Chapter 9: OSPFv3

Cisco Press

Operation of OSPFv3

OSPFv3 is specified in RFC 2740. There are some high-level similarities between the relationships of RIPng to RIPv2 and OSPFv3 to OSPFv2. Most important, OSPFv3 uses the same fundamental mechanisms as OSPFv2—the SPF algorithm, flooding, DR election, areas, and so on. Constants and variables such as timers and metrics are also the same.

Another similarity to the relationship of RIPng to RIPv2 is that OSPFv3 is not backward-compatible with OSPFv2. So if you want to use OSPF to route both IPv4 and IPv6, you must run both OSPFv2 and OSPFv3. As this chapter is being written, there is discussion of adding IPv4 support to OSPFv3, but no specifications have yet been completed. I, for one, hope this support is added, because OSPFv3 is a significantly improved protocol.

It is assumed that you have read the previous chapter and understand the operation of OSPFv2. This section does not repeat that information, but presents the significant differences—primarily operational and LSA formats—of OSPFv3.

OSPFv3 Differences from OSPFv2

In addition to the changes in LSAs, described in the next section, there are several changes to OSPF procedures themselves. This section describes the most important of those changes:

  • Per link protocol processing—You have already seen that an interface to a link can have more than one IPv6 address. In fact, a single link can belong to multiple subnets, and two interfaces attached to the same link but belonging to different IPv6 subnets can still communicate. OSPFv3 changes the OSPFv2 language of "subnet" to "link," and allows the exchange of packets between two neighbors on the same link but belonging to different IPv6 subnets.

  • Removal of addressing semantics—As you will see in the subsequent sections, OSPFv3 Router and Network LSAs do not carry IP addresses. A new LSA is defined for that purpose. This has some scaling advantages. However, 32-bit RIDs, AIDs, and LSA IDs are maintained in IPv6. Keep in mind that although these IDs are written in dotted decimal, and are often derived in OSPFv2 networks from working IPv4 addresses, they are not IPv4 addresses. These OSPFv3 IDs are still expressed in dotted decimal, allowing easy overlay of an OSPFv3 network on an existing OSPFv2 network.

  • Neighbors are always identified by Router ID—OSPFv2 neighbors on broadcast and NBMA links are identified by their interface addresses, whereas neighbors on other types of links are identified by RID. OSPFv3 removes this inconsistency, so that all neighbors on all link types are identified by RID.

  • Addition of a link-local flooding scope—OSPFv3 retains the domain (or AS) and area flooding scopes of OSPFv2, but adds a link-local flooding scope. You already know—particularly from Chapter 2, "IPv6 Overview"—that IPv6 makes much use of the link-local scope. As you will see in the subsequent sections, a new LSA—the Link LSA—has been added, for carrying information that is only relevant to neighbors on a single link. This LSA has link-local flooding scope, meaning it cannot be flooded beyond any attached router.

  • Use of link-local addresses—You already know that OSPFv2 packets have a link-local scope; they are not forwarded by any router. OSPFv3 uses a router's link-local IPv6 address (recall from Chapter 2 that these addresses always begin with FF80::/10) as the source address, and as next-hop addresses.

  • Support for multiple instances per link—There are applications in which multiple OSPF routers can be attached to a single broadcast link but should not form a single adjacency among them. An example of this is a shared Network Access Point (NAP). For example, suppose four routers are attached to an Ethernet link. Routers 1 and 2 belong to one OSPF domain, and routers 3 and 4 belong to a different OSPF domain. There should be adjacencies between 1 and 2 and between 3 and 4, but not, for instance, between 1 and 3. You can accomplish this kind of separation of adjacencies with OSPFv2 by manipulating authentication, but it is not ideal. Among other things, the routers belonging to one adjacency will be continuously logging authentication failures from the rejected Hellos of the other adjacency. OSPFv3 allows for multiple instances per link by adding an Instance ID to the OSPF packet header to distinguish instances. An interface assigned to a given Instance ID will drop OSPF packets whose Instance ID does not match.

  • Removal of OSPF-specific authentication—IPv6 has, using the Authentication extension header, a standard authentication procedure. Because of this, OSPFv3 has no need for its own authentication of OSPFv3 packets; it just uses IPv6 authentication.

