BGP Attributes Weight and the BGP Decision Process

BGP is a protocol that uses route attributes to select the best path to a destination. This subsection describes BGP attributes, the use of weight to influence path selection, and the BGP decision process.

BGP Path Attributes

BGP uses several attributes for the path-selection process. BGP uses path attributes to communicate routing policies. BGP path attributes include next hop, local preference, AS path, origin, multiexit discriminator (MED), atomic aggregate, and aggregator. Of these, the AS path is one of the most important attributes: It lists the number of AS paths to reach a destination network.

BGP attributes can be categorized as well-known or optional. Well-known attributes are recognized by all BGP implementations. Optional attributes do not have to be supported by the BGP process; they are used on a test or experimental basis.

Well-known attributes can be further subcategorized as mandatory or discretionary. Mandatory attributes are always included in BGP update messages. Discretionary attributes might or might not be included in the BGP update message.

Optional attributes can be further subcategorized as transitive or nontransitive. Routers must advertise the route with transitive attributes to its peers even if it does not support the attribute locally. If the path attribute is nontransitive, the router does not have to advertise the route to its peers.

The following subsections cover each attribute category. Next-Hop Attribute

The next-hop attribute is the IP address of the next IP hop that will be used to reach the destination. The next-hop attribute is a well-known mandatory attribute. With eBGP, the eBGP peer sets the next hop when it announces the route. Multiaccess networks use the next-hop attribute where there is more than one BGP router.

Local Preference Attribute

The local preference attribute indicates which path to use to exit the AS. It is a well-known discretionary attribute used between iBGP peers and is not passed on to external BGP peers. In Cisco IOS Software, the default local preference is 100. The higher local preference is preferred.

The default local preference is configured on the BGP router with an external path; it then advertises its local preference to internal iBGP peers. Figure 12-6 shows an example of the local preference attribute where Routers B and C are configured with different local preference values. Router A and other iBGP routers then receive routes from both Router B and Router C. Router A prefers using Router C to route Internet packets because it has a higher local preference (400) than Router B (300). The arrows represent the paths taken to go out of the AS.

Figure 12-6 BGP Local Preference

Origin Attribute

Origin is a well-known mandatory attribute that defines the source of the path information. Do not confuse the origin with comparing whether the route is external (eBGP) or internal (iBGP). The origin attribute is received from the source BGP router. There are three types:

■ IGP—Indicated by an i in the BGP table. Present when the route is learned by way of the network statement.

■ EGP—Indicated by an e in the BGP table. Learned from EGP.

■ Incomplete—Indicated by a ? in the BGP table. Learned from redistribution of the route.

In terms of choosing a route based on origin, BGP prefers routes that have been verified by an IGP over routes that have been learned from EGP peers, and BGP prefers routes learned from eBGP peers over incomplete paths.

AS Path Attribute

The AS path is a well-known mandatory attribute that contains a list of AS numbers in the path to the destination. Each AS prepends its own AS number to the AS path. The AS path describes all the autonomous systems a packet would have to travel to reach the destination IP network. It is used to ensure that the path is loop-free. When the AS path attribute is used to select a path, the route with the fewest AS hops is preferred. In the case of a tie, other attributes, such as MED, break the tie. Example 12-1 shows the AS path for network To reach the destination, a packet must pass autonomous systems 3561, 7004, and 7418. The command show ip bgp displays the AS path information.

Example 12-1 AS Path Attribute

Router#show ip bgp

BGP routing table entry for, version 93313535 Paths: (1 available, best #1) Not advertised to any peer 3561 7004 7418 (metric 490201) from ( Origin IGP, metric 4294967294, localpref 100, valid, internal, best Community: 2548:182 2548:337 2548:666 3706:153

MED Attribute

The MED attribute, also known as a metric, tells external BGP peers the preferred path into the AS when multiple paths into the AS exist. In other words, MED influences which one of many paths a neighboring AS uses to reach destinations within the AS. It is an optional nontransitive attribute carried in eBGP updates. The MED attribute is not used with iBGP peers. The lowest

MED value is preferred, and the default value is 0. Paths received with no MED are assigned a MED of 0. The MED is carried into an AS but does not leave the AS.

