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RFC 5704 - Uncoordinated Protocol Development Considered Harmful


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Network Working Group                                     S. Bryant, Ed.
Request for Comments: 5704                                M. Morrow, Ed.
Category: Informational                                      For the IAB
                                                           November 2009

         Uncoordinated Protocol Development Considered Harmful

Abstract

   This document identifies problems that may result from the absence of
   formal coordination and joint development on protocols of mutual
   interest between standards development organizations (SDOs).  Some of
   these problems may cause significant harm to the Internet.  The
   document suggests that a robust procedure is required prevent this
   from occurring in the future.  The IAB has selected a number of case
   studies, such as Transport MPLS (T-MPLS), as recent examples to
   describe the hazard to the Internet architecture that results from
   uncoordinated adaptation of a protocol.

   This experience has resulted in a considerable improvement in the
   relationship between the IETF and the ITU-T.  In particular, this was
   achieved via the establishment of the "Joint working team on
   MPLS-TP".  In addition, the leadership of the two organizations
   agreed to improve inter-organizational working practices so as to
   avoid conflict in the future between ITU-T Recommendations and IETF
   RFCs.

   Whilst we use ITU-T - IETF interactions in these case studies, the
   scope of the document extends to all SDOs that have an overlapping
   protocol interest with the IETF.

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 (c) 2009 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
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   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect

   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................2
   2. Protocol Design Rules ...........................................3
      2.1. Protocol Safety ............................................3
      2.2. Importance of Invariants ...................................4
      2.3. Importance of Correct Identification .......................4
      2.4. The Role of the Design Authority ...........................4
      2.5. Ships in the Night .........................................5
   3. Examples of Miscoordination .....................................6
      3.1. T-MPLS as a Case Study .....................................6
      3.2. PPP over SONET/SDH (Synchronous Optical Network /
           Synchronous Digital Hierarchy ..............................6
   4. Managing Information Flow .......................................7
      4.1. Managing Information Flow within an SDO ....................7
      4.2. Managing Information Flow between SDOs .....................7
   5. MPLS-TP as Best Practice ........................................7
   6. IETF Change Process .............................................8
   7. Security Considerations .........................................8
   8. Acknowledgments .................................................8
   9. IAB Members at the Time of This Writing .........................8
   10. Emerging Issues ................................................9
   11. Conclusion .....................................................9
   12. Informative References .........................................9
   Appendix A.  A Review of the T-MPLS Case ..........................12
     A.1.  Multiple Definitions of Label 14 ..........................12
     A.2.  Redefinition of TTL Semantics .............................13
     A.3.  Reservation of Additional Labels ..........................13
     A.4.  Redefinition of MPLS EXP Bits .............................14
     A.5.  The Consequences for the Network Operators ................14
     A.6.  The Consequences for the SDOs .............................15

1.  Introduction

   The uncoordinated adaptation of a protocol, parameter, or code-point
   by a standards development organization (SDO), either through the
   allocation of a code-point without following the formal registration
   procedures or by unilaterally modifying the semantics of the protocol
   or intended use of the code-point itself, poses a risk of harm to the
   Internet [RFC4775].

   The purpose of this document is to describe the various problems that
   may occur without formal coordination and joint development on
   protocols of mutual interest between SDOs.  Some of the problems that
   arise may cause significant harm to the Internet.  In particular, the
   IAB considers it an essential principle of the protocol development
   process that only one SDO maintains design authority for a given
   protocol, with that SDO having ultimate authority over the allocation
   of protocol parameter code-points and over defining the intended
   semantics, interpretation, and actions associated with those code-
   points.

   There is currently a joint IETF - ITU-T development effort underway,
   known as the MPLS Transport Profile (MPLS-TP), which is progressing
   rapidly to extend MPLS in a way that is consistent with the MPLS
   architecture, and fully satisfies the requirements of the transport
   network provider [LS26].  By way of a case study, we will refer to
   the design and standardization process of the ITU-T protocol known as
   Transport MPLS (T-MPLS).  Development of T-MPLS was abandoned
   [RFC5317] by ITU-T Study Group 15 due to inherent conflicts with the
   IETF MPLS design and, in particular, with the Internet architecture.
   These conflicts arose due to the lack of coordination with the IETF
   as the design authority for MPLS.

