Ip unnumbered

Traditionally ISPs have used IP addresses for the point-to-point links on leased-line circuits to customers. Indeed, several years ago, before the advent of CIDR, it was not uncommon to see a /26 or even a /24 used for simple point-to-point link addresses. With the advent of CIDR, /30 networks have been used instead (/30 is a block of four addresses, two of which can be used for physical interfaces). However, this led to problems because IGPs of some of the larger ISPs were starting to carry several thousand networks, affecting convergence time and resulting in an administrative and documentation nightmare.

To avoid problems with large numbers of /30s floating around the ISP's internal routing protocol, and to avoid the problems of keeping internal documentation consistent with network deployment (especially true in larger ISPs), many are now using unnumbered point-to-point links.

An unnumbered point-to-point link is one requiring no IP addresses. The configuration is such that traffic destined for one network from another simply is pointed at the serial interface concerned. ip unnumbered is an essential feature applicable to point-to-point interfaces such as Serial, HSSI, POS, and so on. It enables the use of a fixed link (usually from ISP to customer) without consuming the usual /30 of address space, thereby keeping the number of networks routed by the IGP low. The ip unnumbered directive specifies that the point-to-point link should use an address of another interface on the router, typically a LAN or more usually a loopback interface. Any networks that must be routed to the customer are pointed at the serial interface rather than the remote address of the point-to-point link, as would be done in normal instances.


ISPs need to consider some situations before implementing an IP unnumbered system for their customer point-to-point connections. These are considerations only—bear in mind that many ISPs have used IP unnumbered for several years, mainly so that they can control the size of the IGP running in their backbone network.

• Pinging the customer— Many ISPs use monitoring systems that use ping to check the status of the leased line (customer connectivity). Even if the customer unplugs the LAN, an alarm will not be raised on the ISPs management system. This is because the customer router still knows that the LAN IP address is configured on the system and is "useable." As long as the IP address is configured on the LAN, there will be no reachability issues with using ip unnumbered.

• Routing protocols— If a routing protocol needs to be run over this link, it is operationally much easier to use IP addresses. Don't use ip unnumbered if the customer is peering with you using BGP across the link or if the link is an internal backbone link. Simply use a network with a /30 address mask. (Routing will work over unnumbered links, but the extra management and operational complexity probably outweighs the small address space advantage gained.)

• Loopback interfaces on the customer's router— These offer no advantage to addressing the ping problem, and they unnecessarily consume address space (not to mention adding complexity to the customer router configuration).

ip unnumbered Configuration Example

Using the preceding configuration commands, a typical configuration on the ISP's router would be as follows:

interface loopback 0

description Loopback interface on Gateway Router 2

ip address

no ip redirects no ip directed-broadcast no ip proxy-arp

interface Serial 5/0

description 128K HDLC link to Galaxy Publications Ltd [galpubl]

WT50314E R5-0 bandwidth 12 8 ip unnumbered loopback 0 no ip redirects no ip directed-broadcast no ip proxy-arp

ip route Serial 5/0

The customer router configuration would look something like this:

interface Ethernet 0

description Galaxy Publications LAN ip address no ip redirects no ip directed-broadcast no ip proxy-arp

interface Serial 0

description 128K HDLC link to Galaxy Internet Inc WT50314E C0

bandwidth 12 8

ip unnumbered ethernet 0

no ip redirects no ip directed-broadcast no ip proxy-arp

In this example, the regional or local registry has allocated the customer the network block This is routed to the customer site with the static route pointing to Serial 5/0. The customer router simply needs a default route pointing to its serial interface to ensure a connection.

With this configuration, there are no /30s from point-to-point links present in the IGP, and the ISP does not need to document the link address or keep a table/database up-to-date. It all makes for easier configuration as well as easier operation of the ISP's business.

Note the contents of the description field. This example has included the following:

bandwidth of the circuit




name of the company

Galaxy Publications Ltd

database mnemonic in the ISP's internal database


telco's circuit ID


cable number


All of these are online documentation, seemingly superfluous, but very necessary to ensure smooth and efficient operations. All the information pertinent to the customer's connection from the cabling to the IP values is contained in the interface configuration. If the ISP's database is down or unavailable, any debug information required by operators or engineers can be found on the router itself.

Interface Status Checking

Some useful hidden IOS Software commands enable the operator to check the status of the interfaces in IOS Software. Three useful commands are show interface switching, show interface stats, and show idb.

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