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LinuxDig.com Request For Comments

RFC Number : 925

Title : Multi-LAN address resolution.


Network Working Group J. Postel
Request for Comments: 925 ISI
October 1984

Multi-LAN Address Resolution


STATUS OF THIS MEMO

This memo is prompted by RFC-917 by Jeffery Mogul on 'Internet
Subnets'. In that memo, Mogul makes a case for the use of 'explicit
subnets' in a multi-LAN environment. In this memo, I attempt to make
a case for 'transparent subnets'. This RFC suggests a proposed
protocol for the ARPA-Internet community, and requests discussion and
suggestions for improvements. Distribution of this memo is
unlimited.

INTRODUCTION

The problem of treating a set of local area networks (LANs) as one
Internet network has generated some interest and concern. It is
inappropriate to give each LAN within an site a distinct Internet
network number. It is desirable to hide the details of the
interconnections between the LANs within an site from people,
gateways, and hosts outside the site. The question arises on how to
best do this, and even how to do it at all. One proposal is to use
'explicit subnets' [1]. The explicit subnet scheme is a call to
recursively apply the mechanisms the Internet uses to manage networks
to the problem of managing LANs within one network. In this note I
urge another approach: the use of 'transparent subnets' supported by
a multi-LAN extension of the Address Resolution Protocol [2].

OVERVIEW

To quickly review the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP). Each host
on a broadcast LAN knows both its own physical hardware address (HA)
on the LAN and its own Internet Address (IA). When Host-A is given
the IA of Host-B and told to send a datagram to it, Host-A must find
the HA that corresponds to Host-B's IA. To do this Host-A forms an
ARP packet that contains its own HA and IA and the IA of the
destination host (Host-B). Host-A broadcasts this ARP packet. The
hosts that receive this ARP packet check to see if they are
destination sought. If so, they (it should be only Host-B) send a
reply specifically addressed to the originator of the query (Host-A)
and supplying the HA that was needed. The Host-A now has both the HA
and the IA of the destination (Host-B). The Host-A adds this
information to a local cache for future use.

Note: The ARP is actually more general purpose than this brief
sketch indicates.



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The idea in this memo is to extend the ARP to work in an environment
of multiple interconnected LANs.

To see how this could work let us imagine a 'magic box' (BOX) that is
connected as if it were an ordinary host to two (or more) LANs.

Hosts continue to behave exactly as they do with the basic ARP.

When an ARP query is broadcast by any host the BOX reads it (as do
all the hosts on that LAN). In addition to checking whether it is
the host sought (and replying if it is), the BOX checks its cache of
IA:HA address mappings in the cache that it keeps for each LAN it is
attached to.

Case 1: If the mapping for the host is found in the cache for the
LAN that the query came from, the BOX does not respond (letting
the sought host respond for itself).

Case 2: If the mapping for the host is found in the cache for a
different LAN than the query came from, the BOX sends a reply
giving its own HA on the LAN the query came from. The BOX acts as
an agent for the destination host.

Case 3: If the mapping is not found in any of the caches then, the
BOX must try to find out the the address, and then respond as in
case 1 or 2.

In case 3, the BOX has to do some magic.

The BOX keeps a search list of sought hosts. Each entry
includes the IA of the host sought, the interface the ARP was
received on, and the source addresses of the original request.
When case 3 occurs, the search list is checked. If the sought
host is already listed the search is terminated, if not the
search is propagated.

To propagate the search, an entry is first made on the search
list, then the BOX composes and sends an ARP packet on each of
its interfaces except the interface the instigating ARP packet
was received on. If a reply is received, the information is
entered into the appropriate cache, the entry is deleted from
the search list and a response to the search instigating ARP is
made as in case 1 or 2. If no reply is received, give up and
do nothing -- no response is sent to the instigating host (the
entry stays on the search list).




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To terminate the search, give up and do nothing -- no response
is sent to the instigating host (the entry stays on the search
list).

The entries in the caches and the search list must time out.

For every ARP request that is received, the BOX must also put the
sending host's IA:HA address mapping into the cache for the LAN it
was received on.