   The goal of this document is to demonstrate the importance of a
   coordinated approach to successful collaboration between SDOs, and to
   explain a model for inter-SDO collaborative protocol development that
   is being used successfully by the ITU-T and IETF.

2.  Protocol Design Rules

   This section describes a number of protocol design rules needed to
   ensure the safe operation of a network.  Whilst these rules will be
   familiar to many protocol designers, the rules are restated here to
   ensure that assumptions are clear and consistent.  Differing
   assumptions have been at the root of many miscoordinations and
   miscommunications between SDOs in the past.

2.1.  Protocol Safety

   To understand the reasons why the IAB and IETF regard uncoordinated
   use of code-points and/or protocol modification as posing a risk of
   harm to the Internet, it is necessary to recap some important
   principles of protocol design in large-scale networks such as the
   Internet.  Many end users and businesses have come to rely on the
   Internet as part of their critical infrastructure, thus large-scale
   networks, such as the Internet, represent significant economic value.
   Any outage in a large-scale network due to a protocol failure will
   therefore result in significant commercial and political damage.

   When two incompatible protocols, or forms of the same protocol, are
   deployed without coordination, there is a serious risk that this may
   be catastrophic to the stability or security of the network.

   Furthermore, the scale and distributed nature of the Internet is such
   that it may be difficult or impossible to rid the network of the
   long-term consequences of the protocol incompatibility.  Therefore,
   the following issues are of critical importance.

2.2.  Importance of Invariants

   Invariants are core properties that are consistent across the network
   and do not change over extremely long time-scales.  Protocol
   designers use such invariants as axioms in designing protocols.  A
   protocol often places an absolute reliance on an invariant to resolve
   a design corner case.  One example of an invariance in IP that was
   inherited in the design of MPLS is the invariant that a time to live
   (TTL) value is monotonically decreased and that a packet with TTL<=1
   will not be forwarded.  This is a safety mechanism to mitigate the
   damaging effects of packet-forwarding loops.  Another example is the
   way that MPLS applies special semantics to the reserved label set
   (0..15) [RFC3032], and the notion that a Label Switched Router (LSR)
   is free to allocate labels with a value of 16 or greater for its own
   use.

2.3.  Importance of Correct Identification

   A special type of invariant is the allocation of a code-point.  A
   code-point may be used to identify a packet type or a component
   within a packet.  Without these identifiers, a packet is an opaque
   sequence of bits.  A packet parser operates by first identifying the
   code-point and then using the semantics associated with that code-
   point to interpret other components within the packet.  Once a code-
   point is defined, the interpretation of associated data and the
   consequential actions become protocol invariants.  Subsequent
   protocol development must adhere to those invariants.  The semantics
   for an allocated code-point must never change.  If a future
   enhancement requires different semantics, interpretation, or action,
   then a new code-point must be obtained.

2.4.  The Role of the Design Authority

   A code-point such as an IEEE Ethertype is allocated to a design
   authority such as the IETF.  It is this design authority that
   establishes how information identified by the code-point is to be
   interpreted to associate appropriate invariants.  Modification and
   extension of a protocol requires great care.  In particular, it is
   necessary to understand the exact nature of the invariants and the

   consequences of modification.  Such understanding may not always be
   possible when protocols are modified by organizations that don't have
   the experience of the original designers or the design authority
   expert pool.  Furthermore, since there can only safely be a single
   interpretation of the information identified by a code-point, there
   must be a unique authority responsible for authorizing and
   documenting the semantics of the information and consequential
   protocol actions.

   In the case of IP and MPLS technologies, the design authority is the
   IETF.  The IETF has an internal process for evolving and maintaining
   the protocols for which it is the design authority.  The IETF also
   has change processes in place [RFC4929] to work with other SDOs that
   require enhancements to its protocols and architectures.  Similarly,
   the ITU-T has design authority for Recommendation E.164 [E.164] and
   allocates the relevant code-points, even though the IETF has design
   authority for the protocols ("ENUM") used to access E.164 numbers
   through the Internet DNS [RFC3245].

