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 Internet Draft                                              David Allan
 Document: draft-allan-mpls-loadbal-01.txt               Nortel Networks
                                                           February 2003
                     Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing
 Status of this Memo
    This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
    all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.
    Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
    Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
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    reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."
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 Copyright Notice
    Copyright(C) The Internet Society (2001). All Rights Reserved.
    RFC 3031 permits MPLS load balancing while making no specific
    representations as to requirements of implementation. This has
    subsequently become an issue with respect to the reliability of path
    test mechanisms. Load balancing algorithms may separate path test
    probes from the path of interest. This I-D proposes guidelines for
    implementation of load balancing such that path test mechanisms are
    not impacted.
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
 Table of Contents
 1.  Conventions used in this document...............................2
 2.  Discussion......................................................2
    2.1 Label Stack Entry Fields Modified by Intermediate LSRs.......3
    2.2 Reserved labels..............................................3
    2.3 Diffserv.....................................................4
    2.4 Monitored LSPs...............................................4
 3.  Guidelines......................................................5
 4.  Security Considerations.........................................6
 5.  References......................................................6
 6.  Acknowledgements................................................7
 7.  Author's Address................................................7
 1. Conventions used in this document
    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
    this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC-2119 [1].
    The term "level" is significant in this document. The definition is
    as defined in [RFC 3031]. This document makes the further
    distinction of "forwarding level" which is the level in the stack
    exclusive of reserved labels. So, for example, the presence of a
    router alert label on top of some arbitrary label stack does not
    alter the level relationship of non-reserved labels.
 2. Discussion
    The MPLS Architecture[RFC 3031] and diffserv extensions [RFC3270]
    permits individual instances of FTN and ILM to map to multiple
    NHLFEs, with the caveat that for a given packet, only one element
    from the set of NHLFEs must be selected for use before the packet is
    forwarded, and the selection procedure is unspecified.
    It is well understood that the selection procedure should have a
    number of desirable attributes:
         - Minimal re-ordering of packets in a flow. This is achieved by
         the selection mechanism ensuring packets in the same flow use
         the same NHLFE.
         - Path testing associated with a flow at any forwarding level
         use the same NHLFE as the flow itself. Otherwise, attempts to
         proactively detect or diagnose faults will produce inconsistent
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
         results. This is because the monitoring probes may use a
         different NHLFE than the monitored LSP.
         - Relative evenness in the distribution of traffic over the set
         of NHLFEs.
         - Preservation of diffserv characteristics
    One solution commonly implemented is to select the NHLFE based on a
    hash the label stack below the load shared level. It is assumed the
    depth of the stack is typically > 1, and the combination of stack
    depth, and the number of labels used at any given level is
    sufficiently large that a reasonable distribution of traffic across
    the NHLFEs is achieved. Some implementations also examine packet
    payload (packets with stack depth of zero) and incorporate payload
    information into the NHLFE selection process as well.
    It is understood that as soon as the payload of an LSP (be it
    another LSP or a packet) is incorporated into the NHLFE selection
    process, monitoring of that LSP will produce inconsistent results
    and that this behavior is inherent to the load balancing process.
    The object of this draft is to provide guidelines such that
    operators may balance the need for testability and operational
    friendliness with the need for smooth randomization in load
 2.1 Label Stack Entry Fields Modified by Intermediate LSRs
    A number of label stack entry fields for an LSP may not have
    consistent values, and therefore could result in the mapping of an
    LSPs traffic to multiple NHLFEs. An example of this is TTL when used
    in the uniform model [TTL]. TTL reasonably could be expected to be
    consistent for an IP flow in a converged network (flow being
    expressed as some variation of a src/dst tuple), but an LSP may
    aggregate a number of flows therefore a variety of TTL values may be
    encountered by the load sharing hash function. This results in the
    LSPs traffic being distributed across the set of candidate NHLFEs.
 2.2 Reserved labels
    A simplistic hash of the stack runs into problems if the hash of the
    label stack also includes reserved labels for MPLS functions that
    currently, or in the future, may also require common forwarding with
    the associated LSP. Reserved labels add to the stack depth (and are
    referred to as levels in that context), but carry functional rather
    than forwarding information. Examples would be the proposed OAM
    alert label [LABEL], or use of the Explicit V4 label with [LSP-
    PING]. Other examples may emerge in the future. MPLS reserved
    functions associated with a specific LSP may resolve to a different
    NHLFE than the LSP payload. This also has implications for LSP-PING
    if any attempt is made to use traceroute mode to reverse engineer
    the network in order to establish a test plan.
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
    MPLS reserved labels are infrequently used, therefore the inclusion
    of reserved label traffic for an LSP in the same NHLFE as the normal
    payload for that LSP should have negligible impact on the network
    engineering properties/evenness of distribution of traffic of a load
    balanced LSP.
    To avoid the reserved label issue, the hash of a label stack should
    only include label stack entries that specifically pertain to
    forwarding (the forwarding levels). Reserved labels defining MPLS
    specific functions and associated stack indications should be
    excluded and have no influence on the NHLFE selected.
    The set of reserved labels is 0-15 therefore a simple boolean 'and'
    of the label value with a mask should be sufficient to determine if
    the label should be included in the hash. Similarly, the 'S' bit,
    indicating bottom of stack, does not uniquely identify the presence
    of forwarding information (it may indicate the presence of a
    reserved label) therefore it should not be incorporated into the
    selection process.
