Network Working Group
Request for Comments: 2102
Category: Informational
Multicast Support for Nimrod : Requirements and Solution Approaches
R. Ramanathan
BBN Systems and Technologies
February 1997

Status of this Memo

This memo provides information for the Internet community. This memo does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


Nimrod does not specify a particular solution for multicasting. Rather, Nimrod may use any of a number of emerging multicast techniques. We identify the requirements that Nimrod has of a solution for multicast support. We compare existing approaches for multicasting within an internetwork and discuss their advantages and disadvantages. Finally, as an example, we outline the mechanisms to support multicast in Nimrod using the scheme currently being developed within the IETF - namely, the Protocol Indpendent Multicast (PIM) protocol.

Table of Contents

   1  Introduction.................................................  2
   2  Multicast vs Unicast.........................................  3
   3  Goals and Requirements.......................................  4
   4  Approaches...................................................  6
   5  A Multicasting Scheme based on PIM........................... 10
      5.1 Overview ................................................ 10
      5.2 Joining and Leaving a Tree .............................. 12
          5.2.1 An Example ........................................ 15
      5.3 Establishing a Shared Tree .............................. 16
      5.4 Switching to a Source-Rooted Shortest Path Tree.......... 18
      5.5 Miscellaneous Issues..................................... 20
   6  Security Considerations...................................... 21
   7  Summary...................................................... 21
   8  References................................................... 22
   9  Acknowledgements............................................. 23
   10 Author's Address............................................. 23

1 Introduction

The nature of emerging applications such as videoconferencing, remote classroom, etc. makes the support for multicasting essential for any future routing architecture. Multicasting is performed by using a multicast delivery tree whose leaves are the multicast destinations.

Nimrod does not propose a solution for the multicasting problem. There are two chief reasons for this. First, multicasting is a non- trivial problem whose requirements are still not well understood. Second, a number of groups (for instance the IDMR working group of the IETF) are studying the problem by itself and it is not our intention to duplicate those efforts.

This attitude towards multicasting is consistent with Nimrod's general philosophy of flexibility, adaptability and incremental change.

While a multicasting solution per se is not part of the "core" Nimrod architecture, Nimrod does require that the solution have certain characteristics. It is the purpose of this document to discuss some of these requirements and evaluate approaches towards meeting them.

This document is organized as follows. In section 2 we discuss why multicasting is treated a little differently than unicast despite the fact that the former is essentially a generalization of the latter. Following that, in section 4 we discuss current approaches toward multicasting . In section 5, we give an example of how Nimrod multicasting may be done using PIM [DEF+94a]. For readers who do not have the time to go through the entire document, a summary is given at the end.

This document uses many terms and concepts from the Nimrod Architecture document [CCS96] and some terms and concepts (in section 5) from the Nimrod Functionality document [RS96]. Much of the discussion assumes that you have read at least the Nimrod Architecture document [CCS96].

2 Multicast vs Unicast

We begin by looking at the similarities and differences between unicast routing and multicast routing. Both unicast and multicast routing require two phases - route generation and packet forwarding. In the case of unicast routing, Nimrod specifies modes of packet forwarding; route generation itself is not specified but left to the particular routing agent. For multicasting, Nimrod leaves both route generation and packet forwarding mechanisms unspecified. To explain why, we first point out three aspects that make multicasting quite different from unicasting :

  • Groups and group dynamism. In multicasting, the destinations are part of a group, whose membership is dynamic. This brings up the following issues :
  • An association between the multicast group and the EIDs and locators of the members comprising that group. This is especially relevant in the case of sender initiated multicasting and policy support.
  • A mechanism to accommodate new group members in the delivery in response to addition of members, and a mechanism to "prune" the delivery in response to departures.
  • State creation. Most solutions to multicasting can essentially be viewed as creating state in routers for multicast packet forwarding. Based on who creates the state, multicasting solutions differ. In multicasting, we have several options for this - e.g., the sender, the receivers or the intermediate routers.
  • Route generation. Even more so than in unicast routing, one can choose from a rich spectrum of heuristics with different tradeoffs between a number of parameters (such as cost and delay, algorithmic time complexity and optimality etc.). For instance, some heuristics produce a low-cost tree with high end-to-end delay and some produce trees that give the shortest path to each destination but with a higher cost. Heuristics for multicasting are a significant research area today, and we expect advances to result in sophisticated heuristics in the near future.

