Routing Information Protocol

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The Routing Information Protocol, or RIP, as it is more commonly called, is one of the most enduring of all routing protocols. RIP is also one of the more easily confused protocols because a variety of RIP-like routing protocols proliferated, some of which even used  the same name! RIP and the myriad RIP-like protocols were based on the same set of algorithms that use distance vectors to mathematically compare routes to identify the best path to any given destination address. These algorithms emerged from academic research that dates back to 1957.
The Routing Information Protocol, or RIP, as it is more commonly called, is one of the most enduring of all routing protocols. RIP is also one of the more easily confused protocols because a variety of RIP-like routing protocols proliferated, some of which even used  the same name! RIP and the myriad RIP-like protocols were based on the same set of algorithms that use distance vectors to mathematically compare routes to identify the best path to any given destination address. These algorithms emerged from academic research that dates back to 1957.

Latest revision as of 20:59, 16 October 2012

The Routing Information Protocol, or RIP, as it is more commonly called, is one of the most enduring of all routing protocols. RIP is also one of the more easily confused protocols because a variety of RIP-like routing protocols proliferated, some of which even used the same name! RIP and the myriad RIP-like protocols were based on the same set of algorithms that use distance vectors to mathematically compare routes to identify the best path to any given destination address. These algorithms emerged from academic research that dates back to 1957.

Today's open standard version of RIP, sometimes referred to as IP RIP, is formally defined in two documents: Request For Comments (RFC) 1058 and Internet Standard (STD) 56. As IP-based networks became both more numerous and greater in size, it became apparent to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that RIP needed to be updated. Consequently, the IETF released RFC 1388 in January 1993, which was then superceded in November 1994 by RFC 1723, which describes RIP 2 (the second version of RIP). These RFCs described an extension of RIP's capabilities but did not attempt to obsolete the previous version of RIP. RIP 2 enabled RIP messages to carry more information, which permitted the use of a simple authentication mechanism to secure table updates. More importantly, RIP 2 supported subnet masks, a critical feature that was not available in RIP.

This article summarizes the basic capabilities and features associated with RIP. Topics include the routing update process, RIP routing metrics, routing stability, and routing timers.

Guide Contents
Internetworking Basics
LAN Technologies
WAN Technologies
Internet Protocols
Bridging and Switching
Routing
Network Management
Voice/Data Integration Technologies
Wireless Technologies
Cable Access Technologies
Dial-up Technology
Security Technologies
Quality of Service Networking
Network Caching Technologies
IBM Network Management
Multiservice Access Technologies





Contents

Routing Updates

RIP sends routing-update messages at regular intervals and when the network topology changes. When a router receives a routing update that includes changes to an entry, it updates its routing table to reflect the new route. The metric value for the path is increased by 1, and the sender is indicated as the next hop. RIP routers maintain only the best route (the route with the lowest metric value) to a destination. After updating its routing table, the router immediately begins transmitting routing updates to inform other network routers of the change. These updates are sent independently of the regularly scheduled updates that RIP routers send.

RIP Routing Metric

RIP uses a single routing metric (hop count) to measure the distance between the source and a destination network. Each hop in a path from source to destination is assigned a hop count value, which is typically 1. When a router receives a routing update that contains a new or changed destination network entry, the router adds 1 to the metric value indicated in the update and enters the network in the routing table. The IP address of the sender is used as the next hop.

RIP Stability Features

RIP prevents routing loops from continuing indefinitely by implementing a limit on the number of hops allowed in a path from the source to a destination. The maximum number of hops in a path is 15. If a router receives a routing update that contains a new or changed entry, and if increasing the metric value by 1 causes the metric to be infinity (that is, 16), the network destination is considered unreachable. The downside of this stability feature is that it limits the maximum diameter of a RIP network to less than 16 hops.

RIP includes a number of other stability features that are common to many routing protocols. These features are designed to provide stability despite potentially rapid changes in a network's topology. For example, RIP implements the split horizon and holddown mechanisms to prevent incorrect routing information from being propagated.

RIP Timers

RIP uses numerous timers to regulate its performance. These include a routing-update timer, a route-timeout timer, and a route-flush timer. The routing-update timer clocks the interval between periodic routing updates. Generally, it is set to 30 seconds, with a small random amount of time added whenever the timer is reset. This is done to help prevent congestion, which could result from all routers simultaneously attempting to update their neighbors. Each routing table entry has a route-timeout timer associated with it. When the route-timeout timer expires, the route is marked invalid but is retained in the table until the route-flush timer expires.

Packet Formats

The following section focuses on the IP RIP and IP RIP 2 packet formats. Each illustration is followed by descriptions of the fields illustrated.

RIP Packet Format

Figure: An IP RIP Packet Consists of Nine Fields illustrates the IP RIP packet format.