 2.3 Diffserv
    The existence of E-LSPs means that a tested LSP may transport a
    number of diffserv class types. It would be desirable to be able to
    test/monitor only the LSP and not have to uniquely test/monitor each
    class type. To avoid inverse multiplexing of class types, EXP bits
    must be excluded from the selection process. Note that at a level
    ingress (either FTN or ILM) the EXP bits (or packet TOS bits) must
    be interpreted to ensure correct mapping of the DSCP (as per
    [RFC3270]). They merely must be excluded from any simple
    randomization of packet forwarding across a multiplex group.
 2.4 Monitored LSPs
    A simplistic hash of all the forwarding labels in the stack can
    introduce problems if other than the payload carrying LSP is
    monitored or requires diagnosis of a problem. The hashing approach
    will only guarantee common forwarding for flows that have identical
    forwarding components in their label stacks. All LSPs at forwarding
    levels above the bottom of the stack may be inverse multiplexed
    arbitrarily across the set of LSPs used for load sharing, which
    implies partial failure or degradation of all these LSP levels can
    occur. If the packet payload is also incorporated into the NHLFE
    selection process, the payload carrying LSP (bottom of the stack)
    may exhibit similar behavior.
    Accommodating this while providing for monitored LSPs is difficult,
    - specific LSPs at arbitrary forwarding levels need to be able to be
    administratively designated as "monitored" and therefore requiring
    common treatment (both unscalable and operationally intractable).
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
    - a range of label values is designated to specifically identify
    monitored LSPs (significant backwards compatibility issues)
    - the depth of the label stack (and payload) incorporated into the
    load balancing NHLFE selection process must be able to be
    administratively set. This trades off some evenness of distribution
    of traffic for testability and also means un-monitored LSPs will be
    similarly treated although they do not require it. Operationally
    this appears to be the most straightforward solution.
 3. Guidelines
    The following set of guidelines will permit load balancing to co-
    exist with path oriented verification tools based on either the OAM
    alert label or use of the Explicit IPv4 label. Although the
    discussion in this draft has focused on hashing based NHLFE
    selection, the rules are sufficiently general to have broader
    applicability. These are:
    1) A NHLFE selection procedures excludes the MPLS stack entries for
    any MPLS reserved labels [RFC 3032]. NHLFE selection procedures must
    resolve to the same NHLFE as they would if there was no reserved
    label(s) present.
    2) The NHLFE selection procedures for a stack that contains only
    reserved labels below the load balanced forwarding level will always
    resolve to a common NHLFE.
    3) NHLFE selection procedures excludes the 'S' bits from any label
    stack entries.
    4) NHLFE selection procedures excludes the TTL field from any label
    stack entries.
    5) NHLFE selection procedures exclude the EXP bits for the labels
    incorporated into the selection process beyond ensuring that the
    selected NHLFE entry supports the outgoing PHB of the forwarded
    packet (FTN case) and the set of outgoing PHBs required by the ILM
    (ILM case).
    6) The depth of forwarding levels below the top label that is
    included in NHLFE selection procedures can be administratively
    configured. Levels with reserved labels do not contribute to depth
    establishment, nor are they included as per rule 1 above.
    Implementations may include label stack forwarding information or
    packet payload in the selection process providing the depth does not
    exceed the administratively set boundary. If the level is
    administrative set to 'n', then forwarding labels at level 'n' or
    higher, or the packet payload of level 'n+1' or higher may be
    incorporated into the selection process.
    The scenarios supported by these guidelines are:
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
    1) When NHLFE selection input is administratively limited to the top
    of the stack or unlabelled packet, then testing/monitoring of all
    LSPs will produce consistent results. This will be true for both
    Y.1711 and LSP-PING (this eliminates the need to randomly manipulate
    the destination address to achieve fate sharing with the LSP under
    2) When NHLFE selection input is limited to the label stack, and the
    payload of an individual LSP is either another LSP or an unlabelled
    packet but not both, then testing/monitoring of all packet carrying
    LSPs (forwarding depth equals one) will produce consistent results.
    3) When NHLFE selection input is limited to the label stack, and the
    payload of an individual LSP can be another LSP or an unlabelled
    packet, then testing/monitoring of all LSPs at and below the
    administratively set level will produce consistent results.
    4) When NHLFE selection input may include the label stack and
    payload then testing/monitoring of all LSPs at and below the
    administratively set level will produce consistent results.
 4. Security Considerations
    This draft introduces no new security issues into the MPLS
 5. References
    [RFC 3031] Rosen et.al. "Multiprotocol Label Switching
         Architecture", IETF RFC 3031, January 2001
    [RFC 3032] Rosen et.al. " MPLS Label Stack Encoding", IETF RFC
         3032, January 2001
    [RFC 3270] Le Faucheur et.al., "MPLS Support of Differentiated
         Services", IETF RFC 3270, May 2002
    [LABEL] Ohta, H., "Use of a reserved label value defined in RFC 3032
         for MPLS OAM functions", draft-ohta-mpls-label-value-01, Feb
    [LSP-PING] Kompella et.al. "Detecting Data Plane Liveliness in
         MPLS", draft-ietf-mpls-lsp-ping-01 work in progress, October
    [TTL] Agarwal et.al. " Time to Live (TTL) Processing in MPLS
         Networks (Updates RFC 3032)", draft-ietf-mpls-ttl-03 work in
         progress, June 2002
    [Y.1711] ITU-T Recommendation Y.1711, "OAM Mechanism for MPLS
         Networks", November 2002
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                    Guidelines for MPLS Load Balancing    February 2003
 6. Acknowledgements
    Thanks to Shahram Davari and Neil Harrison for their detailed review
    of this draft.
 7. Author's Address
    David Allan
    Nortel Networks              Phone: 1-613-763-6362
    3500 Carling Ave.            Email: dallan@nortelnetworks.com
    Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA
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