Noting that there are various possible combinations of route generation, group dynamism handling and state creation for a solution and that each solution conceivably has applications for which it is the most suitable, we do not specify one particular approach to multicasting in Nimrod. Every implementation of Nimrod is free to use its own multicasting technique, as long as it meets the goals and requirements of Nimrod. However, for interoperability, it is necessary that certain things are agreed upon - for instance, the structure of the forwarding information database that they create (we discuss this in more detail in section 4).

Thus, we do not discuss the details of any multicast solution here, only its requirements in the context of Nimrod. Specifically, we structure the discussion in the remainder of this document on the following two themes :

  • What are the goals that we want to meet in providing multicasting in Nimrod, and what specific requirements do these goals imply for the multicast solution?
  • What are some of the approaches to multicasting being discussed currently, and how relevant are each of these approaches to Nimrod?

3 Goals and Requirements

The chief goals of Nimrod multicasting and their implications on solution requirements are as follows:

  1. Scalability. Nimrod multicasting must scale in terms of the size of the internetwork, the number of groups supported and the number of members per group. It must also support group dynamism efficiently. This has the following implications for the solution:
  • Routers not on the direct path to the multicast destinations should not be involved in state management. In a network with a large number of routers, a solution that does involve such routers is unlikely to scale.
  • It is likely that there will be a number of applications that have a few members per group (e.g., medical imaging) and a number of applications that have a large number of members per group (e.g., news distribution). Nimrod multicasting should scale for both these situations. If no single mechanism adequately scales for both sparse and dense group memberships simultaneously, a combination of mechanisms should be considered.
  • In the face of group membership change, there must be a facility for incremental addition or deletion of "branches" in the multicast tree. Reconstructing the tree from scratch is not likely to scale.
  • It is likely that we will have some well-known groups (i.e., groups which are more or less permanent in existence) and some ephemeral groups. The dynamics of group membership are likely to be different for each class of groups, and the solution should take that into account as appropriate.
  1. Policy support. This includes both quality of service (QOS) as well as access restrictions, although currently, demand is probably higher for QOS. In particular, every path from a source to each destination in the multicast group should satisfy the requested quality of service and conform to the access restrictions. The implications for the multicasting solution are :
  • It is likely that many multicasting applications will be cost conscious in addition to having strict quality of service bounds (such as delay and jitter). Balancing these will necessitate dealing with some new parameters - e.g., the tree cost (sum of the "cost" of each link), the tree delay (maximum, mean and variance in end-to-end delay) etc.
  • In order to support policy-based routing, we need to know where the destinations are (so that we can decide what route we can take to them). In such a case, a mechanism that provides an association between a group id and a set of destination locators is probably required.
  • Some policy constraints are likely to be destination specific. For instance, a domain might refuse transit service to traffic going to certain destination domains. This presents certain unique problems - in particular, for a single group, multiple trees may need to be built, each tree "servicing" disjoint partitions of the multicast destinations.
  1. Resource sharing. Multicasting typically goes hand in hand with large traffic volume or applications with a high demand for resources. These, in turn, imply efficient resource management and sharing if possible. Therefore, it is important that we place an emphasis on interaction with resource reservation. For instance, Nimrod must be able to provide information on which tree resources are shareable and which are not so that resource reservation may use it while allocating resources to flows.
  1. Interoperability. There are two issues in this context. First, the solution must be independent of mechanisms that provide the solution with information it needs. For instance, many multicast solutions (e.g., PIM) make use of information supplied by unicast routing protocols. The multicast solution must not be dependent on which unicast protocol is used.

Second, a multicast solution must interoperate with other multicast solutions in the construction of a delivery tree. This implies some kind of "agreement" at some "level". For instance, the agreement could be that everybody use the same structure for storing forwarding information in the routers. Since the delivery tree is defined by the nature of forwarding information in the routers and not by the particular mechanism used to create that information, multiple implementations can coexist.

4 Approaches

The approaches to multicasting currently in operation and those being considered by the IETF include the following :

1. Distance vector multicast routing protocol (DVMRP)[DC90].  This
   approach is based upon distance-vector routing information distribution
   and hop-by-hop forwarding.  It uses Reverse Path Forwarding (RPF)[DM78]
   - a distributed algorithm for constructing an internetwork broadcast
   tree.  DVMRP uses a modified RPF algorithm, essentially a truncated
   broadcast tree, to build a reverse shortest path sender-based multicast
   delivery tree.  A reverse shortest path from s to d is a path that uses
   the same intermediate nodes as those in the shortest path from d to
   s (If the paths are symmetric (i.e., cost the same) in either
   direction, the reverse shortest path is same as the shortest path.)
   An implementation of RPF exists in the current Internet in what
   is commonly referred to as the MBONE. An improvement to this is in the
   process of being deployed.  It incorporates "prune" messages to
   truncate further the routers not on the path to the destinations and
   "graft" messages to undo this truncation, if later necessary.

