Network Working Group
Request for Comments: 4838
Category: Informational
V. Cerf
Google/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
S. Burleigh
A. Hooke
L. Torgerson
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
R. Durst
K. Scott
The MITRE Corporation
K. Fall
Intel Corporation
H. Weiss
April 2007

Delay-Tolerant Networking Architecture

Status of This Memo

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

Copyright Notice

Copyright © The IETF Trust (2007).


This RFC is a product of the Internet Research Task Force and is not a candidate for any level of Internet Standard. The IRTF publishes the results of Internet-related research and development activities. These results might not be suitable for deployment on the public Internet.


This document describes an architecture for delay-tolerant and disruption-tolerant networks, and is an evolution of the architecture originally designed for the Interplanetary Internet, a communication system envisioned to provide Internet-like services across interplanetary distances in support of deep space exploration. This document describes an architecture that addresses a variety of problems with internetworks having operational and performance characteristics that make conventional (Internet-like) networking approaches either unworkable or impractical. We define a message- oriented overlay that exists above the transport (or other) layers of the networks it interconnects. The document presents a motivation for the architecture, an architectural overview, review of state management required for its operation, and a discussion of application design issues. This document represents the consensus of the IRTF DTN research group and has been widely reviewed by that group.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................3
   2. Why an Architecture for Delay-Tolerant Networking? ..............4
   3. DTN Architectural Description ...................................5
      3.1. Virtual Message Switching Using Store-and-Forward
           Operation ..................................................5
      3.2. Nodes and Endpoints ........................................7
      3.3. Endpoint Identifiers (EIDs) and Registrations ..............8
      3.4. Anycast and Multicast .....................................10
      3.5. Priority Classes ..........................................10
      3.6. Postal-Style Delivery Options and Administrative Records ..11
      3.7. Primary Bundle Fields .....................................15
      3.8. Routing and Forwarding ....................................16
      3.9. Fragmentation and Reassembly ..............................18
      3.10. Reliability and Custody Transfer .........................19
      3.11. DTN Support for Proxies and Application Layer Gateways ...21
      3.12. Timestamps and Time Synchronization ......................22
      3.13. Congestion and Flow Control at the Bundle Layer ..........22
      3.14. Security .................................................23
   4. State Management Considerations ................................25
      4.1. Application Registration State ............................25
      4.2. Custody Transfer State ....................................26
      4.3. Bundle Routing and Forwarding State .......................26
      4.4. Security-Related State ....................................27
      4.5. Policy and Configuration State ............................27
   5. Application Structuring Issues .................................28
   6. Convergence Layer Considerations for Use of Underlying
      Protocols ......................................................28
   7. Summary ........................................................29
   8. Security Considerations ........................................29
   9. IANA Considerations ............................................30
   10. Normative References ..........................................30
   11. Informative References ........................................30
   12. Acknowledgments ...............................................32

1. Introduction

This document describes an architecture for delay and disruption- tolerant interoperable networking (DTN). The architecture embraces the concepts of occasionally-connected networks that may suffer from frequent partitions and that may be comprised of more than one divergent set of protocols or protocol families. The basis for this architecture lies with that of the Interplanetary Internet, which focused primarily on the issue of deep space communication in high- delay environments. We expect the DTN architecture described here to be utilized in various operational environments, including those subject to disruption and disconnection and those with high-delay; the case of deep space is one specialized example of these, and is being pursued as a specialization of this architecture (See [IPN01] and [SB03] for more details).

Other networks to which we believe this architecture applies include sensor-based networks using scheduled intermittent connectivity, terrestrial wireless networks that cannot ordinarily maintain end-to- end connectivity, satellite networks with moderate delays and periodic connectivity, and underwater acoustic networks with moderate delays and frequent interruptions due to environmental factors. A DTN tutorial [FW03], aimed at introducing DTN and the types of networks for which it is designed, is available to introduce new readers to the fundamental concepts and motivation. More technical descriptions may be found in [KF03], [JFP04], [JDPF05], and [WJMF05].

We define an end-to-end message-oriented overlay called the "bundle layer" that exists at a layer above the transport (or other) layers of the networks on which it is hosted and below applications. Devices implementing the bundle layer are called DTN nodes. The bundle layer forms an overlay that employs persistent storage to help combat network interruption. It includes a hop-by-hop transfer of reliable delivery responsibility and optional end-to-end acknowledgement. It also includes a number of diagnostic and management features. For interoperability, it uses a flexible naming scheme (based on Uniform Resource Identifiers [RFC3986]) capable of encapsulating different naming and addressing schemes in the same overall naming syntax. It also has a basic security model, optionally enabled, aimed at protecting infrastructure from unauthorized use.

The bundle layer provides functionality similar to the internet layer of gateways described in the original ARPANET/Internet designs [CK74]. It differs from ARPANET gateways, however, because it is layer-agnostic and is focused on virtual message forwarding rather than packet switching. However, both generally provide interoperability between underlying protocols specific to one environment and those protocols specific to another, and both provide a store-and-forward forwarding service (with the bundle layer employing persistent storage for its store and forward function).

In a sense, the DTN architecture provides a common method for interconnecting heterogeneous gateways or proxies that employ store- and-forward message routing to overcome communication disruptions. It provides services similar to electronic mail, but with enhanced naming, routing, and security capabilities. Nodes unable to support the full capabilities required by this architecture may be supported by application-layer proxies acting as DTN applications.

2. Why an Architecture for Delay-Tolerant Networking?

Our motivation for pursuing an architecture for delay tolerant networking stems from several factors. These factors are summarized below; much more detail on their rationale can be explored in [SB03], [KF03], and [DFS02].

The existing Internet protocols do not work well for some environments, due to some fundamental assumptions built into the Internet architecture:

  • that an end-to-end path between source and destination exists for the duration of a communication session
  • (for reliable communication) that retransmissions based on timely and stable feedback from data receivers is an effective means for repairing errors
   - that end-to-end loss is relatively small
  • that all routers and end stations support the TCP/IP protocols
  • that applications need not worry about communication performance
  • that endpoint-based security mechanisms are sufficient for meeting most security concerns
  • that packet switching is the most appropriate abstraction for interoperability and performance
  • that selecting a single route between sender and receiver is sufficient for achieving acceptable communication performance

The DTN architecture is conceived to relax most of these assumptions, based on a number of design principles that are summarized here (and further discussed in [KF03]):

   - Use variable-length (possibly long) messages (not streams or
     limited-sized packets) as the communication abstraction to help
     enhance the ability of the network to make good scheduling/path
     selection decisions when possible.
  • Use a naming syntax that supports a wide range of naming and addressing conventions to enhance interoperability.
  • Use storage within the network to support store-and-forward operation over multiple paths, and over potentially long timescales (i.e., to support operation in environments where many and/or no end-to-end paths may ever exist); do not require end-to-end reliability.
  • Provide security mechanisms that protect the infrastructure from unauthorized use by discarding traffic as quickly as possible.
  • Provide coarse-grained classes of service, delivery options, and a way to express the useful lifetime of data to allow the network to better deliver data in serving the needs of applications.

The use of the bundle layer is guided not only by its own design principles, but also by a few application design principles:

  • Applications should minimize the number of round-trip exchanges.
  • Applications should cope with restarts after failure while network transactions remain pending.
  • Applications should inform the network of the useful life and relative importance of data to be delivered.

These issues are discussed in further detail in Section 5.

3. DTN Architectural Description

The previous section summarized the design principles that guide the definition of the DTN architecture. This section presents a description of the major features of the architecture resulting from design decisions guided by the aforementioned design principles.