   It is a recommendation of this document that the IETF introduces
   additional change mechanisms to encompass all of the technical areas
   for which it has design authority.

2.5.  Ships in the Night

   It may be tempting for a designer to assert that the protocol
   extensions it proposes are safe even though it breaks the invariants
   of the original protocol because these protocol variants will operate
   as ships in the night.  That is, these protocol variants will never
   simultaneously exist in the same network domain and will never need
   to inter-work.  This is a fundamentally unsound assumption for a
   number of reasons.  First, it is infeasible to ensure that the two
   instances will never be interconnected under any circumstances.
   Second, even if the operators that deploy the protocols apply
   appropriate due diligence to ensure that the two instances do not
   conflict, it is infeasible to ensure that such conflicting protocols
   will not be interconnected under fault conditions.

   This assumption of ships in the night is particularly hazardous when
   the instances of the protocol share the same identifying code-point.
   This is because a system is unable to determine which variant of the
   protocol it has received, and hence how to correctly interpret the
   associated information or to determine what protocol actions may be
   safely executed.

3.  Examples of Miscoordination

   There are a variety of examples where lack of inter-SDO coordination
   has led to the publication of flawed protocol designs.  This section
   describes a number of case studies that illustrate coordination
   issues.

3.1.  T-MPLS as a Case Study

   A recent example where another SDO created a protocol based on
   misunderstandings of IETF protocols is T-MPLS.  T-MPLS was created in
   ITU-T in an attempt to design a packet-transport method for
   transport-oriented networks.  This is an example of the success that
   IETF protocols have enjoyed, and ITU-T's interest and selection of
   MPLS is a compliment to the IETF work.  Quite late in the ITU-T
   design and specification cycle, there were a number of liaison
   exchanges between the ITU-T and the IETF, where the IETF became
   increasingly concerned about incompatibility of IETF MPLS procedures
   and technologies with ITU-T T-MPLS [RFC5317].  Extensive discussions
   took place regarding interpretation, definition, and
   misunderstandings regarding aspects such as MPLS Label 14, MPLS swap
   operation, TTL semantics, reservation of additional labels, and EXP
   bits.  If ITU-T had worked with IETF from the start in developing
   T-MPLS, these problems could have been avoided.  A detailed analysis
   of the T-MPLS case is provided in Appendix A.

3.2.  PPP over SONET/SDH (Synchronous Optical Network / Synchronous
      Digital Hierarchy)

   An example of where the IETF failed to coordinate with the ITU-T is
   [RFC1619], which defined PPP over SONET.  In the text dealing with
   the SONET/SDH Synchronous Payload Envelope (SPE), the document
   erroneously stated that "no scrambling is needed during insertion
   into the SPE."  It was later determined by SONET experts operating in
   the ITU-T and in ANSI that this error arose due to an incomplete
   understanding of the SONET scrambler.  By not using a scrambler, the
   protocol was attempting to transport non-transparent data over SONET.
   This resulted in lost or misinterpreted data in the Packet over SONET
   (PoS) network.  This impacted routing, signaling, and end-user data
   traffic.  Details of this work are described in [PPPoSONET].  This
   problem would have been prevented if the IETF had worked with ITU-T
   and ANSI in initially developing [RFC1619] .  The problem was
   resolved by working jointly with ITU-T and ANSI experts to publish
   [RFC2615], which mandated the use of scrambling.

   Note that [RFC1619] was developed four years before the IETF and
   ITU-T agreed on formal procedures for cooperation, as documented in
   [RFC2436] (which was later obsoleted by [RFC3356]).

4.  Managing Information Flow

   This section recommends that intra- and inter-SDO information flows
   require careful management in order to prevent the accidental
   extension of protocols without complete coordination of the work with
   the relevant design authority.

4.1.  Managing Information Flow within an SDO

   One cannot assume that an SDO is completely familiar with the
   internal structure, information exchange, or internal processes of
   another SDO.  Hence, the initial contact point and the subgroup with
   which a long-term working relationship is formed has a duty to ensure
   that the work is fully notified and coordinated to all relevant
   parties within the SDO.