The main advantage of this scheme is that it is simple. The major handicap is scalability. Two issues have been raised in this context[BFC93]. First, if S is the number of active sources and G the number of groups, then the state overhead is O(GS) and might be unacceptable when resources are limited. Second, routers not on a multicast tree are involved (in terms of sending/tracking prune and graft messages) even though they might not be interested in the particular source-group pair. The performance of this scheme is expected to be relatively poor for large networks with sparsely distributed group membership. Furthermore, no support for policies or QOS is provided.

  1. Core Based Trees (CBT)[BFC93]. This scheme uses a single tree shared by all sources per group. This tree has a single router as the core (with additional routers for robustness) from which branches emanate. The chief distinguishing characteristic of CBT is that it is receiver initiated, i.e., receivers wishing to join a multicast group find the tree (or its core) and attach themselves to it, without any participation from the sources.

The chief motivation behind this scheme is the reduction of the state overhead, to O(G), in comparison to DVMRP and PIM(described below). Also, only routers in the path between the core and the potential members are involved in the process. Core-based tree formation and packet flow are decoupled from underlying unicast routing.

The main disadvantage is that packets no longer traverse the shortest path from the source to their destinations. The performance in general depends on judicious placement of cores and coordination between them. Traffic concentration on links incident to the core is another problem. There is also a dependence on network entities (in other administrative domains, for instance) for resource reservation and policy routing.

3. Protocol Independent Multicasting (PIM)[DEFJ93].  Yet another approach
   based on the receiver initiated philosophy, this is designed to reap
   the advantages of DVMRP and CBT. Using a "rendezvous point", a
   concept similar to the core discussed above, it allows for the
   simultaneous existence of shared and source-specific multicast trees.
   In the steady state, data can be delivered over the reverse shortest
   path from the sender to the receiver (for better end-to-end delay) or
   over the shared tree.

Using two modes of operation, sparse and dense, this provides improved performance, both when the group membership in an internetwork is sparse and when it is dense. It is however, a complex protocol. A limitation of PIM is that the shortest paths are based on the reverse metrics and therefore truly "shortest" only when the links are symmetric.

4. Multicast Open Shortest Path First (MOSPF)[Moy92].  Unlike the
   abovementioned approaches, this is based on link-state routing
   information distribution.  The packet forwarding mechanism is
   hop-by-hop.  Since every router has complete topology information,
   every router computes the shortest path multicast tree from any
   source to any group using Dijkstra's algorithm.  If the router
   doing the computation falls within the tree computed, it can
   determine which links it must forward copies onto.

MOSPF inherits advantages of OSPF and link-state distribution, namely localized route computation (and easy verification of loop-freedom), fast convergence to link-state changes etc. However, group membership information is sent throughout the network, including links that are not in the direct path to the multicast destinations. Thus, like DVMRP, this is most suitable for small internetworks, that is, as an intra-domain routing mechanism.

5. Inter-Domain Policy Routing (IDPR)[Ste].  This approach uses
   link-state routing information distribution like MOSPF, but uses
   source-specified packet forwarding.  Using the link-state
   database, the source generates a policy multicast route to the
   destinations.  Using this, the IDPR path-setup procedure sets up
   state in intermediate entities for packet duplication and
   forwarding. The state contains information about the next-hop
   entities for the multicast flow.  When a data packet arrives,
   it is forwarded to each next hop entity obtained from the state.

Among the advantages of this approach are its ability to support policy based multicast routing with ease and independence (flexibility) in the choice of multicasting algorithm used at the source. IDPR also allows resource sharing over multiple multicast trees. The major disadvantage is that it makes it relatively more difficult to handle group membership changes (additions and deletions) since such changes must be first communicated to the source of the tree which will then add branches appropriately.

We now discuss the applicability of these approaches to Nimrod. Common to all of the approaches described is the fact that we need to set up state in the intermediate routers for multicast packet forwarding. The approaches differ mainly on who initiates the state creation - the sender (e.g., IDPR, PIM), the receiver (e.g., CBT, PIM) or the routers themselves create state without intitiation by the sender or receivers (e.g., DVMRP, MOSPF).

Nimrod should be able to accommodate both sender initiated as well as receiver initiated state creation for multicasting. In the remainder of this section, we discuss the pros and cons of these approaches for Nimrod.