Consider the diagram shown in Figure 12-7. With all attributes considered equal, consider that Router C selects Router A as its best path into AS 100 based on Router A's lower router ID (RID). If Router A is configured with a MED of 200, then that will make Router C select Router B as the best path to AS 100. No additional configuration is required on Router B, because the default MED is 0.

Figure 12-7 MED Attribute

Community Attribute

Although it is not an attribute used in the routing-decision process, the community attribute groups routes and applies policies or decisions (accept, prefer) to those routes. It is a group of destinations that share some common property. The community attribute is an optional transitive attribute of variable length.

Atomic Aggregate and Aggregator Attributes

The atomic aggregate attribute informs BGP peers that the local router used a less specific (aggregated) route to a destination without using a more specific route.

If a BGP router selects a less specific route when a more specific route is available, it must attach the atomic aggregate attribute when propagating the route. The atomic aggregate attribute lets the BGP peers know that the BGP router used an aggregated route. A more specific route must be in the advertising router's BGP table before it propagates an aggregate route.

Router B MED = 0

When the atomic aggregate attribute is used, the BGP speaker has the option to send the aggregator attribute. The aggregator attribute includes the AS number and the IP address of the router that originated the aggregated route. In Cisco routers, the IP address used is the RID of the router that performs the route aggregation. Atomic aggregate is a well-known discretionary attribute, and aggregator is an optional transitive attribute.


Weight is assigned locally on a router to specify a preferred path if multiple paths exist out of a router for a destination. Weights can be applied to individual routes or to all routes received from a peer. Weight is specific to Cisco routers and is not propagated to other routers. The weight value ranges from 0 to 65,535. Routes with a higher weight are preferred when multiple routes exist to a destination. Routes that are originated by the local router have a default weight of 32,768.

You can use weight instead of local preference to influence the selected path to external BGP peers. The difference is that weight is configured locally and is not exchanged in BGP updates. On the other hand, the local preference attribute is exchanged between iBGP peers and is configured at the gateway router.

When the same destinations are advertised from both Router B and Router C, as shown in Figure 12-8, Router A prefers the routes from Router C over Router B because the routes received from Router C have a larger weight (600) locally assigned.

Figure 12-8 BGP Weight

( AS 100 \


( AS 200 \

(Router B

^^Router C \

A ^^

AS 500

V Weight = 400

Router A

''Weight = 600 j

By default, BGP selects only a single path to reach a specific destination (unless you specify maximum paths). The Cisco implementation of BGP uses a simple decision process. When the path is selected, BGP puts the selected path in its routing table and propagates the path to its neighbors.

To select the best path to a destination, Cisco routers running BGP use the following algorithm in the following order:

1. If the specified next hop is inaccessible, drop the path.

2. If the path is internal, synchronization is enabled, and the path is not in the IGP, drop the path.

3. Prefer the path with the largest weight. (This step is Cisco-specific, and weight is localized to the router.)

4. Prefer the path with the largest local preference. iBGP uses this path only to reach the preferred external BGP router.

5. Prefer the path that was locally originated via a network or aggregate BGP subcommand or through redistribution from an IGP. Local paths sourced by network or redistribute commands are preferred over local aggregates sourced by the aggregate-address command. (This step is Cisco-specific.)

6. If no route was originated, prefer the route that has the shortest AS path. (This step is Cisco-specific.)

7. If all paths have the same AS path length, prefer the path with the lowest origin type. Paths with an origin type of IGP (lower) are preferred over paths originated from an EGP such as BGP, and EGP origin is preferred over a route with an incomplete origin. (This step is Cisco-specific.)

8. If the origin codes are the same, prefer the path with the lowest MED attribute. An eBGP peer uses this attribute to select a best path to the AS. (This step is a tiebreaker, as described in the RFC that defines the BGP.)

9. If the paths have the same MED, prefer the external (eBGP) path over the internal (iBGP) path. (This step is Cisco-specific.)

10. If the paths are still the same, prefer the path through the closest IGP neighbor (best IGP metric). (This step is a tiebreaker, as described in the RFC that defines the BGP.)

11. Prefer the path with the BGP neighbor with the lowest router ID. (The RFC that defines the BGP describes the router ID.)

After BGP decides on a best path, it marks it with a > sign in the show ip bgp table and adds it to the IP routing table.

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