THE MULTI-LAN ADDRESS RESOLUTION PROTOCOL

The plan is to use ARP just as it is. The new element is the 'magic
box' ('ARP-based bridge') that relays the ARP request into
neighboring LANs and acts as an agent for relaying datagrams to hosts
on other LANs.

The Details

Hosts continue to behave exactly as they do with the basic ARP.

The LANs are connected together by BOXes (computers that are
attached to two or more LANs exactly as hosts are attached to
LANs). The BOXes implement the following procedure.

Each BOX keeps a table for each LAN it is connected to (or for
each LAN interface). Entries in these tables time out, so these
tables are caches of recent information. The entries in these
caches are the IA:HA address pairs for that LAN.

When an ARP query is broadcast by any host the BOX reads it (as do
all the hosts on that LAN). In addition to checking to see if it
is the host sought (and replying if it is), the BOX checks its
cache of IA:HA address mappings in the table it keeps for each LAN
it is attached to.

Case 1: If the mapping for the host is found in the cache for
the LAN that the query came from, the BOX does not respond
(letting the sought host respond for itself). The time out on
this entry is not reinitialized.

Case 2: If the mapping for the host is found in the cache for a
different LAN than the query came from, the BOX sends a reply
giving its own HA on the LAN the query came from. The time out
on this entry is not reinitialized.

In this case the BOX is indicating that it will act as an


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agent for the destination host. When an IP datagram arrives
at the BOX, the BOX must attempt to forward it using the
information in its address mapping caches.

Case 3: If the mapping is not found in any of the caches, then
the BOX must try to find out the the address, and then respond
as in case 1 or 2. In this case, the BOX has to do some magic.

The BOX keeps a search list of sought (but not yet found)
hosts. Each entry includes the IA of the host sought, the
interface the ARP was received on, and the source addresses
of the original request.

When case 3 occurs, the search list is checked. If the
sought host is already listed the search is terminated, if
not the search is propagated.

To propagate the search, an entry is first made on the
search list, then the BOX composes and sends an ARP packet
on each of its interfaces. These ARP requests contain the
IA and HA of the BOX and the IA of the sought host, and
request the HA of the sought host. If a reply is received
to the ARP request, the information is entered into the
appropriate cache, the entry is deleted from the search list
and a response to the search instigating ARP requests is
made as in case 1 or 2 above. If no reply is received, give
up and do nothing -- no response is sent to the instigating
host (the entry stays on the search list).

Note that the BOX must make a reasonable effort with its
ARP requests, if it is normal for ordinary hosts to
retry ARP requests five times, then a BOX must also retry
it's ARP requests five times.

To terminate the search, give up and do nothing -- no
response is sent to the instigating host (the entry stays on
the search list).

There is no negative feedback from an ARP request, so there
is no way to decide that a search was unsuccessful except by
means of a time out.

For every ARP request that is received, the BOX must also put the
sending hosts IA:HA address mapping into the cache for the LAN it
was received on.

The entries in the caches and the search list must time out.


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The search list must be kept and the termination rule followed to
avoid an infinite relaying of an ARP request for a host that does
not respond. Once a host is listed in the search list, ARP
requests will not be relayed. If a host that is down (or
otherwise not responding to ARP requests), comes up (or otherwise
begins responding to ARP requests) it will still not become
available to hosts in other LANs until the search list entry times
out.

There are two approaches to this problem: first, to have a
relatively short time out on the search list entries; or
second, to have the BOX periodically send ARPs for each entry
on the search list.

There are several time outs involved in this scheme.

First, the hosts try to get the address resolved using ARP.
They may actually make several attempts before giving up if a
host is not responding. One must have an good estimate of the
length of time that a host may keep trying. Call this time T1.

Second, there is the time that an entry stays on the search
list, or the time between BOX generated ARPs to resolve these
addresses. Call this time T2.

Note that this time (T2) must be greater than the sum of the
T1s for the longest loop of LANs.

Third, there is the time that entries stay in the cache for
each LAN. Call this time T3.

The relationship must be T1 < T2 < T3.

One suggestion is that T1 be less than one minute, T2 be ten
minutes, and T3 be one hour.

If the environment is very stable, making T3 longer will result
in fewer searches (less overhead in ARP traffic). If the
environment is very dynamic making T3 shorter will result in
more rapid adaptation to the changes.

