Verifying the Correctness of Wide-Area Internet Routing

Nick Feamster and Hari Balakrishnan
MIT-LCS-TR-948, May 2004.

Several studies have shown that wide-area Internet routing is fragile, with failures occurring for a variety of reasons. Routing fragility is largely due to the flexible and powerful ways in which BGP can be configured to perform various tasks, which range from implementing the policies of commercial relationships to configuring backup paths. Configuring routers in an AS is like writing a distributed program, and BGP's flexible configuration and today's relatively low-level configuration languages make the process error-prone. The primary method used by operators to determine whether their complex configurations are correct is to try them out in operation.

We believe that there is a need for a systematic approach to verifying router configurations before they are deployed. This paper develops a static analysis framework for configuration checking, and uses it in the design of rcc, a ``router configuration checker''. rcc takes as input a set of router configurations and flags anomalies and errors, based on a set of well-defined correctness conditions. We have used rcc to check BGP configurations from 9 operational networks, testing nearly 700 real-world router configurations in the process. Every network we analyzed had configuration errors, some of which were potentially serious and had previously gone unnoticed. Our analysis framework and results also suggest ways in which BGP and configuration languages should be improved. rcc has also been downloaded by 30 network operators to date.

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