Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents

The MPLS Models

Overview

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a “layer 2.5” protocol for high-performance telecommunications networks. MPLS directs data from one network node to the next based on numeric labels instead of network addresses, avoiding complex lookups in a routing table and allowing traffic engineering. The labels identify virtual links (label-switched paths or LSPs, also called MPLS tunnels) between distant nodes rather than endpoints. The routers that make up a label-switched network are called label-switching routers (LSRs) inside the network (“transit nodes”), and label edge routers (LER) on the edges of the network (“ingress” or “egress” nodes).

A fundamental MPLS concept is that two LSRs must agree on the meaning of the labels used to forward traffic between and through them. This common understanding is achieved by using signaling protocols by which one LSR informs another of label bindings it has made. Such signaling protocols are also called label distribution protocols. The two main label distribution protocols used with MPLS are LDP and RSVP-TE.

INET provides basic support for building MPLS simulations. It provides models for the MPLS, LDP and RSVP-TE protocols and their associated data structures, and preassembled MPLS-capable router models.

Core Modules

The core modules are:

  • Mpls implements the MPLS protocol
  • LibTable holds the LIB (Label Information Base)
  • Ldp implements the LDP signaling protocol for MPLS
  • RsvpTe implements the RSVP-TE signaling protocol for MPLS
  • Ted contains the Traffic Engineering Database
  • LinkStateRouting is a simple link-state routing protocol
  • RsvpClassifier is a configurable ingress classifier for MPLS

Mpls

The Mpls module implements the MPLS protocol. MPLS is situated between layer 2 and 3, and its main function is to switch packets based on their labels. For that, it relies on the data structure called LIB (Label Information Base). LIB is fundamentally a table with the following columns: input-interface, input-label, output-interface, label-operation(s).

Upon receiving a labelled packet from another LSR, MPLS first extracts the incoming interface and incoming label pair, and then looks it up in local LIB. If a matching entry is found, it applies the prescribed label operations, and forwards the packet to the output interface.

Label operations can be the following:

  • Push adds a new MPLS label to a packet. (A packet may contain multiple labels, acting as a stack.) When a normal IP packet enters an LSP, the new label will be the first label on the packet.
  • Pop removes the topmost MPLS label from a packet. This is typically done at either the penultimate or the egress router.
  • Swap: Replaces the topmost label with a new label.

In INET, the local LIB is stored in a LibTable module in the router.

Upon receiving an unlabelled (e.g. plain IPv4) packet, MPLS first determines the forwarding equivalence class (FEC) for the packet using an ingress classifier, and then inserts one or more labels in the packet’s newly created MPLS header. The packet is then passed on to the next hop router for the LSP.

The ingress classifier is also a separate module; it is selected depending on the choice of the signaling protocol.

LibTable

LibTable stores the LIB (Label Information Base), as described in the previous section. LibTable is expected to have one instance in the router.

LIB is normally filled and maintained by label distribution protocols (RSVP-TE, LDP), but in INET it is possible to preload it with initial contents.

The LibTable module accepts an XML config file whose structure follows the contents of the LIB table. An example configuration:

<libtable>
    <libentry>
        <inLabel>203</inLabel>
        <inInterface>ppp1</inInterface>
        <outInterface>ppp2</outInterface>
        <outLabel>
            <op code="pop"/>
            <op code="swap" value="200"/>
            <op code="push" value="300"/>
        </outLabel>
        <color>200</color>
    </libentry>
</libtable>

There can be multiple <libentry> elements, each describing a row in the table. Colums are given as child elements: <inLabel>, <inInterface>, etc. The <color> element is optional, and it only exists to be able to color LSPs on the GUI. It is not used by the protocols.

Ldp

The Ldp module implements the Label Distribution Protocol (LDP). LDP is used to establish LSPs in an MPLS network when traffic engineering is not required. It establishes LSPs that follow the existing IP routing table, and is particularly well suited for establishing a full mesh of LSPs between all of the routers on the network.