Another possibility is to restart the timer on the cache
entries each time they are referenced, and have a small value
for T3. This would result in entries that are frequently used
staying in the cache, but infrequently used information being
discarded quickly. Unfortunately there is no necessary
relationship between frequency of use and correctness. This


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method could result in an out-of-date entry persisting in a
cache for a very long time if ARP requests for that address
mapping were received at just less than the time out period.

When handling regular datagrams, the BOXes must decrement the IP
datagram Time-To-Live field (TTL) and update the IP header check
sum. If the TTL becomes zero the datagram is discarded (not
forwarded).

ARP, as currently defined, will take the most recent information
as the best and most up-to-date. In a complicated multi-LAN
environment where there are loops in the connectivity it is likely
that one will get two (or more) responses to an ARP request for a
host on some other LAN. It is probable that the first response
will be from the BOX that is the most efficient path.

The one change to the host implementation of ARP that is suggested
here is to prevent later responses from replacing the mapping
recorded from the first response.

Potential Problems

Bad Cache Entries

If some wrong information get into a cache entry, it will stay
there for time T3. The persistence of old information could
prevent communication (for a time) if a host changed its IA:HA
mapping.

One way to replace bad or out-of-date entries in a cache would
be to have the BOXes explicitly interpret a broadcast ARP reply
to require an entry with either this IA or HA to be replaced
with this new IA:HA mapping. One could have important servers
send a broadcast ARP reply when they come up.

Non-ARP Hosts

It seems unrealistic to expect to use both ARP hosts and
non-ARP hosts on the same LAN and expect them to communicate.
If all the non-ARP hosts are on the same LAN the situation is
considered with under the next heading (Non-Broadcast LANs).

Hosts that do not implement ARP must use some other means of
address mapping. Either they hold a complete table of all
hosts, or they access some such table in a server via some
protocol; or they expect to make all routing decisions based on
analysis of address fields.


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Non-Broadcast LANs

BOXes that are connected to LANs that do not have broadcast
capability and/or LANs where the hosts do not respond to ARP
may have a static or dynamic table of the IA:HA mappings for
that LAN (or the addresses may be computed from one another).
All the hosts on that LAN must be in the table.

When a BOX must find the address mapping and would otherwise
send an ARP request into a non-broadcast LAN (this can only
happen when the sought host is not the non-broadcast LAN since
all the hosts are in the table), it must instead send an ARP
type request specifically to each of the other BOXes on that
LAN.

Size of Tables

The worst case of the size of the tables in the BOXes is the
number of hosts in the set of LANs for each table. That is,
the table kept for each LAN interface may (in the worst case)
grow to have an entry for each host in the entire set of LANs.
However, these tables are really caches of the entries needed
for current communication activity and the typical case will be
far from the worst case. Most hosts will communicate mostly
with other hosts on their own LAN and with a few hosts on other
LANs. Most communication on LANs is between work station hosts
and server hosts. It can be expected that there will be
frequent communication involving the main server hosts and that
these server hosts will be entered in the tables of most of the
BOXes most of the time.

Infinite Transmission Loops

The possibility of infinite transmission loops through an
interconnected set of LANs is prevented by keeping search lists
in the BOXes and terminating the search when a request is
received for an address already on the list.

Transmission loops of regular datagrams can not persist because
them the BOXes must decrement the TTL, and discard the datagram
if the TTL is reduced to zero. For debugging purposes it would
be useful for a BOX to report to the implementer any datagrams
discarded for this reason.






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Broadcast

Note that broadcast does not really have anything to do with
either transparent subnets or explicit subnets. Since it was
discussed in [1], it will be discussed here, too. Two of the
three broadcast functions suggested in [1] work just the same
and have the same effects, the third can be supported, too.

It is also argued that the support for a broadcast
interpretation of IAs is a bigger issue that the question of
explicit subnets versus transparent subnets and it should be
decided separately.

It is also suggested that broadcast is not really what is
desired, but rather multicast is the better function. It may
make sense to understand how to do an Internet multicast before
adopting a broadcast scheme.

