Confederations are another way to control large numbers of IBGP peers. A confederation is an AS that has been subdivided into a group of subautonomous systems, known as member autonomous systems (see Figure 2-42). The BGP speakers within the confederation speak IBGP to peers in the same member AS and EBGP to peers in other member autonomous systems. The confederation is assigned a confederation ID, which is represented to peers outside of the confederation as the AS number of the entire confederation. External peers do not see the internal structure of the confederation; rather, they see a single AS. In Figure 2-42, AS 9184 is the confederation ID.

Figure 42 A Typical Confederation

Figure 42 A Typical Confederation

You are very familiar with the concept of subdividing entities for better manageability. IP subnets are subdivisions of IP networks, and VLSM subdivides subnets. Similarly, autonomous systems are subdivisions of large internetworks (such as the Internet). Confederations are subdivisions of autonomous systems.

The section "AS _SET" described two types of AS_PATH attributes: AS_SEQUENCE and AS_SET. Confederations add two more types to the AS_PATH:

• AS_CONFED_SEQUENCE—This is an ordered list of AS numbers along a path to a destination. It is used in exactly the same way as the AS_SEQUENCE, except that the AS numbers in the list belong to autonomous systems within the local confederation.

• AS_CONFED_SET—This is an unordered list of AS numbers along a path to a destination. It is used in exactly the same way as the AS_SET, except that the AS numbers in the list belong to autonomous systems within the local confederation.

Because the AS_PATH attribute is used in updates between the member autonomous systems, loop avoidance is preserved. From the perspective of a BGP router within a member AS, all peers in other member autonomous systems are external neighbors.

When an update is sent to a peer external to the confederation, the AS_CONFED_SEQUENCE and AS_CONFED_SET information is stripped from the AS_PATH attribute, and the confederation ID is prepended to the AS_PATH. Because of this, external peers see the confederation as a single AS rather than as a collection of autonomous systems. As Figure 2-42 shows, it is common practice to use AS numbers from the reserved range 64512 to 65535 to number the member autonomous systems within a confederation.

When choosing a route, the BGP decision process remains the same, with one addition: EBGP routes external to the confederation are preferred over EBGP routes to member autonomous systems, which are preferred over IBGP routes. Another difference between confederations and standard autonomous systems is the way in which some attributes are handled. Attributes such as NEXT_HOP and MED can be advertised unchanged to EBGP peers in another member AS within the confederation, and the LOCAL_PREF attribute also can be sent.

Unlike route reflector environments in which only the route reflector itself has to support route reflection, all routers within a confederation must support the confederation functionality. This support is necessary because all routers must be able to recognize the AS_CONFED_SEQUENCE and AS_CONFED_SET types in the AS_PATH attribute. Because these AS_PATH types are removed from routes advertised out of the confederation, however, routers in other autonomous systems do not have to support confederations.

In very large autonomous systems, you can use confederations and route reflectors together. You can configure one or more RR clusters within one or more member autonomous systems for even more optimal control of IBGP peers.

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