3.1. Virtual Message Switching Using Store-and-Forward Operation

A DTN-enabled application sends messages of arbitrary length, also called Application Data Units or ADUs [CT90], which are subject to any implementation limitations. The relative order of ADUs might not be preserved. ADUs are typically sent by and delivered to applications in complete units, although a system interface that behaves differently is not precluded.

ADUs are transformed by the bundle layer into one or more protocol data units called "bundles", which are forwarded by DTN nodes. Bundles have a defined format containing two or more "blocks" of data. Each block may contain either application data or other information used to deliver the containing bundle to its destination(s). Blocks serve the purpose of holding information typically found in the header or payload portion of protocol data units in other protocol architectures. The term "block" is used instead of "header" because blocks may not appear at the beginning of a bundle due to particular processing requirements (e.g., digital signatures).

Bundles may be split up ("fragmented") into multiple constituent bundles (also called "fragments" or "bundle fragments") during transmission. Fragments are themselves bundles, and may be further fragmented. Two or more fragments may be reassembled anywhere in the network, forming a new bundle.

Bundle sources and destinations are identified by (variable-length) Endpoint Identifiers (EIDs, described below), which identify the original sender and final destination(s) of bundles, respectively. Bundles also contain a "report-to" EID used when special operations are requested to direct diagnostic output to an arbitrary entity (e.g., other than the source). An EID may refer to one or more DTN nodes (i.e., for multicast destinations or "report-to" destinations).

While IP networks are based on "store-and-forward" operation, there is an assumption that the "storing" will not persist for more than a modest amount of time, on the order of the queuing and transmission delay. In contrast, the DTN architecture does not expect that network links are always available or reliable, and instead expects that nodes may choose to store bundles for some time. We anticipate that most DTN nodes will use some form of persistent storage for this -- disk, flash memory, etc. -- and that stored bundles will survive system restarts.

Bundles contain an originating timestamp, useful life indicator, a class of service designator, and a length. This information provides bundle-layer routing with a priori knowledge of the size and performance requirements of requested data transfers. When there is a significant amount of queuing that can occur in the network (as is the case in the DTN version of store-and-forward), the advantage provided by knowing this information may be significant for making scheduling and path selection decisions [JFP04]. An alternative abstraction (i.e., of stream-based delivery based on packets) would make such scheduling much more difficult. Although packets provide some of the same benefits as bundles, larger aggregates provide a way for the network to apply scheduling and buffer management to units of data that are more useful to applications.

An essential element of the bundle-based style of forwarding is that bundles have a place to wait in a queue until a communication opportunity ("contact") is available. This highlights the following assumptions:

  1. that storage is available and well-distributed throughout the network,
  1. that storage is sufficiently persistent and robust to store bundles until forwarding can occur, and
  1. (implicitly) that this "store-and-forward" model is a better choice than attempting to effect continuous connectivity or other alternatives.

For a network to effectively support the DTN architecture, these assumptions must be considered and must be found to hold. Even so, the inclusion of long-term storage as a fundamental aspect of the DTN architecture poses new problems, especially with respect to congestion management and denial-of-service mitigation. Node storage in essence represents a new resource that must be managed and protected. Much of the research in DTN revolves around exploring these issues. Congestion is discussed in Section 3.13, and security mechanisms, including methods for DTN nodes to protect themselves from handling unauthorized traffic from other nodes, are discussed in [DTNSEC] and [DTNSOV].

3.2. Nodes and Endpoints

A DTN node (or simply "node" in this document) is an engine for sending and receiving bundles -- an implementation of the bundle layer. Applications utilize DTN nodes to send or receive ADUs carried in bundles (applications also use DTN nodes when acting as report-to destinations for diagnostic information carried in bundles). Nodes may be members of groups called "DTN endpoints". A DTN endpoint is therefore a set of DTN nodes. A bundle is considered to have been successfully delivered to a DTN endpoint when some minimum subset of the nodes in the endpoint has received the bundle without error. This subset is called the "minimum reception group" (MRG) of the endpoint. The MRG of an endpoint may refer to one node (unicast), one of a group of nodes (anycast), or all of a group of nodes (multicast and broadcast). A single node may be in the MRG of multiple endpoints.

3.3. Endpoint Identifiers (EIDs) and Registrations

An Endpoint Identifier (EID) is a name, expressed using the general syntax of URIs (see below), that identifies a DTN endpoint. Using an EID, a node is able to determine the MRG of the DTN endpoint named by the EID. Each node is also required to have at least one EID that uniquely identifies it.

Applications send ADUs destined for an EID, and may arrange for ADUs sent to a particular EID to be delivered to them. Depending on the construction of the EID being used (see below), there may be a provision for wildcarding some portion of an EID, which is often useful for diagnostic and routing purposes.

An application's desire to receive ADUs destined for a particular EID is called a "registration", and in general is maintained persistently by a DTN node. This allows application registration information to survive application and operating system restarts.

An application's attempt to establish a registration is not guaranteed to succeed. For example, an application could request to register itself to receive ADUs by specifying an Endpoint ID that is uninterpretable or unavailable to the DTN node servicing the request. Such requests are likely to fail.

3.3.1. URI Schemes

Each Endpoint ID is expressed syntactically as a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) [RFC3986]. The URI syntax has been designed as a way to express names or addresses for a wide range of purposes, and is therefore useful for constructing names for DTN endpoints.

In URI terminology, each URI begins with a scheme name. The scheme name is an element of the set of globally-managed scheme names maintained by IANA [ISCHEMES]. Lexically following the scheme name in a URI is a series of characters constrained by the syntax defined by the scheme. This portion of the URI is called the scheme-specific part (SSP), and can be quite general. (See, as one example, the URI scheme for SNMP [RFC4088]). Note that scheme-specific syntactical and semantic restrictions may be more constraining than the basic rules of RFC 3986. Section 3.1 of RFC 3986 provides guidance on the syntax of scheme names.

URI schemes are a key concept in the DTN architecture, and evolved from an earlier concept called regions, which were tied more closely to assumptions of the network topology. Using URIs, significant flexibility is attained in the structuring of EIDs. They might, for example, be constructed based on DNS names, or might look like

"expressions of interest" or forms of database-like queries as in a directed diffusion-routed network [IGE00] or in intentional naming [WSBL99]. As names, EIDs are not required to be related to routing or topological organization. Such a relationship is not prohibited, however, and in some environments using EIDs this way may be advantageous.

A single EID may refer to an endpoint containing more than one DTN node, as suggested above. It is the responsibility of a scheme designer to define how to interpret the SSP of an EID so as to determine whether it refers to a unicast, multicast, or anycast set of nodes. See Section 3.4 for more details.

   URIs are constructed based on rules specified in RFC 3986, using the
   US-ASCII character set.  However, note this excerpt from RFC 3986,
   Section 1.2.1, on dealing with characters that cannot be represented
   by US-ASCII:  "Percent-encoded octets (Section 2.1) may be used
   within a URI to represent characters outside the range of the US-
   ASCII coded character set if this representation is allowed by the
   scheme or by the protocol element in which the URI is referenced.
   Such a definition should specify the character encoding used to map
   those characters to octets prior to being percent-encoded for the

3.3.2. Late Binding

Binding means interpreting the SSP of an EID for the purpose of carrying an associated message towards a destination. For example, binding might require mapping an EID to a next-hop EID or to a lower- layer address for transmission. "Late binding" means that the binding of a bundle's destination to a particular set of destination identifiers or addresses does not necessarily happen at the bundle source. Because the destination EID is potentially re-interpreted at each hop, the binding may occur at the source, during transit, or possibly at the destination(s). This contrasts with the name-to- address binding of Internet communications where a DNS lookup at the source fixes the IP address of the destination node before data is sent. Such a circumstance would be considered "early binding" because the name-to-address translation is performed prior to data being sent into the network.