4.2.  Managing Information Flow between SDOs

   A recommendation is that, as part of their document-approval process,
   SDOs should confirm that all protocol parameters, code-points, TLV
   identifiers, etc., have been authorized by the appropriate design
   authority (e.g., IANA, IETF, etc. in this case) and that SDO approval
   from the design authority has been obtained prior to publishing
   protocol extensions.  This confirmation should be an integral part of
   the approval or consent process as verifying that the normative
   references are qualified.

5.  MPLS-TP as Best Practice

   In order to bridge the gap between the two organizations, the IETF
   and the ITU-T established a joint working team (JWT) to assess
   whether it was possible to enhance existing MPLS standards to provide
   a best-in-class solution for transport networks.  The outcome of this
   investigation is reported in [RFC5317].

   The JWT proposed a design that was acceptable to both SDOs.  This has
   led to the creation of the MPLS-TP project.  This is a joint project
   in which the ITU-T experts work with the IETF on protocol-development
   tasks, and IETF members work within the ITU-T to understand
   requirements and to assist in the creation of ITU-T recommendations
   that describe MPLS-TP in which the technical definition is provided
   through normative references to IETF RFCs.

   Although the JWT approach allowed the IETF and the ITU-T to agree on
   a method of resolving the T-MPLS problem, this approach had a
   significant resource cost.  The JWT required considerable protocol-
   design expertise and IETF management time to agree on a suitable
   technical solution.  A lightweight process, starting with close

   coordination during the requirements phase and continuing during the
   development phase, would likely reduce the resources needed to an
   acceptable level in the future.

6.  IETF Change Process

   There is an MPLS-change-process [RFC4929] .  However, the IETF has
   not yet defined a change process that is applicable to all of its
   work areas.  The problems described in this document indicate that
   the IETF needs to develop a universal change process.  The MPLS-
   change-process would seem to be a suitable starting point.

7.  Security Considerations

   The uncoordinated development of protocols poses a risk of harm to
   the Internet and must not be permitted.  The enhancement or
   modification of a protocol can increase attack surfaces considerably
   and may therefore compromise the security or stability of the
   Internet.  The IETF has a review process that combines cross-area
   review with specialist security review by experts familiar with the
   development and deployment context of the Internet protocol suite.
   In particular, because of the Internet infrastructure's reliance on
   the IP and MPLS protocol suites, this security review process must be
   exercised with considerable diligence.  Failure to apply this review
   process exposes the Internet to increased risk along both security
   and stability vectors.

8.  Acknowledgments

   The authors wish to acknowledge Loa Andersson for his contribution to
   this work.

9.  IAB Members at the Time of This Writing

   Marcelo Bagnulo
   Gonzalo Camarillo
   Stuart Cheshire
   Vijay Gill
   Russ Housley
   John Klensin
   Olaf Kolkman
   Gregory Lebovitz
   Andrew Malis
   Danny McPherson
   David Oran
   Jon Peterson
   Dave Thaler

10.  Emerging Issues

   Although we have used T-MPLS as a case study, there are other ongoing
   ITU-T projects and core IETF specifications that could be the subject
   of either improved coordination or new conflicts, depending on
   whether or not the principles outlined in this document are adhered
   to by the IETF and ITU.  Two current examples are [Y.2015] and
   [Q.Flowsig].  New areas with potential for cooperation or conflict
   are emerging from the work of ITU-T SG13 Question 7, "IPv6" -- for
   example: [Y.ipv6split] and [Y.ipv6migration].

   Improved coordination, of course, is not limited to the relationship
   between IETF and ITU-T.  This issue is present between a set of SDOs.
   The IETF - ITU-T relationship has simply been used because there is a
   recent example where a potential disaster was, through much hard
   work, not only prevented but turned into a net gain for all.

11.  Conclusion

   It is important that all SDOs developing standards that affect the
   operation of the Internet learn the lessons that arise from cases
   cited in this document.  Uncoordinated parallel work between SDOs
   creates significant problems with potentially damaging operation
   impact to those that deploy and use the Internet.  Both inter- and
   intra-SDO information flow needs to be well managed to ensure that
   all impacted parties are aware of work items.  Finally, the IETF
   needs to develop a universal change process that encompasses all of
   its work areas.

