What Is BGP?

BGP is an interdomain routing protocol, which means it operates between networks that are under different administrative control—making BGP an Exterior Gateway Protocol (EGP) that operates between ASs. An AS is defined as a group of IP networks operated by one or more network operators that has a single, clearly defined routing policy.

BGP is a path-vector routing protocol that relies on the uniqueness of AS path numbers for loop prevention. Rather than advertising a simple vector (prefix), as in the case of the Routing Information Protocol (RIP), BGP’s reachability information is a prefix with associated attributes that describe the path to that prefix. The rich set of supported attributes in turn allows for an equally rich set of policy actions.

BGP is somewhat unique in that it uses a reliable Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)-based transport for its control and update messages. Reliable transport means there is no need for periodic route updates, which is really, really good, considering that a full BGP table typically comprises more than 220,000 routes! BGP does generate periodic keepalive traffic in the absence of route update activity to ensure that the underlying TCP transport is still functional.

BGP version 4 has been in use for more than two decades, with the current version (BGP 4) originally defined in RFC 1654 back in 1994. This RFC was obsoleted by RFC 1771, which in turn was obsoleted by the current specification, RFC 4271. The fact that BGP still enjoys ...

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