In a frequently-disconnected network, late binding may be advantageous because the transit time of a message may exceed the validity time of a binding, making binding at the source impossible or invalid. Furthermore, use of name-based routing with late binding may reduce the amount of administrative (mapping) information that must propagate through the network, and may also limit the scope of mapping synchronization requirements to a local topological neighborhood where changes are made.

3.4. Anycast and Multicast

As mentioned above, an EID may refer to an endpoint containing one or more DTN nodes. When referring to a group of size greater than one, the delivery semantics may be of either the anycast or multicast variety (broadcast is considered to be of the multicast variety). For anycast group delivery, a bundle is delivered to one node among a group of potentially many nodes, and for multicast delivery it is intended to be delivered to all of them, subject to the normal DTN class of service and maximum useful lifetime semantics.

Multicast group delivery in a DTN presents an unfamiliar issue with respect to group membership. In relatively low-delay networks, such as the Internet, nodes may be considered to be part of the group if they have expressed interest to join it "recently". In a DTN, however, nodes may wish to receive data sent to a group during an interval of time earlier than when they are actually able to receive it [ZAZ05]. More precisely, an application expresses its desire to receive data sent to EID e at time t. Prior to this, during the interval [t0, t1], t > t1, data may have been generated for group e. For the application to receive any of this data, the data must be available a potentially long time after senders have ceased sending to the group. Thus, the data may need to be stored within the network in order to support temporal group semantics of this kind. How to design and implement this remains a research issue, as it is likely to be at least as hard as problems related to reliable multicast.

3.5. Priority Classes

The DTN architecture offers *relative* measures of priority (low, medium, high) for delivering ADUs. These priorities differentiate traffic based upon an application's desire to affect the delivery urgency for ADUs, and are carried in bundle blocks generated by the bundle layer based on information specified by the application.

The (U.S. or similar) Postal Service provides a strong metaphor for the priority classes offered by the forwarding abstraction offered by the DTN architecture. Traffic is generally not interactive and is often one-way. There are generally no strong guarantees of timely delivery, yet there are some forms of class of service, reliability, and security.

We have defined three relative priority classes to date. These priority classes typically imply some relative scheduling prioritization among bundles in queue at a sender:

  • Bulk - Bulk bundles are shipped on a "least effort" basis. No bundles of this class will be shipped until all bundles of other classes bound for the same destination and originating from the same source have been shipped.
  • Normal - Normal-class bundles are shipped prior to any bulk-class bundles and are otherwise the same as bulk bundles.
  • Expedited - Expedited bundles, in general, are shipped prior to bundles of other classes and are otherwise the same.

Applications specify their requested priority class and data lifetime (see below) for each ADU they send. This information, coupled with policy applied at DTN nodes that select how messages are forwarded and which routing algorithms are in use, affects the overall likelihood and timeliness of ADU delivery.

The priority class of a bundle is only required to relate to other bundles from the same source. This means that a high priority bundle from one source may not be delivered faster (or with some other superior quality of service) than a medium priority bundle from a different source. It does mean that a high priority bundle from one source will be handled preferentially to a lower priority bundle sent from the same source.

Depending on a particular DTN node's forwarding/scheduling policy, priority may or may not be enforced across different sources. That is, in some DTN nodes, expedited bundles might always be sent prior to any bulk bundles, irrespective of source. Many variations are possible.

3.6. Postal-Style Delivery Options and Administrative Records

Continuing with the postal analogy, the DTN architecture supports several delivery options that may be selected by an application when it requests the transmission of an ADU. In addition, the architecture defines two types of administrative records: "status reports" and "signals". These records are bundles that provide information about the delivery of other bundles, and are used in conjunction with the delivery options.

3.6.1. Delivery Options

We have defined eight delivery options. Applications sending an ADU (the "subject ADU") may request any combination of the following, which are carried in each of the bundles produced ("sent bundles") by the bundle layer resulting from the application's request to send the subject ADU:

  • Custody Transfer Requested - requests sent bundles be delivered with enhanced reliability using custody transfer procedures. Sent bundles will be transmitted by the bundle layer using reliable transfer protocols (if available), and the responsibility for reliable delivery of the bundle to its destination(s) may move among one or more "custodians" in the network. This capability is described in more detail in Section 3.10.
  • Source Node Custody Acceptance Required - requires the source DTN node to provide custody transfer for the sent bundles. If custody transfer is not available at the source when this delivery option is requested, the requested transmission fails. This provides a means for applications to insist that the source DTN node take custody of the sent bundles (e.g., by storing them in persistent storage).
  • Report When Bundle Delivered - requests a (single) Bundle Delivery Status Report be generated when the subject ADU is delivered to its intended recipient(s). This request is also known as "return- receipt".
  • Report When Bundle Acknowledged by Application - requests an Acknowledgement Status Report be generated when the subject ADU is acknowledged by a receiving application. This only happens by action of the receiving application, and differs from the Bundle Delivery Status Report. It is intended for cases where the application may be acting as a form of application layer gateway and wishes to indicate the status of a protocol operation external to DTN back to the requesting source. See Section 11 for more details.
  • Report When Bundle Received - requests a Bundle Reception Status Report be generated when each sent bundle arrives at a DTN node. This is designed primarily for diagnostic purposes.
   - Report When Bundle Custody Accepted  - requests a Custody
     Acceptance Status Report be generated when each sent bundle has
     been accepted using custody transfer.  This is designed primarily
     for diagnostic purposes.
  • Report When Bundle Forwarded - requests a Bundle Forwarding Status Report be generated when each sent bundle departs a DTN node after forwarding. This is designed primarily for diagnostic purposes.
  • Report When Bundle Deleted - requests a Bundle Deletion Status Report be generated when each sent bundle is deleted at a DTN node. This is designed primarily for diagnostic purposes.

The first four delivery options are designed for ordinary use by applications. The last four are designed primarily for diagnostic purposes and their use may be restricted or limited in environments subject to congestion or attack.

If the security procedures defined in [DTNSEC] are also enabled, then three additional delivery options become available:

  • Confidentiality Required - requires the subject ADU be made secret from parties other than the source and the members of the destination EID.
  • Authentication Required - requires all non-mutable fields in the bundle blocks of the sent bundles (i.e., those which do not change as the bundle is forwarded) be made strongly verifiable (i.e., cryptographically strong). This protects several fields, including the source and destination EIDs and the bundle's data. See Section 3.7 and [BSPEC] for more details.
  • Error Detection Required - requires modifications to the non- mutable fields of each sent bundle be made detectable with high probability at each destination.

3.6.2. Administrative Records: Bundle Status Reports and Custody


   Administrative records are used to report status information or error
   conditions related to the bundle layer.  There are two types of
   administrative records defined:  bundle status reports (BSRs) and
   custody signals.  Administrative records correspond (approximately)
   to messages in the ICMP protocol in IP [RFC792].  In ICMP, however,
   messages are returned to the source.  In DTN, they are instead
   directed to the report-to EID for BSRs and the EID of the current
   custodian for custody signals, which might differ from the source's
   EID.  Administrative records are sent as bundles with a source EID
   set to one of the EIDs associated with the DTN node generating the
   administrative record.  In some cases, arrival of a single bundle or
   bundle fragment may elicit multiple administrative records (e.g., in
   the case where a bundle is replicated for multicast forwarding).