Nimrod uses link-state routing information distribution (topology maps) and has four modes of packet forwarding - flow mode, Connectivity Specification Chain (CSC) mode, Connectivity Specification Sequence (CSS) mode and datagram mode [CCS96].

An approach similar to that used in IDPR is viable for multicasting using the flow mode. The source can set up state in intermediate routers which can then appropriately duplicate packets. For the CSC, BTES and datagram modes, an approach similar to the one used in MOSPF is applicable. In these situations, the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches in the context of Nimrod is similar to the advantages and disadvantages of IDPR and MOSPF respectively.

Sender based trees can be set up using an approach similar to IDPR and generalizing it to an "n" level hierarchy. A significant advantage of this approach is policy-based routing. The source knows about the policies of nodes that care to advertise them and can choose a route the way it wants (i.e., not depend upon other entities to choose the route, as in some schemes mentioned above). Another advantage is that each source can use the multicast route generation algorithm and packet forwarding scheme that best suits it, instead of being forced to use whatever is implemented elsewhere in the network. Further, this approach allows for incrementally deploying new multicast tree generation algorithms as research in that area progresses.

CBT-like methods may be used to set up receiver initiated trees. Nimrod provides link-state maps for generating routes and a CBT-like method is compatible with this. For instance, a receiver wishing to join a group may generate a (policy) route to the core for that group using its link-state map and attach itself to the tree.

A disadvantage of sender based methods in general seems to be the support of group dynamism. Specifically, if there is a change in the membership of the group, the particular database which contains the group-destination mapping must be updated. In comparison, receiver oriented approaches seem to be able to accommodate group dynamism more naturally.

Nimrod does not preclude the simultaneous existence of multiple approaches to multicasting and the possibility of switching from one to the other depending on the dynamics of group distributions. Interoperability is an issue - that is, the question of whether or not different implementations of Nimrod can participate in the same tree. However, as long as there is agreement in the structure of the state created (i.e., the states can be interpreted uniformly for packet forwarding), this should not be a problem. For instance, a receiver wishing to join a sender created tree might set up state on a path between itself and a router on the tree with the sender itself being unaware of it. Packets entering the router would now be additionally forwarded along this new "branch" to the new receiver.

In conclusion, the architecture of Nimrod can accommodate diverse approaches to multicasting. Each approach has its disadvantages with respect to the requirements mentioned in the previous section. The architecture does not demand that one particular solution be used, and indeed, we expect that a combination of approaches will be employed and engineered in a manner most appropriate to the requirements of the particular application or subscriber.

5 A Multicasting Scheme based on PIM

The Inter-Domain Multicast Routing (IDMR) working group of the IETF has developed a specification for a new multicast scheme, namely, Protocol Independent Multicasting (PIM) for use in the Internet [DEF+94a, DEF+94b]. In this section, we decribe how the schemes mentioned therein may be implemented using the facilities provided by Nimrod.

We note that the path setup facility provided in Nimrod makes it very conducive to PIM-style multicasting; despite the length of the description given here, we assure the reader that it is quite simple to implement PIM style multicasting in Nimrod.

Before reading this section, we recommend that the reader acquire some familiarity with PIM (see [DEF+94a, DEF+94b]).

5.1 Overview

The PIM architecture maintains the traditional IP multicast service model of receiver-initiated membership and is independent of any specific unicast routing protocol (hence the name).

A significant aspect of PIM is that it provides mechanisms for establishing two kinds of trees - a shared tree, which is intended for low "cost" multicasting and a source-based tree, intended for low delay multicasting.

A shared tree is rooted at a rendezvous point (RP), which is typically a prespecified router for the multicast group in question. In order to establish a shared tree, a designated router (DR) for a host wishing to join a group G initiates a flow setup from the RP for G to the DR. A source S wishing to send to a group G initiates a flow setup between S and the RP for group G. At the conclusion of these flow setups, packets can be forwarded from S to H through the RP. For details on the protocol used to implement this flow setup please refer to [DEF+94b].

After the shared tree has been setup, a recipient for group G has the option of switching to a source-based shortest path tree. In such a tree, packets are delivered from the source to each recipient along the shortest path. To establish a source-based shortest path tree, the DR for H looks at the source S of the packets it is receiving via the shared tree and establishes a flow between S and the DR. The flow is established along the shortest path from the DR to S (Thus, strictly speaking, it is the reverse shortest path that is being used.) Subsequently, packets can be forwarded from S to H using this shortest path and thereby bypassing the RP. For details on the protocol used to implement source-based trees in PIM please refer to [DEF+94b].