This IP Network

If the IA of this network number and an all ones host number
(e.g., 36.255.255.255) is used, an IP level broadcast to all
hosts on this Network (all LANs) is intended. A BOX must
forward this datagram. A BOX must examine the datagram for
potential significance to the BOX itself.

To prevent infinite transmission loops each BOX must keep a
list of recent broadcasts. The entries in this list contain
the source IA and the Identification field from the datagram
header. If a broadcast is received and matches an entry on
the list it is discarded and not forwarded. The entries on
this list time out in time T2.

This LAN Only

If the IA of all ones (i.e., 255.255.255.255) is used an IP
level broadcast to all hosts on this LAN only is intended.
A BOX must not forward this datagram. A BOX must examine
the datagram for potential significance to the BOX itself.

Another LAN Only

Since the LANs are not individually identified in the IA
this can not be supported in the same way. Some have also
argued that this is a silly capability to provide.

One way to provide it is to establish a specific IA for each


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LAN that means 'broadcast on this LAN'. For example,
36.255.255.128 means broadcast on LAN A, and 36.255.255.187
means broadcast on LAN B, etc. These addresses would be
specially interpreted by the BOXes attached to the specific
LAN where they had the special interpretation, other BOXes
would treat these address as any other IAs. Where these
addresses are specially interpreted they are converted to
the broadcast on this LAN only address.

DISCUSSION

The claim for the extended ARP scheme is that the average host need
not even know it is in a multi-LAN environment.

If a host took the trouble to analyze its local cache of IA:AH
address mappings it might discover that several of the IAs mapped
to the same HA. And if it took timing measurements it might
discover that some hosts responded with less delay that others.
And further, it might be able to find a correlation between these
discoveries. But few hosts would take the trouble.

Address Structure

In the explicit subnet scheme, some IA bits are devoted to
identifying the subnet (i.e., the LAN). The address is broken up
into network, subnet, and host fields. Generally, when fields are
use the density of the assigned addresses in the address space
goes down. That is, there is a less efficient use of the address
space. Significant implementation problems may arise if more
subnets than planned are installed and it becomes necessary to
change the size of the subnet field. It seems totally impractical
to use the explicit subnet scheme with a class C IA.

In the extended ARP scheme the address is simply the network, and
host fields. The extended ARP scheme may be used with any class
of IA.

Relocating Hosts

In the explicit subnet scheme when a host is unplugged from one
LAN and plugged into another its IA must change.

In the extended ARP scheme it may keep the same IA.






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One view of the situation suggests that there are really two
problems:

1. How does the host discover if the destination is in this LAN or
some other LAN?

This question assumes that a host should know the difference
and should do something different in the two cases, and further
that once the host knows the answer it also know how to send
the data (e.g., directly to the host, or to the box).

The claim here is that the hosts should not know the
difference and should always do the same thing.

2. How do the BOXes that connect LANs know which BOXes are the
routes to which LANs?

This question assumes that the BOXes need some kind of
topological knowledge, and exchange BOX-to-BOX protocol
information about connectivity.

The claim here is that the BOXes do not need topological
knowledge and do not need to explicitly know about the
existence of other BOXes.

It has been suggested that there are two problems: first, how the
hosts do routing; and second, how the BOXes do routing. A claim has
been made that the competing strategies each have an approach to each
problems and one could select a solution made up partly from one
approach and partly from another.

For example: use ARP within the LAN and have the BOX send ARP
replies and act as a agent (as in the extended ARP scheme), but
use a BOX-to-BOX protocol to get the 'which hosts are where'
information into the BOXes (as in the explicit subnet scheme).

There are two places where code is involved: a large number of hosts,
and a small number of BOXes. In considering the trade off between
explicit subnet scheme and extended ARP scheme, the work done in the
hosts should weigh a lot more than the work done in the BOXes.

What do hosts do?

Explicit Subnet Scheme

The host must be able to decide if this IA is on this LAN or



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some other LAN. If on this LAN then use some procedure to
find the HA. If on some other LAN then use some procedure
to find the HA of a BOX.

Extended ARP Scheme

In every case the host uses ARP to get a IA:HA mapping.

What do the BOXes do?

Explicit Subnet Scheme

The BOX must be able to decide which LAN within the site the
destination host is on. The BOXes must have some routing
table that tells for each LAN in the site which interface to
send datagrams on. This routing table must be kept up to
date, probably by a BOX-to-BOX protocol much like the
Internet Gateway-to-Gateway protocol.

Extended ARP Scheme

The BOX must keep caches for each LAN it is attached to of
IA:HA mappings, and it must keep a search list. It does not
run any BOX-to-BOX protocol, It does not even know if any
other BOXes exist.

Topology and Implementation Complexity

Trees

If the organization of the LANs and the BOXes is tree
structured, the BOXes may be very simple, they don't have to
keep the search lists at all, since there won't be any loops
for the ARP-request to traverse.

Loops

If the organization has loops then the search lists are
essential. If the topology is kept balanced so that there are
no long loops (all loops are about the same size), and the LANs
are reasonably compatible in delay characteristics, then the
procedure described here will work well.

Complex

If the organization is very complex, topologically unbalanced,



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and/or composed of mix of different types of LANS with vastly
different delay characteristics, then it may be better to use a
BOX-to-BOX routing protocol.

SUMMARY

It would be useful if the Internet community could come to some
agreement on a solution to the multi-LAN network problem and could
with a unified voice urge work station manufacturers to provide that
solution built in.

I urge consideration of the extended ARP scheme expounded on here.

I think that most work stations will be connected to LANs that have a
broadcast capability. I think that most work stations will be used
in situations that do not require explicit subnets, and most will be
used in situations where a class C Internet addresses would be
appropriate (and explicit subnets impossible). Thus, i think it
would be best to ask manufacturers to include support for ARP in work
stations off the shelf. I also think we ought to get busy and
create, develop, test, and produce the magic boxes I suggest so that
they too are available off the shelf.

Please note that neither this note nor [1] proposes a specific
routing procedure or BOX-to-BOX protocol. This is because such a
routing procedure is a very hard problem. The plan proposed here
will let us get started on using multi-LAN environments in a
reasonable way. If we later decide on a routing procedure to be used
between the BOXes we can redo the BOXes without having to redo the
hosts.



















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GLOSSARY

ARP

Address Resolution Protocol (see [2]).

BOX

Magic Box. A box (computer) connected to two or more LANs of the
same Network. Also called an 'ARP-based bridge'.

Bridge

A node (computer) connected to two or more administratively
indistinguishable but physically distinct subnets, that
automatically forwards datagrams when necessary, but whose
existence is not know to other hosts. Also called a 'software
repeater'.

Datagram

The unit of communication at the IP level.

Explicit Subnet

A Subnet explicitly identified in the the Internet Address by a
subnet address field, and so visible to others both in side and
out side the Network.

Gateway

A node (computer) connected to two or more administratively
distinct networks and/or subnets, to which hosts send datagrams to
be forwarded.

HA

Hardware Address, the address used in a packet on a LAN.

Host Number

The address of a host within an Network, the low-order part of an
IA.

IA

Internet Address, as defined in IP.


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Internet

The collection of connected Internet Networks (also known as the
Catenet). A set of interconnected networks using IP.

IP

Internet Protocol (see [3]).

LAN

Local Area Network.

Multi-LAN Network

A set of LANs treated as one Network, i.e., using one Network
Number in common. The individual LANs may be either Explicit
Subnets or Transparent Subnets.

Network

A single Internet Network (possibly divided into subnets or
composed of multiple LANs), identified by an individual Network
Number.

Network Number

An IP Network Number, the high-order part of an IA.

Packet

The unit of communication at the LAN hardware level.

Subnet

A subnet of Network. A portion of a Network (either logical or
physical).

Transparent Subnet

A Subnet not identified in the Internet Address, and so invisible
to others, (see Multi-LAN Network).

TTL

The IP Time-To-Live field.



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REFERENCES

[1] J. Mogul, 'Internet Subnets', RFC-917, Stanford University,
October 1984.

[2] D. Plummer, 'An Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol or
Converting Network Protocol Addresses to 48-bit Ethernet
Addresses for Transmission on Ethernet Hardware', RFC-826,
Symbolics, November 1982.

[3] J. Postel, 'Internet Protocol', RFC-791, USC-ISI,
September 1981.





































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