12.  Informative References

   [E.164]       ITU-T, "ITU Recommendation E.164: The international
                 public telecommunication numbering plan",
                 February 2005.

   [LS26]        ITU-T Study Group 15, "Cooperation Between IETF and
                 ITU-T on the Development of MPLS-TP", Geneva,
                 December 2008, <https://datatracker.ietf.org/
                 documents/LIAISON/file596.pdf>.

   [PPPoSONET]   Manchester, J., et al., "PPP over SONET/SDH", Work in
                 Progress, October 1997.

   [Q.Flowsig]   ITU-T Study Group 11, Question 5, "Signalling protocols
                 and procedures relating to flow state aware access QoS
                 control in an NGN", Draft Recommendation.

   [RFC1393]     Malkin, G., "Traceroute Using an IP Option", RFC 1393,
                 January 1993.

   [RFC1619]     Simpson, W., "PPP over SONET/SDH", RFC 1619, May 1994.

   [RFC2436]     Brett, R., Bradner, S., and G. Parsons, "Collaboration
                 between ISOC/IETF and ITU-T", RFC 2436, October 1998.

   [RFC2615]     Malis, A. and W. Simpson, "PPP over SONET/SDH",
                 RFC 2615, June 1999.

   [RFC3031]     Rosen, E., Viswanathan, A., and R. Callon,
                 "Multiprotocol Label Switching Architecture", RFC 3031,
                 January 2001.

   [RFC3032]     Rosen, E., Tappan, D., Fedorkow, G., Rekhter, Y.,
                 Farinacci, D., Li, T., and A. Conta, "MPLS Label Stack
                 Encoding", RFC 3032, January 2001.

   [RFC3245]     Klensin, J. and IAB, "The History and Context of
                 Telephone Number Mapping (ENUM) Operational Decisions:
                 Informational Documents Contributed to ITU-T Study
                 Group 2 (SG2)", RFC 3245, March 2002.

   [RFC3270]     Le Faucheur, F., Wu, L., Davie, B., Davari, S.,
                 Vaananen, P., Krishnan, R., Cheval, P., and J.
                 Heinanen, "Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)
                 Support of Differentiated Services", RFC 3270,
                 May 2002.

   [RFC3356]     Fishman, G. and S. Bradner, "Internet Engineering Task
                 Force and International Telecommunication Union -
                 Telecommunications Standardization Sector Collaboration
                 Guidelines", RFC 3356, August 2002.

   [RFC3429]     Ohta, H., "Assignment of the 'OAM Alert Label' for
                 Multiprotocol Label Switching Architecture (MPLS)
                 Operation and Maintenance (OAM) Functions", RFC 3429,
                 November 2002.

   [RFC4379]     Kompella, K. and G. Swallow, "Detecting Multi-Protocol
                 Label Switched (MPLS) Data Plane Failures", RFC 4379,
                 February 2006.

   [RFC4775]     Bradner, S., Carpenter, B., and T. Narten, "Procedures
                 for Protocol Extensions and Variations", BCP 125,
                 RFC 4775, December 2006.

   [RFC4929]     Andersson, L. and A. Farrel, "Change Process for
                 Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Generalized
                 MPLS (GMPLS) Protocols and Procedures", BCP 129,
                 RFC 4929, June 2007.

   [RFC5129]     Davie, B., Briscoe, B., and J. Tay, "Explicit
                 Congestion Marking in MPLS", RFC 5129, January 2008.

   [RFC5317]     Bryant, S. and L. Andersson, "Joint Working Team (JWT)
                 Report on MPLS Architectural Considerations for a
                 Transport Profile", RFC 5317, February 2009.

   [RFC5462]     Andersson, L. and R. Asati, "Multiprotocol Label
                 Switching (MPLS) Label Stack Entry: "EXP" Field Renamed
                 to "Traffic Class" Field", RFC 5462, February 2009.

   [RFC5654]     Niven-Jenkins, B., Brungard, D., Betts, M., Sprecher,
                 N., and S. Ueno, "Requirements of an MPLS Transport
                 Profile", RFC 5654, September 2009.