  • More flexible handling of unknown LSA types—Where OSPFv2 always discards unknown LSA types, OSPFv3 can either treat them as having link-local flooding scope, or store and flood them as if they are understood, while ignoring them in their own SPF algorithms. This can result in easier network changes and easier integration of new capabilities in OSPFv3 than in OSPFv2.

OSPFv3 Messages

OSPFv2 and OSPFv3 both have the same protocol number of 89, although OSPFv3, being an IPv6 protocol, more accurately has a Next Header value of 89. And like OSPFv2, OSPFv3 uses multicast whenever possible. The IPv6 AllSPFRouters multicast address is FF02::5, and the AllDRouters multicast address is FF02::6. Both have link-local scope. You can easily see the similarity in the last bits with the OSPFv2 addresses of and

OSPFv3 uses the same five message types—Hello, DD, LS Database Request, LS Database Update, and LS Acknowledgment—as OSPFv2, and numbers them the same. The message header, shown in Figure 9-1, is somewhat different from the OSPFv2 message header. The version number, of course, is 3 rather than 2. But more important, there are no fields for authentication. As discussed in the previous section, OSPFv3 uses the Authentication extension header of the IPv6 packet itself rather than its own authentication process. And there is an Instance ID, which allows multiple OSPFv3 instances to run on the same link. The Instance ID has local link significance only, because the OSPFv3 message is not forwarded beyond the link on which it is originated.

Figure 9-1

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Figure 9-1

OSPFv3 packet header.

Aside from the message header, the format of only two of the OSPFv3 messages is different from their OSPFv2 counterparts: Hellos and Database Description messages.

Figure 9-2 shows the format of the OSPFv3 Hello message. Unlike OSPFv2, there is no Network Mask field because IPv6 has no need for it. Beyond that, the same fields (below the header) appear in both packets. The Options field increases in size to 24 bits, and the Router Dead Interval is decreased from 32 bits to 16 bits. The implication of this second field is that the theoretical maximum Router Dead interval is decreased from 4.3 billion seconds to 65,535 seconds. This change has little or no bearing on operational networks. The maximum configurable Router Dead interval on the most common OSPF implementations has long been 65,535 anyway, and intelligent OSPF designs do not approach even this maximum; so the change in the field size is only for conservation of unused space.

Figure 9-2

Figure 9-2

OSPFv3 Hello message.

Figure 9-3 shows the format of the OSPFv3 Database Description packet. It differs from its OSPFv2 counterpart only in the larger Options field.

Figure 9-3

Figure 9-3

OSPFv3 Database Description message.

The other three message types—Link State Request, Link State Update, and Link State Acknowledgment—have formats that do not differ from those of OSPFv2, and so are not shown in this chapter.

An Overview of OSPFv3 LSAs

The OSPFv3 LSA header is shown in Figure 9-4. Comparing it with the OSPFv2 LSA header in Figure 8-54, you can see that it is almost identical, except that there is no Options field, and the Link State Type field is 16 bits rather than the 8-bit Type field of OSPFv2.

Figure 9-4

Figure 9-4

OSPFv3 LSA header.

The reason that the Link State Type field is longer is that it includes three preceding bits, as shown in Figure 9-5.

Figure 9-5

Figure 9-5

Link State Type field of the OSPFv3 LSA header.

U indicates how a router should handle the LSA if it does not recognize the LSA's Function Code. If the bit is cleared, the unknown LSA is to be treated as if it had link-local flooding scope. If the U bit is set, the unknown LSA is to be stored and flooded as if it is understood.

S2 and S1 indicate the LSA's flooding scope. Table 9-1 shows the possible values of these two bits and the associated flooding scopes.

Table 9-1 S bits in the OSPFv3 LSA Link State Type field and their associated flooding scopes.