The following BSRs are currently defined (also see [BSPEC] for more details):

  • Bundle Reception - sent when a bundle arrives at a DTN node. Generation of this message may be limited by local policy.
  • Custody Acceptance - sent when a node has accepted custody of a bundle with the Custody Transfer Requested option set. Generation of this message may be limited by local policy.
  • Bundle Forwarded - sent when a bundle containing a Report When Bundle Forwarded option departs from a DTN node after having been forwarded. Generation of this message may be limited by local policy.
  • Bundle Deletion - sent from a DTN node when a bundle containing a Report When Bundle Deleted option is discarded. This can happen for several reasons, such as expiration. Generation of this message may be limited by local policy but is required in cases where the deletion is performed by a bundle's current custodian.
  • Bundle Delivery - sent from a final recipient's (destination) node when a complete ADU comprising sent bundles containing Report When Bundle Delivered options is consumed by an application.
  • Acknowledged by application - sent from a final recipient's (destination) node when a complete ADU comprising sent bundles containing Application Acknowledgment options has been processed by an application. This generally involves specific action on the receiving application's part.

In addition to the status reports, the custody signal is currently defined to indicate the status of a custody transfer. These are sent to the current-custodian EID contained in an arriving bundle:

  • Custody Signal - indicates that custody has been successfully transferred. This signal appears as a Boolean indicator, and may therefore indicate either a successful or a failed custody transfer attempt.

Administrative records must reference a received bundle. This is accomplished by a method for uniquely identifying bundles based on a transmission timestamp and sequence number discussed in Section 3.12.

3.7. Primary Bundle Fields

The bundles carried between and among DTN nodes obey a standard bundle protocol specified in [BSPEC]. Here we provide an overview of most of the fields carried with every bundle. The protocol is designed with a mandatory primary block, an optional payload block (which contains the ADU data itself), and a set of optional extension blocks. Blocks may be cascaded in a way similar to extension headers in IPv6. The following selected fields are all present in the primary block, and therefore are present for every bundle and fragment:

  • Creation Timestamp - a concatenation of the bundle's creation time and a monotonically increasing sequence number such that the creation timestamp is guaranteed to be unique for each ADU originating from the same source. The creation timestamp is based on the time-of-day an application requested an ADU to be sent (not when the corresponding bundle(s) are sent into the network). DTN nodes are assumed to have a basic time synchronization capability (see Section 3.12).
  • Lifespan - the time-of-day at which the message is no longer useful. If a bundle is stored in the network (including the source's DTN node) when its lifespan is reached, it may be discarded. The lifespan of a bundle is expressed as an offset relative to its creation time.
  • Class of Service Flags - indicates the delivery options and priority class for the bundle. Priority classes may be one of bulk, normal, or expedited. See Section 3.6.1.
  • Source EID - EID of the source (the first sender).
  • Destination EID - EID of the destination (the final intended recipient(s)).
   - Report-To Endpoint ID - an EID identifying where reports (return-
     receipt, route-tracing functions) should be sent.  This may or may
     not identify the same endpoint as the Source EID.
  • Custodian EID - EID of the current custodian of a bundle (if any).

The payload block indicates information about the contained payload (e.g., its length) and the payload itself. In addition to the fields found in the primary and payload blocks, each bundle may have fields in additional blocks carried with each bundle. See [BSPEC] for additional details.

3.8. Routing and Forwarding

The DTN architecture provides a framework for routing and forwarding at the bundle layer for unicast, anycast, and multicast messages. Because nodes in a DTN network might be interconnected using more than one type of underlying network technology, a DTN network is best described abstractly using a *multigraph* (a graph where vertices may be interconnected with more than one edge). Edges in this graph are, in general, time-varying with respect to their delay and capacity and directional because of the possibility of one-way connectivity. When an edge has zero capacity, it is considered to not be connected.

Because edges in a DTN graph may have significant delay, it is important to distinguish where time is measured when expressing an edge's capacity or delay. We adopt the convention of expressing capacity and delay as functions of time where time is measured at the point where data is inserted into a network edge. For example, consider an edge having capacity C(t) and delay D(t) at time t. If B bits are placed in this edge at time t, they completely arrive by time t + D(t) + (1/C(t))*B. We assume C(t) and D(t) do not change significantly during the interval [t, t+D(t)+(1/C(t))*B].

Because edges may vary between positive and zero capacity, it is possible to describe a period of time (interval) during which the capacity is strictly positive, and the delay and capacity can be considered to be constant [AF03]. This period of time is called a "contact". In addition, the product of the capacity and the interval is known as a contact's "volume". If contacts and their volumes are known ahead of time, intelligent routing and forwarding decisions can be made (optimally for small networks) [JFP04]. Optimally using a contact's volume, however, requires the ability to divide large ADUs and bundles into smaller routable units. This is provided by DTN fragmentation (see Section 3.9).

When delivery paths through a DTN graph are lossy or contact intervals and volumes are not known precisely ahead of time, routing computations become especially challenging. How to handle these situations is an active area of work in the (emerging) research area of delay tolerant networking.

3.8.1. Types of Contacts

Contacts typically fall into one of several categories, based largely on the predictability of their performance characteristics and whether some action is required to bring them into existence. To date, the following major types of contacts have been defined:

   Persistent Contacts

Persistent contacts are always available (i.e., no connection- initiation action is required to instantiate a persistent contact). An 'always-on' Internet connection such as a DSL or Cable Modem connection would be a representative of this class.

   On-Demand Contacts

On-Demand contacts require some action in order to instantiate, but then function as persistent contacts until terminated. A dial-up connection is an example of an On-Demand contact (at least, from the viewpoint of the dialer; it may be viewed as an Opportunistic Contact, below, from the viewpoint of the dial-up service provider).

Intermittent - Scheduled Contacts

A scheduled contact is an agreement to establish a contact at a particular time, for a particular duration. An example of a scheduled contact is a link with a low-earth orbiting satellite. A node's list of contacts with the satellite can be constructed from the satellite's schedule of view times, capacities, and latencies. Note that for networks with substantial delays, the notion of the "particular time" is delay-dependent. For example, a single scheduled contact between Earth and Mars would not be at the same instant in each location, but would instead be offset by the (non-negligible) propagation delay.

Intermittent - Opportunistic Contacts

Opportunistic contacts are not scheduled, but rather present themselves unexpectedly. For example, an unscheduled aircraft flying overhead and beaconing, advertising its availability for communication, would present an opportunistic contact. Another type of opportunistic contact might be via an infrared or Bluetooth communication link between a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a kiosk in an airport concourse. The opportunistic contact begins as the PDA is brought near the kiosk, lasting an undetermined amount of time (i.e., until the link is lost or terminated).

Intermittent - Predicted Contacts

Predicted contacts are based on no fixed schedule, but rather are predictions of likely contact times and durations based on a history of previously observed contacts or some other information. Given a great enough confidence in a predicted contact, routes may be chosen based on this information. This is an active research area, and a few approaches having been proposed [LFC05].