When a host wishes to leave a multicast group, its designated router sends a prune message towards the source (for source-based trees) or towards the RP (for shared trees). For details on this and other features of PIM please refer to [DEF+94b].

In Nimrod, PIM is implemented as follows (we refer to PIM based multicast as Nimpim). In order to join a shared tree, an endpoint (or an agent acting on behalf of the endpoint) wishing to join a group G queries the association database for the EID and locator of the RP for G (for well-known groups the association may be configured). It is required that such an association be maintained for every multicast group G. The endpoint gets a route for the RP and initiates a multicast flow setup to the RP (a multicast flow setup is similar to an unicast flow setup described in [CCS96] except for one feature - when a multicast flow setup request reaches a node that already has that flow present, the request is not forwarded further. The new flow gets "spliced" in as a new branch of the existing multicast tree). Similarly, the source establishes a flow to the RP. The RP creates state to associate these two flows and now packets can be forwarded to the endpoints from the source. Note that each flow setup may be "hierarchical" and involve many subflows. All this, however, is transparent to Nimpim. For details on management of hierarchical flows please refer to [CCS96].

To create the source-based tree, the representative for a recipient node N obtains the EID or locator of the source from the data packets and initiates a multicast flow setup to the source. The route agent for the node N uses its map in order to calculate the shortest path from the source to N. The flow request is sent along the reverse of this path. We note that the "shortness" of the path is constrained by the amount of routing information available locally. However, since the map is available locally, one can find the actual shortest path from the source to N and not use the shortest path from N to S. Thus, with Nimrod one can actually surmount a shortcoming of PIM with relative ease.

We now discuss some more details of Nimpim. We start with a description of multicast flow setup. This is the "basic" functionality required to implement multicasting. Having this "building-block" spelt out, we use this to specify the establishment of the shared tree (in section 5.3) and the establishment of a source-based tree (in section 5.4).

We only discuss sparse-mode multicasting, as described in [DEF+94a] here. Further, to simplify the discussion, we assume a single Rendezvous Point per group. Finally, we "address" all entities in terms of their EIDs alone for reasons of conciseness - the locators could be used in conjuction to reduce the overhead of database lookups.

5.2 Joining and Leaving a Tree

Nimpim uses two control packets in order to setup a flow - the Nimrod Multicast Flow-Request packet (NMFReq) and the Nimrod Multicast Flow-Reply packet (NMFRep).

The NMFReq packet is a control packet identified by a prespecified "payload type". The protocol-specific part of this packet includes the following fields (except for the Code field, these fields are present in the Unicast Flow-Request packet too) :

  1. S-EID : The EID of the initiator of the flow.
  1. T-EID : The EID of the target of the flow.
   3. Flow-id :  A label denoting the flow.
   4. Direction :  The direction of the flow - whether from the initiator
      to the target (FORW) or from the target to the initiator (REVERSE)
      or both (BOTH).
   5. Code :  Denotes whether the packet is for joining a flow
      (NMFReq-Join) for leaving a flow (NMFReq-Prune).
   6. Source Route :  A sequence of node locators through which the packet
      must travel.

The processing of the NMFReq by a forwarding agent at node N is similar to that of the unicast flow request (see [CCS96]), except for the fact that now we provide the ability for the new flow to "splice" onto an existing delivery tree or "un-splice" from an existing delivery tree. Specifically,

  • If the Code is NMFReq-Join then the algorithm executed by the forwarding agent for node N is shown in Figure 1.
  • If the Code is NMFReq-Prune then the algorithm is executed by the forwarding agent at node N is shown in Figure 2.

The NMFRep packet is used to accept or reject an NMFReq-Join or NMFReq-Prune. The packet format is the same as that for unicast flow request. However, an NMFRep packet is generated now by the first node N that grafts the new flow to the existing tree. This may be different from the target of the NMFReq.

It is required that a leaf router keep track of all hosts currently joined to the group and send a prune message only if there is no host in the local network for the group.

