffic. Policers applied to inbound traffic help to conserve resources by dropping traffic that does not need to be routed through a network. Dropping inbound traffic also helps to thwart denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Policers applied to outbound traffic control the bandwidth used.

Note

Traffic policers are instantiated on a per-PIC basis. Traffic policing does not work when the traffic for one local policy decision function (L-PDF) subscriber is distributed over multiple Multiservices PICs in an AMS group.

Traffic Limits

Junos OS policers use a token bucket algorithm to enforce a limit on an average transmit or receive rate of traffic at an interface while allowing bursts of traffic up to a maximum value based on the configured bandwidth limit and configured burst size. The token bucket algorithm offers more flexibility than a leaky bucket algorithm in that you can allow a specified traffic burst before starting to discard packets or apply a penalty such as packet output-queuing priority or packet-drop priority.

In the token-bucket model, the bucket represents the rate-limiting function of the policer. Tokens are added to the bucket at a fixed rate, but once the specified depth of the bucket is reached, tokens allocated after cannot be stored and used. Each token represents a “credit” for some number of bits, and tokens in the bucket are “cashed in” for the ability to transmit or receive traffic at the interface. When sufficient tokens are present in the bucket, a traffic flow continues unrestricted. Otherwise, packets might be dropped or else re-marked with a lower forwarding class, a higher packet loss priority (PLP) level, or both.

  • The rate at which tokens are added to the bucket represents the highest average transmit or receive rate in bits per second allowed for a given service level. You specify this highest average traffic rate as the bandwidth limit of the policer. If the traffic arrival rate (or fixed bits-per-second) is so high that at some point insufficient tokens are present in the bucket, then the traffic flow is no longer conforming to the traffic limit. During periods of relatively low traffic (traffic that arrives at or departs from the interface at average rates below the token arrival rate), unused tokens accumulate in the bucket.

  • The depth of the bucket in bytes controls the amount of back-to-back bursting allowed. You specify this factor as the burst-size limit of the policer. This second limit affects the average transmit or receive rate by limiting the number of bytes permitted in a transmission burst for a given interval of time. Bursts exceeding the current burst-size limit are dropped until there are sufficient tokens available to permit the burst to proceed.

    Figure 1: Network Traffic and Burst Rates
     Network Traffic and Burst Rates

    As shown in the figure above, a UPC bar code is a good facsimile of what traffic looks like on the line; an interface is either transmitting (bursting at full rate) or it is not. The black lines represent periods of data transmission and the white space represents periods of silence when the token bucket can replenish.

Depending on the type of policer used, packets in a policed traffic flow that surpasses the defined limits might be implicitly set to a higher PLP level, assigned to a configured forwarding class or set to a configured PLP level (or both), or simply discarded. If packets encounter downstream congestion, packets with a low PLP level are less likely to be discarded than those with a medium-low, medium-high, or high PLP level.

Traffic Color Marking

Based on the particular set of traffic limits configured, a policer identifies a traffic flow as belonging to one of either two or three categories that are similar to the colors of a traffic light used to control automobile traffic.

  • Single-rate two-color—A two-color marking policer (or “policer” when used without qualification) meters the traffic stream and classifies packets into two categories of packet loss priority (PLP) according to a configured bandwidth and burst-size limit. You can mark packets that exceed the bandwidth and burst-size limit in some way, or simply discard them.

    A policer is most useful for metering traffic at the port (physical interface) level.

  • Single-rate three-color—This type of policer is defined in RFC 2697, A Single Rate Three Color Marker, as part of an assured forwarding (AF) per-hop-behavior (PHB) classification system for a Differentiated Services (DiffServ) environment. This type of policer meters traffic based on the configured committed information rate (CIR), committed burst size (CBS), and the excess burst size (EBS). Traffic is marked as belonging to one of three categories (green, yellow, or red) based on whether the packets arriving are below the CBS (green), exceed the CBS (yellow) but not the EBS, or exceed the EBS (red).

