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Measurements have shown evidences of inter-domain packet forwarding loops in the Internet, but the exact cause of these loops remains unclear. As one of the efforts in identifying the causes, this paper examines how transient loops can be created at the inter-domain level via BGP, and what are the major factors that contribute to duration of the routing loops. As a path-vector routing protocol, BGP messages list the entire AS path to each destination and the path information enables each node to detect, thus break, arbitrarily long routing loops involving itself. However, delays due to physical constrains and protocol mechanisms slow down routing updates propagation and the routing information inconsistencies among the nodes lead to loop formation during convergence. We show that the duration of transient BGP loops match closely to BGP's routing convergence time and the looping duration is linearly proportional to BGP's minimum route advertisement interval timer (MRAI) value. We also examine four BGP routing convergence enhancements and show that two enhancements effective in speeding up routing convergence are also effective in reducing routing loops.
Date of Conference: 2004