3.9. Fragmentation and Reassembly

DTN fragmentation and reassembly are designed to improve the efficiency of bundle transfers by ensuring that contact volumes are fully utilized and by avoiding retransmission of partially-forwarded bundles. There are two forms of DTN fragmentation/reassembly:

   Proactive Fragmentation

A DTN node may divide a block of application data into multiple smaller blocks and transmit each such block as an independent bundle. In this case, the *final destination(s)* are responsible for extracting the smaller blocks from incoming bundles and reassembling them into the original larger bundle and, ultimately, ADU. This approach is called proactive fragmentation because it is used primarily when contact volumes are known (or predicted) in advance.

   Reactive Fragmentation

DTN nodes sharing an edge in the DTN graph may fragment a bundle cooperatively when a bundle is only partially transferred. In this case, the receiving bundle layer modifies the incoming bundle to indicate it is a fragment, and forwards it normally. The previous- hop sender may learn (via convergence-layer protocols, see Section 6) that only a portion of the bundle was delivered to the next hop, and send the remaining portion(s) when subsequent contacts become available (possibly to different next-hops if routing changes). This is called reactive fragmentation because the fragmentation process occurs after an attempted transmission has taken place.

As an example, consider a ground station G, and two store-and- forward satellites S1 and S2, in opposite low-earth orbit. While G is transmitting a large bundle to S1, a reliable transport layer protocol below the bundle layer at each indicates the transmission has terminated, but that half the transfer has completed successfully. In this case, G can form a smaller bundle fragment consisting of the second half of the original bundle and forward it to S2 when available. In addition, S1 (now out of range of G) can form a new bundle consisting of the first half of the original bundle and forward it to whatever next hop(s) it deems appropriate.

The reactive fragmentation capability is not required to be available in every DTN implementation, as it requires a certain level of support from underlying protocols that may not be present, and presents significant challenges with respect to handling digital signatures and authentication codes on messages. When a signed message is only partially received, most message authentication codes will fail. When DTN security is present and enabled, it may therefore be necessary to proactively fragment large bundles into smaller units that are more convenient for digital signatures.

Even if reactive fragmentation is not present in an implementation, the ability to reassemble fragments at a destination is required in order to support DTN fragmentation. Furthermore, for contacts with volumes that are small compared to typical bundle sizes, some incremental delivery approach must be used (e.g., checkpoint/restart) to prevent data delivery livelock. Reactive fragmentation is one such approach, but other protocol layers could potentially handle this issue as well.

3.10. Reliability and Custody Transfer

   The most basic service provided by the bundle layer is
   unacknowledged, prioritized (but not guaranteed) unicast message
   delivery.  It also provides two options for enhancing delivery
   reliability:  end-to-end acknowledgments and custody transfer.
   Applications wishing to implement their own end-to-end message
   reliability mechanisms are free to utilize the acknowledgment.  The
   custody transfer feature of the DTN architecture only specifies a
   coarse-grained retransmission capability, described next.

Transmission of bundles with the Custody Transfer Requested option specified generally involves moving the responsibility for reliable delivery of an ADU's bundles among different DTN nodes in the network. For unicast delivery, this will typically involve moving bundles "closer" (in terms of some routing metric) to their ultimate destination(s), and retransmitting when necessary. The nodes receiving these bundles along the way (and agreeing to accept the reliable delivery responsibility) are called "custodians". The movement of a bundle (and its delivery responsibility) from one node to another is called a "custody transfer". It is analogous to a database commit transaction [FHM03]. The exact meaning and design of custody transfer for multicast and anycast delivery remains to be fully explored.

Custody transfer allows the source to delegate retransmission responsibility and recover its retransmission-related resources relatively soon after sending a bundle (on the order of the minimum round-trip time to the first bundle hop(s)). Not all nodes in a DTN are required by the DTN architecture to accept custody transfers, so it is not a true 'hop-by-hop' mechanism. For example, some nodes may have sufficient storage resources to sometimes act as custodians, but may elect to not offer such services when congested or running low on power.

The existence of custodians can alter the way DTN routing is performed. In some circumstances, it may be beneficial to move a bundle to a custodian as quickly as possible even if the custodian is further away (in terms of distance, time or some routing metric) from the bundle's final destination(s) than some other reachable node. Designing a system with this capability involves constructing more than one routing graph, and is an area of continued research.

Custody transfer in DTN not only provides a method for tracking bundles that require special handling and identifying DTN nodes that participate in custody transfer, it also provides a (weak) mechanism for enhancing the reliability of message delivery. Generally speaking, custody transfer relies on underlying reliable delivery protocols of the networks that it operates over to provide the primary means of reliable transfer from one bundle node to the next (set). However, when custody transfer is requested, the bundle layer provides an additional coarse-grained timeout and retransmission mechanism and an accompanying (bundle-layer) custodian-to-custodian acknowledgment signaling mechanism. When an application does *not* request custody transfer, this bundle layer timeout and retransmission mechanism is typically not employed, and successful bundle layer delivery depends solely on the reliability mechanisms of the underlying protocols.

When a node accepts custody for a bundle that contains the Custody Transfer Requested option, a Custody Transfer Accepted Signal is sent by the bundle layer to the Current Custodian EID contained in the primary bundle block. In addition, the Current Custodian EID is updated to contain one of the forwarding node's (unicast) EIDs before the bundle is forwarded.

When an application requests an ADU to be delivered with custody transfer, the request is advisory. In some circumstances, a source of a bundle for which custody transfer has been requested may not be able to provide this service. In such circumstances, the subject bundle may traverse multiple DTN nodes before it obtains a custodian. Bundles in this condition are specially marked with their Current Custodian EID field set to a null endpoint. In cases where applications wish to require the source to take custody of the bundle, they may supply the Source Node Custody Acceptance Required delivery option. This may be useful to applications that desire a continuous "chain" of custody or that wish to exit after being ensured their data is safely held in a custodian.

In a DTN network where one or more custodian-to-custodian hops are strictly one directional (and cannot be reversed), the DTN custody transfer mechanism will be affected over such hops due to the lack of any way to receive a custody signal (or any other information) back across the path, resulting in the expiration of the bundle at the ingress to the one-way hop. This situation does not necessarily mean the bundle has been lost; nodes on the other side of the hop may continue to transfer custody, and the bundle may be delivered successfully to its destination(s). However, in this circumstance a source that has requested to receive expiration BSRs for this bundle will receive an expiration report for the bundle, and possibly conclude (incorrectly) that the bundle has been discarded and not delivered. Although this problem cannot be fully solved in this situation, a mechanism is provided to help ameliorate the seemingly incorrect information that may be reported when the bundle expires after having been transferred over a one-way hop. This is accomplished by the node at the ingress to the one-way hop reporting the existence of a known one-way path using a variant of a bundle status report. These types of reports are provided if the subject bundle requests the report using the 'Report When Bundle Forwarded' delivery option.

3.11. DTN Support for Proxies and Application Layer Gateways

One of the aims of DTN is to provide a common method for interconnecting application layer gateways and proxies. In cases where existing Internet applications can be made to tolerate delays, local proxies can be constructed to benefit from the existing communication capabilities provided by DTN [S05, T02]. Making such proxies compatible with DTN reduces the burden on the proxy author from being concerned with how to implement routing and reliability management and allows existing TCP/IP-based applications to operate unmodified over a DTN-based network.

When DTN is used to provide a form of tunnel encapsulation for other protocols, it can be used in constructing overlay networks comprised of application layer gateways. The application acknowledgment capability is designed for such circumstances. This provides a common way for remote application layer gateways to signal the success or failure of non-DTN protocol operations initiated as a result of receiving DTN ADUs. Without this capability, such indicators would have to be implemented by applications themselves in non-standard ways.

3.12. Timestamps and Time Synchronization

The DTN architecture depends on time synchronization among DTN nodes (supported by external, non-DTN protocols) for four primary purposes: bundle and fragment identification, routing with scheduled or predicted contacts, bundle expiration time computations, and application registration expiration.

Bundle identification and expiration are supported by placing a creation timestamp and an explicit expiration field (expressed in seconds after the source timestamp) in each bundle. The origination timestamps on arriving bundles are made available to consuming applications in ADUs they receive by some system interface function. Each set of bundles corresponding to an ADU is required to contain a timestamp unique to the sender's EID. The EID, timestamp, and data offset/length information together uniquely identify a bundle. Unique bundle identification is used for a number of purposes, including custody transfer and reassembly of bundle fragments.

Time is also used in conjunction with application registrations. When an application expresses its desire to receive ADUs destined for a particular EID, this registration is only maintained for a finite period of time, and may be specified by the application. For multicast registrations, an application may also specify a time range or "interest interval" for its registration. In this case, traffic sent to the specified EID any time during the specified interval will eventually be delivered to the application (unless such traffic has expired due to the expiration time provided by the application at the source or some other reason prevents such delivery).

3.13. Congestion and Flow Control at the Bundle Layer

The subject of congestion control and flow control at the bundle layer is one on which the authors of this document have not yet reached complete consensus. We have unresolved concerns about the efficiency and efficacy of congestion and flow control schemes implemented across long and/or highly variable delay environments, especially with the custody transfer mechanism that may require nodes to retain bundles for long periods of time.

For the purposes of this document, we define "flow control" as a means of assuring that the average rate at which a sending node transmits data to a receiving node does not exceed the average rate at which the receiving node is prepared to receive data from that sender. (Note that this is a generalized notion of flow control, rather than one that applies only to end-to-end communication.) We define "congestion control" as a means of assuring that the aggregate rate at which all traffic sources inject data into a network does not exceed the maximum aggregate rate at which the network can deliver data to destination nodes over time. If flow control is propagated backward from congested nodes toward traffic sources, then the flow control mechanism can be used as at least a partial solution to the problem of congestion as well.

DTN flow control decisions must be made within the bundle layer itself based on information about resources (in this case, primarily persistent storage) available within the bundle node. When storage resources become scarce, a DTN node has only a certain degree of freedom in handling the situation. It can always discard bundles which have expired -- an activity DTN nodes should perform regularly in any case. If it ordinarily is willing to accept custody for bundles, it can cease doing so. If storage resources are available elsewhere in the network, it may be able to make use of them in some way for bundle storage. It can also discard bundles which have not expired but for which it has not accepted custody. A node must avoid discarding bundles for which it has accepted custody, and do so only as a last resort. Determining when a node should engage in or cease to engage in custody transfers is a resource allocation and scheduling problem of current research interest.

In addition to the bundle layer mechanisms described above, a DTN node may be able to avail itself of support from lower-layer protocols in affecting its own resource utilization. For example, a DTN node receiving a bundle using TCP/IP might intentionally slow down its receiving rate by performing read operations less frequently in order to reduce its offered load. This is possible because TCP provides its own flow control, so reducing the application data consumption rate could effectively implement a form of hop-by-hop flow control. Unfortunately, it may also lead to head-of-line blocking issues, depending on the nature of bundle multiplexing within a TCP connection. A protocol with more relaxed ordering constraints (e.g. SCTP [RFC2960]) might be preferable in such circumstances.

Congestion control is an ongoing research topic.

3.14. Security

The possibility of severe resource scarcity in some delay-tolerant networks dictates that some form of authentication and access control to the network itself is required in many circumstances. It is not acceptable for an unauthorized user to flood the network with traffic easily, possibly denying service to authorized users. In many cases it is also not acceptable for unauthorized traffic to be forwarded over certain network links at all. This is especially true for exotic, mission-critical links. In light of these considerations, several goals are established for the security component of the DTN architecture:

  • Promptly prevent unauthorized applications from having their data carried through or stored in the DTN.
  • Prevent unauthorized applications from asserting control over the DTN infrastructure.
  • Prevent otherwise authorized applications from sending bundles at a rate or class of service for which they lack permission.
  • Promptly discard bundles that are damaged or improperly modified in transit.
  • Promptly detect and de-authorize compromised entities.

Many existing authentication and access control protocols designed for operation in low-delay, connected environments may not perform well in DTNs. In particular, updating access control lists and revoking ("blacklisting") credentials may be especially difficult. Also, approaches that require frequent access to centralized servers to complete an authentication or authorization transaction are not attractive. The consequences of these difficulties include delays in the onset of communication, delays in detecting and recovering from system compromise, and delays in completing transactions due to inappropriate access control or authentication settings.

To help satisfy these security requirements in light of the challenges, the DTN architecture adopts a standard but optionally deployed security architecture [DTNSEC] that utilizes hop-by-hop and end-to-end authentication and integrity mechanisms. The purpose of using both approaches is to be able to handle access control for data forwarding and storage separately from application-layer data integrity. While the end-to-end mechanism provides authentication for a principal such as a user (of which there may be many), the hop- by-hop mechanism is intended to authenticate DTN nodes as legitimate transceivers of bundles to each-other. Note that it is conceivable to construct a DTN in which only a subset of the nodes participate in the security mechanisms, resulting in a secure DTN overlay existing atop an insecure DTN overlay. This idea is relatively new and is still being explored.

In accordance with the goals listed above, DTN nodes discard traffic as early as possible if authentication or access control checks fail. This approach meets the goals of removing unwanted traffic from being forwarded over specific high-value links, but also has the associated benefit of making denial-of-service attacks considerably harder to mount more generally, as compared with conventional Internet routers. However, the obvious cost for this capability is potentially larger computation and credential storage overhead required at DTN nodes.

For more detailed information on DTN security provisions, refer to [DTNSEC] and [DTNSOV].

4. State Management Considerations

An important aspect of any networking architecture is its management of state. This section describes the state managed at the bundle layer and discusses how it is established and removed.

4.1. Application Registration State

In long/variable delay environments, an asynchronous application interface seems most appropriate. Such interfaces typically include methods for applications to register callback actions when certain triggering events occur (e.g., when ADUs arrive). These registrations create state information called application registration state.

Application registration state is typically created by explicit request of the application, and is removed by a separate explicit request, but may also be removed by an application-specified timer (it is thus "firm" state). In most cases, there must be a provision for retaining this state across application and operating system termination/restart conditions because a client/server bundle round- trip time may exceed the requesting application's execution time (or hosting system's uptime). In cases where applications are not automatically restarted but application registration state remains persistent, a method must be provided to indicate to the system what action to perform when the triggering event occurs (e.g., restarting some application, ignoring the event, etc.).

To initiate a registration and thereby establish application registration state, an application specifies an Endpoint ID for which it wishes to receive ADUs, along with an optional time value indicating how long the registration should remain active. This operation is somewhat analogous to the bind() operation in the common sockets API.

For registrations to groups (i.e., joins), a time interval may also be specified. The time interval refers to the range of origination times of ADUs sent to the specified EID. See Section 3.4 above for more details.

4.2. Custody Transfer State

Custody transfer state includes information required to keep account of bundles for which a node has taken custody, as well as the protocol state related to transferring custody for one or more of them. The accounting-related state is created when a bundle is received. Custody transfer retransmission state is created when a transfer of custody is initiated by forwarding a bundle with the custody transfer requested delivery option specified. Retransmission state and accounting state may be released upon receipt of one or more Custody Transfer Succeeded signals, indicating custody has been moved. In addition, the bundle's expiration time (possibly mitigated by local policy) provides an upper bound on the time when this state is purged from the system in the event that it is not purged explicitly due to receipt of a signal.