LDP relies on the underlying routing information provided by a routing protocol in order to forward label packets. The router’s forwarding information base, or FIB, is responsible for determining the hop-by-hop path through the network.

In INET, the Ldp module takes routing information from Ted module. The Ted instance in the network is filled and maintained by a LinkStateRouting module. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to use other routing protocol implementations such as Ospf in conjunction with Ldp.

When Ldp is used as signaling protocol, it also serves as ingress classifier for Mpls.

Ted

The Ted module contains the Traffic Engineering Database (TED). In INET, Ted contains a link state database, including reservations for each link by RSVP-TE.

LinkStateRouting

The LinkStateRouting module provides a simple link state routing protocol. It uses Ted as its link state database. Unfortunately, the LinkStateRouting module cannot operate independently, it can only be used inside an MPLS router.

RsvpTe

The RsvpTe module implements RSVP-TE (Resource Reservation Protocol – Traffic Engineering), as signaling protocol for MPLS. RSVP-TE handles bandwidth allocation and allows traffic engineering across an MPLS network. Like LDP, RSVP uses discovery messages and advertisements to exchange LSP path information between all hosts. However, whereas LDP is restricted to using the configured IGP’s shortest path as the transit path through the network, RSVP can take taking into consideration network constraint parameters such as available bandwidth and explicit hops. RSVP uses a combination of the Constrained Shortest Path First (CSPF) algorithm and Explicit Route Objects (EROs) to determine how traffic is routed through the network.

When RsvpTe is used as signaling protocol, Mpls needs a separate ingress classifier module, which is usually a RsvpClassifier.

The RsvpTe module allows LSPs to be specified statically in an XML config file. An example traffic.xml file:

<sessions>
    <session>
        <endpoint>host3</endpoint>
        <tunnel_id>1</tunnel_id>
        <paths>
            <path>
                <lspid>100</lspid>
                <bandwidth>100000</bandwidth>
                <route>
                    <node>10.1.1.1</node>
                    <lnode>10.1.2.1</lnode>
                    <node>10.1.4.1</node>
                    <node>10.1.5.1</node>
                </route>
                <permanent>true</permanent>
                <color>100</color>
            </path>
        </paths>
    </session>
</sessions>

In the route, <node> stands for strict hop, and <lnode> for loose hop.

Paths can also be set up and torn down dynamically with ScenarioManager commands (see chapter Scenario Scripting). RsvpTe understands the <add-session> and <del-session> ScenarioManager commands. The contents of the <add-session> element can be the same as the <session> element for the traffic.xml above. The <del-command> element syntax is also similar, but only <endpoint>, <tunnel_id> and <lspid> need to be specified.

The following is an example scenario.xml file:

<scenario>
    <at t="2">
        <add-session module="LSR1.rsvp">
            <endpoint>10.2.1.1</endpoint>
            <tunnel_id>1</tunnel_id>
            <paths>
                ...
            </paths>
        </add-session>
    </at>
    <at t="2.4">
        <del-session module="LSR1.rsvp">
            <endpoint>10.2.1.1</endpoint>
            <tunnel_id>1</tunnel_id>
            <paths>
                <path>
                    <lspid>100</lspid>
                </path>
            </paths>
        </del-session>
    </at>
</scenario>

Classifier

The RsvpClassifier module implements an ingress classifier for Mpls when using RsvpTe for signaling. The classifier can be configured with an XML config file.

**.classifier.config = xmldoc("fectable.xml");

An example fectable.xml file:

<fectable>
    <fecentry>
        <id>1</id>
        <destination>host5</destination>
        <source>host1</source>
        <tunnel_id>1</tunnel_id>
        <lspid>100</lspid>
    </fecentry>
</fectable>

MPLS-Enabled Router Models

INET provides the following pre-assembled MPLS routers: