Dynamic Routing Protocols – Detailed

Interior versus exterior routing protocols

The names interior and exterior are very descriptive. Interior routing protocols are designed for use within a contained network of limited size, whereas exterior routing protocols are designed to link multiple networks together. They can be used in combination in order to simplify network administration. For example, a network can be built with only border routers of a network running the exterior routing protocol, while all the routers on the network run the interior protocol, which prevents them from connecting outside the network without passing through the border. Exterior routers in such a configuration must have both exterior and interior protocols, to communicate with the interior routers and outside the network.

Nearly all routing protocols are interior routing protocols. Only BGP is commonly used as an exterior routing protocol.

You may see interior gateway protocol (IGP) used to refer to interior routing protocols, and exterior gateway protocol (EGP) used to refer to interior routing protocols.

Distance vector versus link-state protocols

Every routing protocol determines the best route between two addresses using a different method. However, there are two main algorithms for determining the best route — Distance vector and Link-state.


Distance vector protocols

In distance vector protocols, routers are told about remote networks through neighboring routers. The distance part refers to the number of hops to the destination, and in more advanced routing protocols these hops can be weighted by factors such as available bandwidth and delay. The vector part determines which router is the next step along the path for this route. This information is passed along from neighboring routers with routing update packets that keep the routing tables up to date. Using this method, an outage along a route is reported back along to the start of that route, ideally before the outage is encountered.

On distance vector protocols, RFC 1058 which defines RIP v1 states the following:

Distance vector algorithms are based on the exchange of only a small amount of information. Each entity (gateway or host) that participates in the routing protocol is assumed to keep information about all of the destinations within the system. Generally, information about all entities connected to one network is summarized by a single entry, which describes the route to all destinations on that network.

There are four main weaknesses inherent in the distance vector method. Firstly, the routing information is not discovered by the router itself, but is instead reported information that must be relied on to be accurate and up-to- date. The second weakness is that it can take a while for the information to make its way to all the routers who need the information — in other words it can have slow convergence. The third weakness is the amount of overhead involved in passing these updates all the time. The number of updates between routers in a larger network can significantly reduce the available bandwidth. The fourth weakness is that distance vector protocols can end up with routing-loops. Routing loops are when packets are routed for ever around a network, and often occur with slow convergence. The bandwidth required by these infinite loops will slow your network to a halt.

There are methods of preventing these loops however, so this weakness is not as serious as it may first appear.





Link-state protocols


Link-state protocols are also known as shortest path first protocols. Where distance vector uses information passed along that may or may not be current and accurate, in link-state protocols each router passes along only information about networks and devices directly connected to it. This results in a more accurate picture of the network topology around your router, allowing it to make better routing decisions. This information is passed between routers using link-state advertisements (LSAs). To reduce the overhead, LSAs are only sent out when information changes, compared to distance vector sending updates at regular intervals even if no information has changed. The more accurate network picture in link-state protocols greatly speed up convergence and avoid problems such as routing-loops.

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