4.3. Bundle Routing and Forwarding State

As with the Internet architecture, we distinguish between routing and forwarding. Routing refers to the execution of a (possibly distributed) algorithm for computing routing paths according to some objective function (see [JFP04], for example). Forwarding refers to the act of moving a bundle from one DTN node to another. Routing makes use of routing state (the RIB, or routing information base), while forwarding makes use of state derived from routing, and is maintained as forwarding state (the FIB, or forwarding information base). The structure of the FIB and the rules for maintaining it are implementation choices. In some DTNs, exchange of information used to update state in the RIB may take place on network paths distinct from those where exchange of application data takes place.

The maintenance of state in the RIB is dependent on the type of routing algorithm being used. A routing algorithm may consider requested class of service and the location of potential custodians (for custody transfer, see section 3.10), and this information will tend to increase the size of the RIB. The separation between FIB and RIB is not required by this document, as these are implementation details to be decided by system implementers. The choice of routing algorithms is still under study.

Bundles may occupy queues in nodes for a considerable amount of time. For unicast or anycast delivery, the amount of time is likely to be the interval between when a bundle arrives at a node and when it can be forwarded to its next hop. For multicast delivery of bundles, this could be significantly longer, up to a bundle's expiration time. This situation occurs when multicast delivery is utilized in such a way that nodes joining a group can obtain information previously sent to the group. In such cases, some nodes may act as "archivers" that provide copies of bundles to new participants that have already been delivered to other participants.

4.4. Security-Related State

The DTN security approach described in [DTNSEC], when used, requires maintenance of state in all DTN nodes that use it. All such nodes are required to store their own private information (including their own policy and authentication material) and a block of information used to verify credentials. Furthermore, in most cases, DTN nodes will cache some public information (and possibly the credentials) of their next-hop (bundle) neighbors. All cached information has expiration times, and nodes are responsible for acquiring and distributing updates of public information and credentials prior to the expiration of the old set (in order to avoid a disruption in network service).

In addition to basic end-to-end and hop-by-hop authentication, access control may be used in a DTN by one or more mechanisms such as capabilities or access control lists (ACLs). ACLs would represent another block of state present in any node that wishes to enforce security policy. ACLs are typically initialized at node configuration time and may be updated dynamically by DTN bundles or by some out of band technique. Capabilities or credentials may be revoked, requiring the maintenance of a revocation list ("black list", another form of state) to check for invalid authentication material that has already been distributed.

Some DTNs may implement security boundaries enforced by selected nodes in the network, where end-to-end credentials may be checked in addition to checking the hop-by-hop credentials. (Doing so may require routing to be adjusted to ensure all bundles comprising each ADU pass through these points.) Public information used to verify end-to-end authentication will typically be cached at these points.

4.5. Policy and Configuration State

DTN nodes will contain some amount of configuration and policy information. Such information may alter the behavior of bundle forwarding. Examples of policy state include the types of cryptographic algorithms and access control procedures to use if DTN security is employed, whether nodes may become custodians, what types of convergence layer (see Section 6) and routing protocols are in use, how bundles of differing priorities should be scheduled, where and for how long bundles and other data is stored, what status reports may be generated or at what rate, etc.

5. Application Structuring Issues

DTN bundle delivery is intended to operate in a delay-tolerant fashion over a broad range of network types. This does not mean there *must* be large delays in the network; it means there *may* be very significant delays (including extended periods of disconnection between sender and intended recipient(s)). The DTN protocols are delay tolerant, so applications using them must also be delay tolerant in order to operate effectively in environments subject to significant delay or disruption.

The communication primitives provided by the DTN architecture are based on asynchronous, message-oriented communication which differs from conversational request/response communication. In general, applications should attempt to include enough information in an ADU so that it may be treated as an independent unit of work by the network and receiver(s). The goal is to minimize synchronous interchanges between applications that are separated by a network characterized by long and possibly highly variable delays. A single file transfer request message, for example, might include authentication information, file location information, and requested file operation (thus "bundling" this information together). Comparing this style of operation to a classic FTP transfer, one sees that the bundled model can complete in one round trip, whereas an FTP file "put" operation can take as many as eight round trips to get to a point where file data can flow [DFS02].

Delay-tolerant applications must consider additional factors beyond the conversational implications of long delay paths. For example, an application may terminate (voluntarily or not) between the time it sends a message and the time it expects a response. If this possibility has been anticipated, the application can be "re- instantiated" with state information saved in persistent storage. This is an implementation issue, but also an application design consideration.

Some consideration of delay-tolerant application design can result in applications that work reasonably well in low-delay environments, and that do not suffer extraordinarily in high or highly-variable delay environments.

6. Convergence Layer Considerations for Use of Underlying Protocols

Implementation experience with the DTN architecture has revealed an important architectural construct and interface for DTN nodes [DBFJHP04]. Not all underlying protocols in different protocol families provide the same exact functionality, so some additional adaptation or augmentation on a per-protocol or per-protocol-family basis may be required. This adaptation is accomplished by a set of convergence layers placed between the bundle layer and underlying protocols. The convergence layers manage the protocol-specific details of interfacing with particular underlying protocols and present a consistent interface to the bundle layer.

The complexity of one convergence layer may vary substantially from another, depending on the type of underlying protocol it adapts. For example, a TCP/IP convergence layer for use in the Internet might only have to add message boundaries to TCP streams, whereas a convergence layer for some network where no reliable transport protocol exists might be considerably more complex (e.g., it might have to implement reliability, fragmentation, flow-control, etc.) if reliable delivery is to be offered to the bundle layer.

As convergence layers implement protocols above and beyond the basic bundle protocol specified in [BSPEC], they will be defined in their own documents (in a fashion similar to the way encapsulations for IP datagrams are specified on a per-underlying-protocol basis, such as in RFC 894 [RFC894]).

7. Summary

The DTN architecture addresses many of the problems of heterogeneous networks that must operate in environments subject to long delays and discontinuous end-to-end connectivity. It is based on asynchronous messaging and uses postal mail as a model of service classes and delivery semantics. It accommodates many different forms of connectivity, including scheduled, predicted, and opportunistically connected delivery paths. It introduces a novel approach to end-to- end reliability across frequently partitioned and unreliable networks. It also proposes a model for securing the network infrastructure against unauthorized access.

It is our belief that this architecture is applicable to many different types of challenged environments.

8. Security Considerations

Security is an integral concern for the design of the Delay Tolerant Network Architecture, but its use is optional. Sections 3.6.1, 3.14, and 4.4 of this document present some factors to consider for securing the DTN architecture, but separate documents [DTNSOV] and [DTNSEC] define the security architecture in much more detail.

9. IANA Considerations

This document specifies the architecture for Delay Tolerant Networking, which uses Internet-standard URIs for its Endpoint Identifiers. URIs intended for use with DTN should be compliant with the guidelines given in [RFC3986].

10. Normative References

   [RFC3986]   Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
               Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66, RFC
               3986, January 2005.