The NMFReq - NMFRep exchanges constitute a procedure for joining a multicast delivery tree (when the Code is Join) and for leaving a multicast delivery tree (when the Code is Prune). We term these procedures Tree-Join and Tree-Leave respectively; we shall be using these procedures as "building-blocks" in the construction of shared trees (section 5.3) and of source-based trees (section 5.4).

if the flow-id F in NMFReq-Join is in flow-list then
   if T-EID in NMFReq-Join = target in flow state for F then
      if Direction in NMFReq-Join is REVERSE or BOTH then
         Add the node preceding N in source route to child list for F
         discard packet
      discard packet
     install state for F in N, i.e.,
        assign parent(F) = node succeeding N in source route
        assign child(F)  = node preceeding N in source route
        assign target(F) = T-EID in NMFReq-Join
     forward NMFReq-Join to parent(F)

Figure 1: Algorithm executed by a forwarding agent for node N when

when it receives an NMFReq-Join.

  if the flow-id F in NMFReq-Prune is in flow-list
  then begin
       delete previous hop in source route from child list for F, if exists
       if child list for F is empty
       then begin
             delete the flow-id and state associated with it
             forward to next hop in source route
       else discard packet
  else forward to next hop in source-route

Figure 2: Algorithm executed by a forwarding agent for node N when it

receives an NMFReq-Prune.

5.2.1 An Example

An example of how a tree is joined is given here with the help of Figure 3. In the figure, bold lines indicate an existing tree. Representative R on behalf of host H joins the tree by sending an NMFJoin-Req towards a target T. When used in the shared tree mode, the target is the RP and when used in the source tree mode, it is the source (root) of the multicast tree. Suppose that a host H wants to join the multicast tree. The following steps are executed :

Step 1. A representative R of H queries the route agent for a route

    from T to R. It obtains the route T - C- B - A - R. It builds a
    NMFJoin-Req packet with source route as R, A, B, C, T and flow
    as F forwards it to A.

Step 2. A looks for flow F in its installed flow database and

doesn't find it. It installs state for F (makes R a child and
B a parent in the multicast tree) and sends the NMFJoin-Req packet to B.

Step 3. B looks for flow F in its installed flow database and finds it.

It adds B to its child list and constructs an NMFJoin-Rep packet and sends it to A.

Step 4. A forwards the packet to R and the tree joining is complete.

Branch B-A-R is now added to the tree.

5.3 Establishing a Shared Tree

There are two parts to establishing a shared tree - the receiver-to- RP communication wherein the receiver joins the delivery tree rooted at RP and the sender-to-RP communication wherein the RP joins the delivery tree rooted at the sender.

                                    |   |\
                                    +---+  \
                                      /      \
                                     /         \
                                  C /            \ X
                                +---+           +---+
                                |   |           |   |
                                +---+           +---+
      R    join-req           join-req     \  B
      +---+ - - - - ->  +---+ - - - - -> +---+
      |   |<------------|   |<-----------|   |
      +---+   join-rep  +---+   join-rep +---+
        |                 A                 \
        |                                     \
        |                                       \     Y
       ( )                                        +---+
         H                                        |   |

Figure 3: Illustration for the example describing joining an existing

multicast tree.

   Receiver-RP Communications:  When an endpoint wishes to join a
   multicast group G, the endpoint representative obtains the Rendezvous
   Point EID for G.  We assume that the association database contains
   such a mapping.  For details on how the association database query is
   implemented, please refer [CCS96].

The representative also obtains the flow-id to be used for the flow. The flow-id is constructed as the tuple (RP-EID, G) or an equivalent thereof. Note that the flow-id must be unique to the particular multicast flow. This is not the only method or perhaps even the best method for obtaining a flow id. Alternate methods for obtaining the flow-id are discussed in section 5.5.

The representative then initiates a Tree-Join procedure.

The NMFReq packet fields are as follows:

  • S-EID : The EID of the endpoint wishing to join.
  • T-EID : The RP EID (obtained from the Association Database).
  • Flow-id : The flow-id for this group (obtained as mentioned above).
  • Direction : REVERSE (from the RP to the receiving endpoint).
  • Code : Join.
  • Source Route : Reverse of the route obtained from the map agent for a query "from RP-EID to Receiver-EID".

At the first node already containing this Flow-id or the RP, an NMFRep packet is generated. The S-EID, T-EID, Direction and Flow-id fields are copied from the NMFReq packet and the Code is set to Join-Accept or Join-Refuse as the case may be. The source route is reversed from the NMFReq packet.

Sender-RP Communications: When an endpoint wishes to send to a multicast group G, the endpoint representative obtains the Rendezvous Point EID for G. We assume that the association database contains such a mapping. For details on how the association database query is implemented, please refer [CCS96].

The representative also obtains the flow-id to be used for the flow. The flow-id is constructed as the tuple (Sender-EID, G) or an equivalent thereof. Note that the flow-id must be unique to the particular multicast flow. This is not the only method or perhaps even the best method for obtaining a flow id. Alternate methods for obtaining the flow-id are discussed in section 5.5.

The representative then sends a RP-Register Message to the RP. This register message is equivalent to the PIM-Register described in [DEF+94b]. The RP-Register message contains the group G and the flow-id (obtained as discussed above) and the sender EID.