S2S1Flooding Scope
10AS (Routing Domain)

LSA Function Code, the last 13 bits of the LS Type field, corresponds to the OSPFv2 Type field. Table 9-2 shows the common LSA types used by OSPFv3 and the values of their corresponding LS Types. If you decode the hex values, you will see that the default U bit of all of them is 0. The S bits of all LSAs except two indicate area scope. Of the remaining two, AS External LSAs have an AS flooding scope and Link LSAs have a link-local flooding scope. Most of the OSPFv3 LSAs have functional counterparts in OSPFv2; these OSPFv2 LSAs and their types are also shown in Table 9-2.

Table 9-2 OSPFv3 LSA types and their OSPFv2 counterparts.

LS TypeNameTypeName
0x2001Router LSA1Router LSA
0x2002Network LSA2Network LSA
0x2003Inter-Area Prefix LSA3Network Summary LSA
0x2004Inter-Area Router LSA4ASBR Summary LSA
0x4005AS-External LSA5AS-External LSA
0x2006Group Membership LSA6Group Membership LSA
0x2007Type-7 LSA7NSSA External LSA
0x0008Link LSA No Corresponding LSA
0x2009Intra-Area Prefix LSA No Corresponding LSA

Although Router and Network LSAs have the same names, there is a significant difference in how the OSPFv3 and OSPFv2 Router and Network LSAs function. Specifically, OSPFv3 Router and Network LSAs do not advertise prefixes. This is an important improvement in the scaling of the protocol. These LSAs are, as you know from Chapter 8, "OSPFv2," primarily to represent the router as a node on the SPF tree. So when a Router or Network LSA is flooded, there is an assumption that a topological change has taken place and all routers in the area, on receipt of the LSA, rerun SPF. But because OSPFv2 routers also use these LSAs to advertise their connected subnets, if a subnet changes, the LSA must also be flooded to advertise the change. Even though something like an address change does not affect the SPF topology, the reception of a Router or Network LSA triggers an SPF run anyway. This can be particularly problematic for edge or access routers that have many stub links that change regularly.

OSPFv3 removes the prefix advertisement function from Router and Network LSAs, and puts it in the new Intra-Area Prefix LSA. Now Router and Network LSAs only represent the router's node information for SPF and are only flooded if information pertinent to the SPF algorithm changes. If a prefix changes, or the state of a stub link changes, that information is flooded in an Intra-Area Prefix LSA that does not trigger an SPF run.

Another difference between Router and Network LSAs between OSPFv2 and OSPFv3 is in the exchange of some information that is only relevant to directly connected neighbors. OSPFv2 puts this information in Router or Network LSAs; and although only the directly connected neighbors care about the information, it is flooded with the LSAs throughout the area. OSPFv3 takes this neighbor-specific information and puts it in the new Link LSA, which has link-local flooding scope. Although minor, the introduction of the Link LSA does add an efficiency improvement over OSPFv2.

Inter-Area Prefix, Inter-Area Router, and Type-7 LSAs, although their names have changed, have the same function as OSPFv2 Network Summary, ASBR Summary, and NSSA LSAs, respectively. AS-External and Group Membership LSAs have both the same names and the same functions in both OSPFv2 and OSPFv3.

OSPFv3 LSA Formats

This section details the formats of the first five OSPFv3 LSA types, and the two new LSA types shown in Table 9-2. Although there is a specified Group Membership LSA for Multicast OSPF (MOSPF), that protocol is not covered in this book, and so the LSA is also not detailed. In most cases, only fields that differ from their OSPFv2 counterparts are discussed; you are encouraged to compare those LSAs that have corresponding OSPFv2 LSAs with the figures in Chapter 8.

The Router LSA

Figure 9-6 shows the format of the OSPFv3 Router LSA. As discussed in the previous section, prefix information is not included in the Router LSA as it is in its OSPFv2 counterpart. The OSPFv3 Router LSA only describes the originating router and its links to neighbors, for use in SPF calculations. Prefix information is carried in the Intra-Area Prefix LSA.

Also notice that the ToS metric fields, obsolete already in OSPFv2, are not included in this LSA.

Options, although in a different position within the LSA format and a longer length (24 bits) than the OSPFv2 Options field, performs the same function of identifying optional capabilities. The Options field, carried in several packets and LSAs, is described separately in a later section.

Following the Options field is a set of fields that can appear multiple times, to describe each of the attached interfaces:

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