   [Y.1711-2002] ITU-T Study Group 13, "ITU-T Recommendation Y.1711: OAM
                 mechanism for MPLS networks", November 2002.

   [Y.1711-2004] ITU-T Study Group 13, "ITU-T Recommendation Y.1711: OAM
                 mechanism for MPLS networks", February 2004.

   [Y.1711am1]   ITU-T Study Group 13, "ITU-T Recommendation Y.1711
                 Amendment 1: New Function Type Codes", October 2005.

   [Y.1711cor1]  ITU-T Study Group 13, "ITU-T Recommendation Y.1711
                 (2004) corrigendum 1", February 2005.

   [Y.2015]      ITU-T Study Group 13, Question 5, "General Requirements
                 for ID/Locator Separation in NGN".

   [Y.ipv6migration]
                 ITU-T, "ITU draft Y.ipv6migration: Roadmap for IPv6
                 migration from NGN operators perspective", 2009.

   [Y.ipv6split] ITU-T, "ITU draft Y.ipv6split: Framework of ID/LOC
                 separation in IPv6-based NGN", 2009.

Appendix A.  A Review of the T-MPLS Case

   T-MPLS was created in ITU-T in an attempt to design an MPLS-based
   packet-transport method for transport-oriented networks.  This
   appendix describes the technical issues that the IETF identified with
   the T-MPLS documents and their consequences.

A.1.  Multiple Definitions of Label 14

   To appreciate why the use of MPLS Reserved Label 14 by the T-MPLS
   protocol represented a safety concern to the Internet, it is
   important to understand the current standards that use MPLS Reserved
   Label 14.

   The governing standard on the use of MPLS Reserved Label 14 is
   [RFC3429], "Assignment of the 'OAM Alert Label' for Multiprotocol
   Label Switching Architecture (MPLS) Operation and Maintenance (OAM)
   Functions".

   Label 14 is assigned to a specific protocol, namely, ITU-T
   Recommendation [Y.1711-2002].

   ITU-T Recommendation [Y.1711-2002] has been superseded by newer
   versions, specifically: [Y.1711-2004], [Y.1711cor1], and [Y.1711am1].

   All three documents are currently in force as ITU-T Recommendations.

   The problem is that the changes made to Y.1711 were never reflected
   in an update to RFC 3429, which only defines the protocol as
   specified by the now superseded 2002 Recommendation.  So for example,
   MPLS equipment responding to an MPLS packet containing Label 14 would
   expect to see the 2002 version of the Y.1711 [Y.1711-2002] protocol
   and would not recognize any of the new function codes specified in
   Y.1711 Amendment 1.  This problem arises because Y.1711 does not have
   a version field, and RFC 3429 offers no other method to disambiguate
   non-interoperable versions of Y.1711.  Having a version number in the
   protocol permits an implementer to codify non-interoperability.
   Furthermore, the IETF as the authority over Label 14 semantics has
   the final say over maintaining the interoperability of the protocol
   employing that code-point, unless the IETF explicitly delegates such
   authority.

   With regard to T-MPLS, there was a lack of coordination between the
   ITU-T and the IETF over the redefinition of the semantics of MPLS
   Label 14, which resulted in protocol definitions that conflicted with
   the IETF MPLS architecture.

   The MPLS architecture [RFC3031], defines a swap operation as an
   atomic function that replaces the top label in an MPLS label stack
   with another label, which provides context for the next hop LSR.
   However, the ITU-T Recommendations that specified the new OAM
   functions defined by Label 14 redefined the label-swap operation as a
   POP, followed by a PUSH, thereby causing all LSRs to inspect the
   label stack for the presence of Label 14 at each hop.  This proposed
   new behaviour conflicts with the IETF definition of a swap operation.

   The behaviour proposed in these specifications would have had major
   consequences for deployed hardware designs.  The outcome would have
   been that the equipments built according to the two different
   specifications would have been incompatible.  It is important that
   the atomic procedure defined in [RFC3031] is kept unchanged.