The RP then initiates a Tree-Join with the Sender EID as the target. The NMFReq fields are as follows :

  • S-EID : RP-EID.
  • T-EID : Sender EID (copied from RP-Register Message).
     o Flow-id :  The flow-id field from RP-Register Message.
     o Code :  Join.
     o Direction :  REVERSE.
     o Source Route :  Reverse of the route obtained from map agent
       query "from Sender-EID to RP-EID".

The NMFRep fields are obvious.

Shared Tree Data Forwarding: Packets sent from the source for group G contain the Flow-id used by the sender(s) and receiver(s) for setting up the delivery tree. The packets from the sender are sent to the RP where they are multicast, using the state created for the flow, into the delivery tree rooted at the RP to all of the receivers that did a Tree-Join.

5.4 Switching to a Source-Rooted Shortest Path Tree

There are two parts involved in switching to a Source-Rooted Shortest Path Tree - the receiver-source communications wherein the receiver joins a multicast delivery tree rooted at the source and the receiver-RP communications wherein the receiver leaves the shared tree.

   Receiver-Source Communications:  An endpoint E that is receiving
   packets through the shared tree from source S has the option of
   switching to a delivery tree rooted at the source such that packets
   from S to E traverse the shortest path (using whatever metric).

The endpoint representative of E obtains the flow-id to be used for the flow. The flow-id is constructed equivalently to the tuple (Source-EID, G). Note that the flow-id must be unique to the particular multicast flow. This is not the only method or perhaps even the best method for obtaining a flow id. Alternate methods for obtaining the flow-id are discussed in section 5.5.

The representative for E initiates a Tree-Join toward S with NMFReq fields as follows:

  • S-EID : EID of the Endpoint E.
  • T-EID : EID of the source.
   o Flow-id :  Flow id for the multicast (obtained as mentioned above).
   o Code :  Join.
   o Direction :  REVERSE.
  • Source Route : To obtain the route, the route agent is queried for a shortest path route (based on the chosen metric, typically, the delay) from the source to the endpoint. We note that the quality of the route is constrained by the amount of routing information available, directly or indirectly, to the route agent. The Source Route is the reverse of the route thus obtained.

A comment on the difference between the shortest-path trees obtained using the RPF tree as in [DEF+94b, DC90] and the trees that are be obtained here. When using the RPF scheme, the packets from the source S to the endpoint E follow a path that is the shortest path from E to S. This is the desired path if and only if the path is symmetric in either direction. However, in the mechanism described here for Nimrod, the packets do follow the "actual" shortest path from S to E whether or not the path is symmetric.

The NMFRep fields are obvious.

Receiver-RP Communications: After the receiver has joined the source-rooted tree, it can optionally disassociate itself from the shared tree. This is done by initiating a Tree-Leave procedure.

The representative sends a NMFReq packet toward the RP with the fields as follows.

  • S-EID : The EID of the endpoint wishing to leave the shared tree.
  • T-EID : The RP-EID.
   o Flow-id :  The flow-id it used to join the shared tree.
   o Code :  Prune.
   o Direction :  REVERSE.
   o Source Route :  Obtained as for the Tree-Join.

The prune packet is processed by the intermediate forwarding agents as mentioned in section 5.2. When the receiver gets back the NMFRep packet, the receiver has left the shared tree.

Source Tree Data Forwarding: Packets from the source contain the flow-id that was used to join the source tree for a given multicast group. Forwarding agents simply use the state created by the Tree- Join procedure in order to duplicate and forward packets toward the receivers.

5.5 Miscellaneous Issues

Obtaining the Flow-Id: In the above scheme the flow-id for a particular multicast group G was obtained by combining the RP-EID and the group set-id (G-SID) (in case of shared tree) or by combining the Source-EID and the G-SID (in case of source-based tree). A disadvantage of this approach is that the bit-length of EID/SID is potentially high (more than 64 bits) and thus the flow-id could be very long. While there do exist bit-based data structures and search algorithms (such as Patricia Trees) that may be used for an efficient implementation, it is worth considering some other methods in lieu of using the EID/SID combination. We describe some methods below :

  1. For shared trees, the flow-id for a particular group G may be stored and updated in the association database. Since we have to use the association database anyway to obtain the RP-EID, these does not cause much additional burden.

However, this cannot be used efficiently for source-based trees because we need a flow-id for each combination of Source and Group.

