The Route Reflector Preserves IBGP Attributes

The route reflector concept does not change IBGP behavior—the route reflector is not allowed to modify the attributes of the reflected IBGP routes. The NEXT_HOP attribute, for example, remains the same when an IBGP route is exchanged between RRs. This is necessary to avoid loops inside the AS.

Figure 9-6 illustrates why the RR should not modify the attributes of the reflected IBGP routes. The NEXT_HOP attribute is used as an example. Figure 9-6 focuses on the portion of the network where Dallas connects to San Francisco.

Figure 9-6. The Route Reflector Preserves IBGP Attributes

San Francisco

Figure 9-6. The Route Reflector Preserves IBGP Attributes

San Francisco

- Physical

- Physical

Although the route reflection rules state that a route reflector should not modify any of the attributes, many implementations do permit this and/or filtering to occur. In practice, use care if you must perform actions of this nature.

Assume that RTB rather than RTA is specified as the route reflector and that an IBGP session is configured between RTB ( and RTC ( This looks odd, because RTA is physically passing the traffic, while logically RTB is reflecting the BGP routes between RTA and RTC. RTB will receive the prefix from its IBGP neighbor RTC with a next hop of RTB will reflect the route to its client RTA with the next hop also. This is the standard, desired behavior for route reflection.

On the other hand, if RTB were to change the next hop to its IP address,, RTA would try to use RTB to reach destination A loop would occur between RTA and RTB, because RTA will use the next hop of RTB. The result is that RTA will forward traffic to RTB. Subsequently, RTB will forward the traffic back to RTA to reach the final destination. This hypothetical situation exemplifies why the route reflector must not change IBGP attributes.

It is worth mentioning again that route reflectors propagate only the best route to a given destination. In other words, if a route reflector learns the same prefix from multiple client peers, only one path will be propagated to other peers. Therefore, when route reflectors are used, the number of paths available to reach a given destination will likely be lower than that of a full-mesh configuration. Due to this behavior, it is again advised that route reflector topologies resemble that of the physical topology, or the potential for suboptimal routing might occur.

Avoiding Loops

BGP relies on the information in the AS path to facilitate loop detection. A BGP update that attempts to reenter the AS it was originated from will be dropped by the border router of the source AS.

With the introduction of route reflectors, there is a potential for routing loops within an AS. A routing update that leaves a cluster may reenter the cluster. Loops inside the AS cannot be detected by the traditional AS path approach because routing updates do not have an originating AS path signature. Therefore, when route reflectors are deployed, BGP offers two extra measures for loop avoidance inside the AS—using an ORIGINATOR_ID and using a CLUSTER_LIST.


The ORIGINATOR_ID is a 4-byte, optional, nontransitive BGP attribute (type code 9). This attribute carries the ROUTER_ID of the route's originator in the local AS and is to be added to the UPDATE message by the route reflector. If the update comes back to the originator because of poor configuration, the originator should discard it.


The CLUSTERLIST is an optional, nontransitive BGP attribute (type code 10). Each cluster is represented with a CLUSTER_ID.

A CLUSTER_LIST is a sequence of CLUSTER_IDs that contain path information regarding the list of clusters that an UPDATE has traversed. When a route reflector sends a route from its clients to nonclients outside the cluster, it appends the local CLUSTER_ID to the CLUSTER_LIST, or creates the list if one is not present. If the route reflector receives an UPDATE whose CLUSTER_LIST contains the local CLUSTER_ID value, the UPDATE message should be discarded. Thus, the CLUSTER_LIST provides loop avoidance inside an AS, whereas the AS_PATH list, discussed earlier, facilitates loop avoidance for UPDATEs traversing multiple, external ASs.

See the configuration guidelines in the section "Route Reflectors" in Chapter 12. Route Reflectors and Peer Groups

Recall from Chapter 6, "Tuning BGP Capabilities," that a peer group is a group of BGP neighbors that share similar routing policies. Previously, route reflectors could be used only in conjunction with peer groups when all route reflector clients within a cluster were fully meshed. The reason can best be described through the following example. In a typical route reflection situation, Router A learns a prefix from Router B. Subsequently, Router A sends an

UPDATE message containing WITHDRAWN ROUTES information back to Router B to poison that route. In other words, Router A informs Router B that this prefix is unreachable via A. This prevents a route loop situation in which A claims that a prefix is reachable via B, and B claims it is reachable via A.

In a peer group, the same UPDATE message (with subsequent WITHDRAWN ROUTES information) is sent to all members of the group. In a peer group/route reflector situation, a route reflector that learns a prefix from one of the clients and attempts to poison that route ends up withdrawing that prefix from all the other clients. Because the clients are not talking to one another via BGP, that prefix is lost. Therefore, an IBGP mesh between the clients of a route reflector is necessary so that other clients will learn the prefix directly from the originator. Even with this design, the network administrator avoids building a full IBGP mesh between all IBGP routers in the AS by concentrating the mesh between route reflectors and clients (versus between clients within a cluster).

Fortunately, IOS has removed the full-mesh requirement on route reflector clients. Currently, clients of a route reflector configured under a peer group are not required to be fully meshed.

With the use of peer groups, the AS design would look like rings of fully meshed BGP speakers. Route reflectors are fully meshed among each other, and clients are only required to peer with the route reflectors. Figure 9-7 illustrates such an environment; each circled area represents a distinct peer group and route reflector cluster. In contrast, Figure 9-8 demonstrates what would be required without the use of route reflectors.

Figure 9-7. Typical BGP Route Reflection Topology

Figure 9-7. Typical BGP Route Reflection Topology

Network Meshed Bgp
Figure 9-8. Full-Mesh BGP Topology
Bgp Route Reflector Cluster Design

In conclusion, the route reflector concept is growing in popularity for large networks because it is both a simple and a scalable approach that does not require substantial overhead. Furthermore, migrating from a nonroute reflector to a route reflector design is easy. Only those routers intended to be route reflectors need to be modified; all other routers operate as usual. In addition, routers that do not implement the route reflector behavior, such as clients or nonclients, could be part of the AS with no loss of BGP routing information.

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