    A single-rate three-color policer is most useful when a service is structured according to packet length and not peak arrival rate.

  • Two-rate three-color—This type of policer is defined in RFC 2698, A Two Rate Three Color Marker, as part of an assured forwarding (AF) per-hop-behavior (PHB) classification system for a Differentiated Services (DiffServ) environment. This type of policer meters traffic based on the configured CIR and peak information rate (PIR), along with their associated burst sizes, the CBS and peak burst size (PBS). Traffic is marked as belonging to one of three categories (green, yellow, or red) based on whether the packets arriving are below the CIR (green), exceed the CIR (yellow) but not the PIR, or exceed the PIR (red).

    A two-rate three-color policer is most useful when a service is structured according to arrival rates and not necessarily packet length.

Policer actions are implicit or explicit and vary by policer type. The term Implicit means that Junos assigns the loss-priority automatically. Table 1 describes the policer actions.

Table 1: Policer Actions

Policer

Marking

Implicit Action

Configurable Action

Single-rate two-color

Green (Conforming)

Assign low loss priority

None

Red (Nonconforming)

None

Assign low or high loss priority, assign a forwarding class, or discard

On some platforms, you can assign medium-low or medium-high loss priority

Single-rate three-color

Green (Conforming)

Assign low loss priority

None

Yellow (Above the CIR and CBS)

Assign medium-high loss priority

None

Red (Above the EBS)

Assign high loss priority

Discard

Two-rate three-color

Green (Conforming)

Assign low loss priority

None

Yellow (Above the CIR and CBS)

Assign medium-high loss priority

None

Red (Above the PIR and PBS)

Assign high loss priority

Discard

Forwarding Classes and PLP Levels

A packet’s forwarding class assignment and PLP level are used by the Junos OS class of service (CoS) features. The Junos OS CoS features include a set of mechanisms that you can use to provide differentiated services when best-effort traffic delivery is insufficient. For router (and switch) interfaces that carry IPv4, IPv6, and MPLS traffic, you can configure CoS features to take in a single flow of traffic entering at the edge of your network and provide different levels of service across the network—internal forwarding and scheduling (queuing) for output—based on the forwarding class assignments and PLP levels of the individual packets.

Note

Forwarding-class or loss-priority assignments performed by a policer or a stateless firewall filter override any such assignments performed on the ingress by the CoS default IP precedence classification at all logical interfaces or by any configured behavior aggregate (BA) classifier that is explicitly mapped to a logical interface.

Based on CoS configurations, packets of a given forwarding class are transmitted through a specific output queue, and each output queue is associated with a transmission service level defined in a scheduler.

Based on other CoS configurations, when packets in an output queue encounter congestion, packets with higher loss-priority values are more likely to be dropped by the random early detection (RED) algorithm. Packet loss priority values affect the scheduling of a packet without affecting the packet’s relative ordering within the traffic flow.

Policer Application to Traffic

After you have defined and named a policer, it is stored as a template. You can later use the same policer name to provide the same policer configuration each time you want to use it. This eliminates the need to define the same policer values more than once.

You can apply a policer to a traffic flow in either of two ways:

  • You can configure a standard stateless firewall filter that specifies the policer policer-name nonterminating action or the three-color-policer (single-rate | two-rate) policer-name nonterminating action. When you apply the standard filter to the input or output at a logical interface, the policer is applied to all packets of the filter-specific protocol family that match the conditions specified in the filter configuration.

    With this method of applying a policer, you can define specific classes of traffic on an interface and apply traffic rate-limiting to each class.

  • You can apply a policer directly to an interface so that traffic rate-limiting applies to all traffic on that interface, regardless of protocol family or any match conditions.

You can configure policers at the queue, logical interface, or Layer 2 (MAC) level. Only a single policer is applied to a packet at the egress queue, and the search for policers occurs in this order:

  • Queue level

  • Logical interface level

  • Layer 2 (MAC) level