  1. The flow-id for shared trees could be done as above. When the sender does an RP-Register, it could send the RP the flow-id that it wishes to be used by receivers when they switch to a source-based tree. This could be included in the RP-Register message. The RP could then multicast that flow-id to all receivers in a special packet. When the receivers wish to switch, they use that flow-id.

This needs the definition of the "special" packet.

  1. The flow-id is handed out only by the source (for source-based trees) or the RP (for shared trees). The receivers use a "dummy" flow-id in the NMFReq when doing a Tree-Join. The correct flow-id to be used is returned in the NMFRep message generated by the forwarding agent where the new branch meets the existing tree. Forwarding agents in the path of the NMFRep packet update the state information by rewriting the dummy flow-id by the correct flow-id contained in the NMFRep packet.

This requires the re-definition of the NMFRep packet. Note that now there must be space for two flow-ids in the NMFRep packet - one for the "dummy" flow-id and the other for the "correct" flow-id that must replace the dummy flow-id.

We claim that each of the above schemes achieves synchronization in the flow-id in various parts of the internetwork and that each flow- id is unique to the multicast delivery tree. A formal proof of these claims is beyond the scope of this document.

   Dense Mode Multicast:  The PIM architecture [DEF+94a] includes a
   multicast protocol when the group membership is densely distributed
   within the internetwork.  In this mode, no Rendezvous Points are used
   and a source rooted tree is formed based on Reverse Path Forwarding
   in a manner similar to that of DVMRP [DC90].

We do not give details of how Nimrod can implement Dense Mode Multicast here.

   Multiple RPs:  Our discussion above has been based on the assumption
   that there is one RP per group.  PIM allows more than one RP per
   group.  We do not discuss multiple-RP PIM here.

6 Security Considerations

Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

7 Summary

  • Nimrod does not specify a particular multicast route generation algorithm or state creation procedure. Nimrod can accommodate diverse multicast techniques and leaves the choice of the technique to the particular instantiation of Nimrod.

o A solution for multicasting within Nimrod should be capable of:

  • Scaling to large networks, large numbers of multicast groups and large multicast groups.
  • Supporting policy, including quality of service and access restrictions.
  • Resource sharing.
  • Interoperability with other solutions.
  • Multicasting typically requires the setting up of state in intermediate routers for packet forwarding. The state setup may be initiated by the sender (e.g., IDPR), by the receiver (e.g., CBT), by both (e.g., PIM) or by neither. The architecture of Nimrod provides sufficient flexibility to accommodate any of these approaches.
  • A receiver-initiated multicast protocol, PIM, is being designed by the IDMR working group of the IETF. The facilities provided by Nimrod make the use of PIM as a multicast protocol quite straightforward.

8 References

[BFC93]   A. J. Ballardie, P. F. Francis, and J. Crowcroft. Core based
          trees. In Proceedings of ACM SIGCOMM, 1993.

[CCS96]   Castineyra, I., Chiappa, N., and M. Steenstrup, "The Nimrod
          Routing Architecture", RFC 1992, August 1996.

[DC90]    S. Deering and D. Cheriton. Multicast routing in datagram
          internetworks and extended lans. ACM Transactions on Computer
          Systems, pages 85--111, May 1990.

[DEF+94a] Deering, S., Estrin, D., Farinacci, D., Jacobson, V., Liu,
          C., and L. Wei, "Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) :
          Motivation and Architecture, Work in Progress.

[DEF+94b] Deering, S., Estrin, D., Farinacci, D., Jacobson, V., Liu,
          C., and L. Wei, "Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) :
          Sparse Mode Protocol Specification, Work in Progress.

[DEFJ93]  Deering, S., Estrin, D., Farinacci, D., and V. Jacobson,
          "IGMP router extensions for routing to sparse multicast
          groups, Work in Progress.

[DM78]    Y. K. Dalal and R. M. Metcalfe. Reverse path forwarding of
          broadcast packets. Communications of the ACM, 21(12), pages
          1040--1048, 1978.

[Moy92]   Moy, J., "Multicast Extensions to OSPF, RFC 1584, March 1994.

[RS96]    Ramanathan, S., and M. Steenstrup, "Nimrod functional and
          protocol specifications, Work in Progress.

[Ste]     Steenstrup, M., "Inter-domain policy routing protocol
          specification:  Version 2", Work in Progress.

9 Acknowledgements

We thank Isidro Castineyra (BBN), Charles Lynn (BBN), Martha Steenstrup (BBN) and other members of the Nimrod Working Group for their comments and suggestions on this memo.

10 Author's Address

Ram Ramanathan
BBN Systems and Technologies
10 Moulton Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

   Phone:  (617) 873-2736