A.2.  Redefinition of TTL Semantics

   The standard method of delivering an OAM message to an entity on a
   Label Switched Path (LSP), such that the OAM message shares its fate
   with the data traffic, is to use TTL expiry.  The IETF's Internet
   Protocol (IP) utilizes this mechanism for traceroute [RFC1393], as
   does MPLS ping [RFC4379].

   At one stage, the T-MPLS designers considered a multi-level OAM
   design in which the OAM packet was steered to its target by a process
   in which some nodes increased the TTL as they forwarded the OAM
   packet to its next hop.  TTL is a safety device in the IETF IP and
   MPLS architecture that prevents a packet from continuously looping
   under fault conditions.  Thus, the proposed extension to support an
   enhanced OAM mechanism violated an MPLS design invariant specifically
   introduced to ensure safe operation of the Internet by preventing
   persistent forwarding loops.

A.3.  Reservation of Additional Labels

   The IETF MPLS protocol uses a small number of reserved labels
   [RFC3032] as a mechanism to provide additional context and to trigger
   some special processing operations in the forwarder.  All other
   labels used for forwarding use semantics defined by the forwarding
   equivalence class (FEC).  In an early implementation of T-MPLS, the
   designers determined that they needed some additional labels to alert
   the forwarder that the packet needed special processing.  Thus, a
   conflict was thereby introduced between the behaviour of an IETF MPLS
   LSR and LSRs that operate according to the specification in the ITU-T
   Recommendation.  Thus, some LSRs would attribute special semantics to
   Labels 16..31, whilst other LSRs would perform normal forwarding on
   them.

A.4.  Redefinition of MPLS EXP Bits

   The early MPLS documents defined the form of the MPLS label stack
   entry [RFC3032].  This includes a three-bit field called the "EXP
   field".  The exact use of this field was not defined by these
   documents, except to state that it was to be "reserved for
   experimental use".

   Although the intended use of the EXP field was as a "Class of
   Service" (CoS) field, it was not named a CoS field by these early
   documents because the use of such a CoS field was not considered to
   be sufficiently defined.  Today, a number of standards documents
   define its usage as a CoS field ([RFC3270], [RFC5129]), and hardware
   is deployed that assumes this exclusive usage.

   The T-MPLS designers, unaware of the historic reason for the
   "provisional" naming of this field, assumed that they were available
   for any experimental use and re-purposed them to indicate the
   maintenance-entity level (a hierarchical maintenance mechanism).

   The intended use of the EXP field was subsequently carried in
   [RFC5462], which reinforces this use by formally changing the name to
   Traffic Class (TC).

A.5.  The Consequences for the Network Operators

   Transport network operators need a way to realize the statistical
   gain inherent in packet networking while retaining the familiar
   operational structure of their SONET/SDH networks.  T-MPLS was an
   attempt to provide that functionality.  However, creating an
   incompatible variant of MPLS without tight coordination with IETF
   created a number of problems for network operators.

   Firstly, those operators that deployed T-MPLS in production networks
   will need to address the risk and complexity of transitioning their
   network to MPLS-TP.  Secondly, there has been a consequential delay
   of the necessary enhancements to MPLS to meet their needs [RFC5654]
   as the IETF and ITU-T executed a redevelopment of MPLS-based
   transport network protocols.

   Fortunately, the two organizations are now working together to design
   the necessary enhancements

   The resulting technology, MPLS-TP, brings significant benefits to
   all.  However, this has not been without cost.  Had things continued,
   we are not sure what would have happened -- at the least, the larger

   MPLS community would have been denied the benefit of better OAM, and
   the transport community would have been denied the many benefits of
   an interoperable solution.

A.6.  The Consequences for the SDOs

   The process of resolution required considerable resources and
   introduced a great deal of conflict between the IETF and the ITU-T,
   much of which was exposed to public scrutiny, to the detriment of
   both organizations.  In particular, this conflict-resolution process
   consumed the very resources required to develop an optimal
   architecture for MPLS in transport networks.

Authors' Addresses

   Stewart Bryant (editor)

   EMail: stbryant@cisco.com

   Monique Morrow (editor)

   EMail: mmorrow@cisco.com

   Internet Architecture Board

   EMail: iab@iab.org

 

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