Figure: An IP RIP Packet Consists of Nine Fields

CT844701.jpg

The following descriptions summarize the IP RIP packet format fields illustrated in Figure: An IP RIP Packet Consists of Nine Fields:

  • Command - Indicates whether the packet is a request or a response. The request asks that a router send all or part of its routing table. The response can be an unsolicited regular routing update or a reply to a request. Responses contain routing table entries. Multiple RIP packets are used to convey information from large routing tables.
  • Version number - Specifies the RIP version used. This field can signal different potentially incompatible versions.
  • Zero - This field is not actually used by RFC 1058 RIP; it was added solely to provide backward compatibility with prestandard varieties of RIP. Its name comes from its defaulted value: zero.
  • Address-family identifier (AFI) - Specifies the address family used. RIP is designed to carry routing information for several different protocols. Each entry has an address-family identifier to indicate the type of address being specified. The AFI for IP is 2.
  • Address - Specifies the IP address for the entry.
  • Metric - Indicates how many internetwork hops (routers) have been traversed in the trip to the destination. This value is between 1 and 15 for a valid route, or 16 for an unreachable route.


Note Note: Up to 25 occurrences of the AFI, Address, and Metric fields are permitted in a single IP RIP packet. (Up to 25 destinations can be listed in a single RIP packet.)

RIP 2 Packet Format

The RIP 2 specification (described in RFC 1723) allows more information to be included in RIP packets and provides a simple authentication mechanism that is not supported by RIP.

Figure: An IP RIP 2 Packet Consists of Fields Similar to Those of an IP RIP Packet shows the IP RIP 2 packet format.

Figure: An IP RIP 2 Packet Consists of Fields Similar to Those of an IP RIP Packet

CT844702.jpg

The following descriptions summarize the IP RIP 2 packet format fields illustrated in Figure: An IP RIP 2 Packet Consists of Fields Similar to Those of an IP RIP Packet:

  • Command - Indicates whether the packet is a request or a response. The request asks that a router send all or a part of its routing table. The response can be an unsolicited regular routing update or a reply to a request. Responses contain routing table entries. Multiple RIP packets are used to convey information from large routing tables.
  • Version - Specifies the RIP version used. In a RIP packet implementing any of the RIP 2 fields or using authentication, this value is set to 2.
  • Unused - Has a value set to zero.
  • Address-family identifier (AFI) - Specifies the address family used. RIPv2's AFI field functions identically to RFC 1058 RIP's AFI field, with one exception: If the AFI for the first entry in the message is 0xFFFF, the remainder of the entry contains authentication information. Currently, the only authentication type is simple password.
  • Route tag - Provides a method for distinguishing between internal routes (learned by RIP) and external routes (learned from other protocols).
  • IP address - Specifies the IP address for the entry.
  • Subnet mask - Contains the subnet mask for the entry. If this field is zero, no subnet mask has been specified for the entry.
  • Next hop - Indicates the IP address of the next hop to which packets for the entry should be forwarded.
  • Metric - Indicates how many internetwork hops (routers) have been traversed in the trip to the destination. This value is between 1 and 15 for a valid route, or 16 for an unreachable route.


Note Note: Up to 25 occurrences of the AFI, Address, and Metric fields are permitted in a single IP RIP packet. That is, up to 25 routing table entries can be listed in a single RIP packet. If the AFI specifies an authenticated message, only 24 routing table entries can be specified. Given that individual table entries aren't fragmented into multiple packets, RIP does not need a mechanism to resequence datagrams bearing routing table updates from neighboring routers.

Summary

Despite RIP's age and the emergence of more sophisticated routing protocols, it is far from obsolete. RIP is mature, stable, widely supported, and easy to configure. Its simplicity is well suited for use in stub networks and in small autonomous systems that do not have enough redundant paths to warrant the overheads of a more sophisticated protocol.

Review Questions

Q - Name RIP's various stability features.

A - RIP has numerous stability features, the most obvious of which is RIP's maximum hop count. By placing a finite limit on the number of hops that a route can take, routing loops are discouraged, if not completely eliminated. Other stability features include its various timing mechanisms that help ensure that the routing table contains only valid routes, as well as split horizon and holddown mechanisms that prevent incorrect routing information from being disseminated throughout the network.

Q - What is the purpose of the timeout timer?

A - The timeout timer is used to help purge invalid routes from a RIP node. Routes that aren't refreshed for a given period of time are likely invalid because of some change in the network. Thus, RIP maintains a timeout timer for each known route. When a route's timeout timer expires, the route is marked invalid but is retained in the table until the route-flush timer expires.

Q - What two capabilities are supported by RIP 2 but not RIP?

A - RIP 2 enables the use of a simple authentication mechanism to secure table updates. More importantly, RIP 2 supports subnet masks, a critical feature that is not available in RIP.

Q - What is the maximum network diameter of a RIP network?

A - A RIP network's maximum diameter is 15 hops. RIP can count to 16, but that value is considered an error condition rather than a valid hop count.

For More Information

Sportack, Mark A. IP Routing Fundamentals. Indianapolis: Cisco Press, 1999.

http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1058.txt

http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1723.txt

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