11. Informative References

   [IPN01]     InterPlaNetary Internet Project, Internet Society IPN
               Special Interest Group,
   [SB03]      S. Burleigh, et al., "Delay-Tolerant Networking - An
               Approach to Interplanetary Internet", IEEE Communications
               Magazine, July 2003.
   [FW03]      F. Warthman, "Delay-Tolerant Networks (DTNs): A Tutorial
               v1.1", Wartham Associates, 2003.  Available from
   [KF03]      K. Fall, "A Delay-Tolerant Network Architecture for
               Challenged Internets", Proceedings SIGCOMM, Aug 2003.
   [JFP04]     S. Jain, K. Fall, R. Patra, "Routing in a Delay Tolerant
               Network", Proceedings SIGCOMM, Aug/Sep 2004.
   [DFS02]     R. Durst, P. Feighery, K. Scott, "Why not use the
               Standard Internet Suite for the Interplanetary
               Internet?", MITRE White Paper, 2002.  Available from
   [CK74]      V. Cerf, R. Kahn, "A  Protocol for Packet Network
               Intercommunication", IEEE Trans. on Comm., COM-22(5), May
   [IGE00]     C. Intanagonwiwat, R. Govindan, D. Estrin, "Directed
               Diffusion: A Scalable and Robust Communication Paradigm
               for Sensor Networks", Proceedings MobiCOM, Aug 2000.
   [WSBL99]    W. Adjie-Winoto, E. Schwartz, H. Balakrishnan, J. Lilley,
               "The Design and Implementation of an Intentional Naming
               System", Proc. 17th ACM SOSP, Kiawah Island, SC, Dec.
   [CT90]      D. Clark, D. Tennenhouse, "Architectural Considerations
               for a New Generation of Protocols", Proceedings SIGCOMM,
   [ISCHEMES]  IANA, Uniform Resource Identifer (URI) Schemes,
   [JDPF05]    S. Jain, M. Demmer, R. Patra, K. Fall, "Using Redundancy
               to Cope with Failures in a Delay Tolerant Network",
               Proceedings SIGCOMM, 2005.
   [WJMF05]    Y. Wang, S. Jain, M. Martonosi, K. Fall, "Erasure Coding
               Based Routing in Opportunistic Networks", Proceedings
               SIGCOMM Workshop on Delay Tolerant Networks, 2005.
   [ZAZ05]     W. Zhao, M. Ammar, E. Zegura, "Multicast in Delay
               Tolerant Networks", Proceedings SIGCOMM Workshop on Delay
               Tolerant Networks, 2005.
   [LFC05]     J. Leguay, T. Friedman, V. Conan, "DTN Routing in a
               Mobility Pattern Space", Proceedings SIGCOMM Workshop on
               Delay Tolerant Networks, 2005.
   [AF03]      J. Alonso, K. Fall, "A Linear Programming Formulation of
               Flows over Time with Piecewise Constant Capacity and
               Transit Times", Intel Research Technical Report IRB-TR-
               03-007, June 2003.
   [FHM03]     K. Fall, W. Hong, S. Madden, "Custody Transfer for
               Reliable Delivery in Delay Tolerant Networks", Intel
               Research Technical Report IRB-TR-03-030, July 2003.
   [BSPEC]     K. Scott, S. Burleigh, "Bundle Protocol Specification",
               Work in Progress, December 2006.
   [DTNSEC]    S. Symington, S. Farrell, H. Weiss, "Bundle Security
               Protocol Specification", Work in Progress, October 2006.
   [DTNSOV]    S. Farrell, S. Symington, H. Weiss, "Delay-Tolerant
               Networking Security Overview", Work in Progress, October
   [DBFJHP04]  M. Demmer, E. Brewer, K. Fall, S. Jain, M. Ho, R. Patra,
               "Implementing Delay Tolerant Networking", Intel Research
               Technical Report IRB-TR-04-020, Dec. 2004.
   [RFC792]    Postel, J., "Internet Control Message Protocol", STD 5,
               RFC 792, September 1981.
   [RFC894]    Hornig, C., "A Standard for the Transmission of IP
               Datagrams over Ethernet Networks", STD 41, RFC 894, April
               1 1984.
   [RFC2960]   Stewart, R., Xie, Q., Morneault, K., Sharp, C.,
               Schwarzbauer, H., Taylor, T., Rytina, I., Kalla, M.,
               Zhang, L., and V. Paxson, "Stream Control Transmission
               Protocol", RFC 2960, October 2000.
   [RFC4088]   Black, D., McCloghrie, K., and J. Schoenwaelder, "Uniform
               Resource Identifier (URI) Scheme for the Simple Network
               Management Protocol (SNMP)", RFC 4088, June 2005.
   [S05]       K. Scott, "Disruption Tolerant Networking Proxies for
               On-the-Move Tactical Networks", Proc. MILCOM 2005
               (unclassified track), Oct. 2005.
   [T02]       W. Thies, et al., "Searching the World Wide Web in Low-
               Connectivity Communities", Proc. WWW Conference (Global
               Community track), May 2002.

12. Acknowledgments

John Wroclawski, David Mills, Greg Miller, James P. G. Sterbenz, Joe Touch, Steven Low, Lloyd Wood, Robert Braden, Deborah Estrin, Stephen Farrell, Melissa Ho, Ting Liu, Mike Demmer, Jakob Ericsson, Susan Symington, Andrei Gurtov, Avri Doria, Tom Henderson, Mark Allman, Michael Welzl, and Craig Partridge all contributed useful thoughts and criticisms to versions of this document. We are grateful for their time and participation.

This work was performed in part under DOD Contract DAA-B07-00-CC201, DARPA AO H912; JPL Task Plan No. 80-5045, DARPA AO H870; and NASA Contract NAS7-1407.

Authors' Addresses

   Dr. Vinton G. Cerf
   Google Corporation
   Suite 384
   13800 Coppermine Rd.
   Herndon, VA 20171
   Phone: +1 (703) 234-1823
   Fax:   +1 (703) 848-0727
   Scott C. Burleigh
   Jet Propulsion Laboratory
   4800 Oak Grove Drive
   M/S: 179-206
   Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
   Phone: +1 (818) 393-3353
   Fax:   +1 (818) 354-1075
   Robert C. Durst
   The MITRE Corporation
   7515 Colshire Blvd., M/S H440
   McLean, VA 22102
   Phone: +1 (703) 983-7535
   Fax:   +1 (703) 983-7142
   Dr. Kevin Fall
   Intel Research, Berkeley
   2150 Shattuck Ave., #1300
   Berkeley, CA 94704
   Phone: +1 (510) 495-3014
   Fax:   +1 (510) 495-3049
   Adrian J. Hooke
   Jet Propulsion Laboratory
   4800 Oak Grove Drive
   M/S: 303-400
   Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
   Phone: +1 (818) 354-3063
   Fax:   +1 (818) 393-3575
   Dr. Keith L. Scott
   The MITRE Corporation
   7515 Colshire Blvd., M/S H440
   McLean, VA 22102
   Phone: +1 (703) 983-6547
   Fax:   +1 (703) 983-7142
   Leigh Torgerson
   Jet Propulsion Laboratory
   4800 Oak Grove Drive
   M/S: 238-412
   Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
   Phone: +1 (818) 393-0695
   Fax:   +1 (818) 354-6825
   Howard S. Weiss
   SPARTA, Inc.
   7075 Samuel Morse Drive
   Columbia, MD 21046
   Phone: +1 (410) 872-1515 x201
   Fax:   +1 (410) 872-8079
   Please refer comments to  The Delay
   Tolerant Networking Research Group (DTNRG) web site is located at

Full Copyright Statement

Copyright © The IETF Trust (2007).

This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.


Intellectual Property

The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in this document or the extent to which any license under such rights might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has made any independent effort to identify any such rights. Information on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement this standard. Please address the information to the IETF at


Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the Internet Society.