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RFC 6250

Evolution of the IP Model

Pages: 25

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Internet Architecture Board (IAB)                              D. Thaler
Request for Comments: 6250                                      May 2011
Category: Informational
ISSN: 2070-1721

                       Evolution of the IP Model


This RFC attempts to document various aspects of the IP service model and how it has evolved over time. In particular, it attempts to document the properties of the IP layer as they are seen by upper- layer protocols and applications, especially properties that were (and, at times, still are) incorrectly perceived to exist as well as properties that would cause problems if changed. The discussion of these properties is organized around evaluating a set of claims, or misconceptions. Finally, this document provides some guidance to protocol designers and implementers. Status of This Memo This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is published for informational purposes. This document is a product of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and represents information that the IAB has deemed valuable to provide for permanent record. Documents approved for publication by the IAB are not a candidate for any level of Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741. Information about the current status of this document, any errata, and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at Copyright Notice Copyright (c) 2011 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 ( in effect on the date of publication of this document. Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect to this document.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction ....................................................3 2. The IP Service Model ............................................4 2.1. Links and Subnets ..........................................5 3. Common Application Misconceptions ...............................5 3.1. Misconceptions about Routing ...............................5 3.1.1. Claim: Reachability is symmetric ....................5 3.1.2. Claim: Reachability is transitive ...................6 3.1.3. Claim: Error messages can be received in response to data packets ............................7 3.1.4. Claim: Multicast is supported within a link .........7 3.1.5. Claim: IPv4 broadcast is supported ..................8 3.1.6. Claim: Multicast/broadcast is less expensive than replicated unicast .............................8 3.1.7. Claim: The end-to-end latency of the first packet to a destination is typical ..................8 3.1.8. Claim: Reordering is rare ...........................9 3.1.9. Claim: Loss is rare and probabilistic, not deterministic .......................................9 3.1.10. Claim: An end-to-end path exists at a single point in time ..............................10 3.1.11. Discussion ........................................10 3.2. Misconceptions about Addressing ...........................11 3.2.1. Claim: Addresses are stable over long periods of time ....................................11 3.2.2. Claim: An address is four bytes long ...............12 3.2.3. Claim: A host has only one address on one interface 12 3.2.4. Claim: A non-multicast/broadcast address identifies a single host over a long period of time 13 3.2.5. Claim: An address can be used as an indication of physical location ....................14 3.2.6. Claim: An address used by an application is the same as the address used for routing ...........14 3.2.7. Claim: A subnet is smaller than a link .............14 3.2.8. Claim: Selecting a local address selects the interface ......................................15 3.2.9. Claim: An address is part of an on-link subnet prefix ......................................15 3.2.10. Discussion ........................................15 3.3. Misconceptions about Upper-Layer Extensibility ............16 3.3.1. Claim: New transport-layer protocols can work across the Internet ...........................16 3.3.2. Claim: If one stream between a pair of addresses can get through, then so can another .....17 3.3.3. Discussion .........................................17 3.4. Misconceptions about Security .............................17 3.4.1. Claim: Packets are unmodified in transit ...........17
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           3.4.2. Claim: Packets are private .........................18
           3.4.3. Claim: Source addresses are not forged .............18
           3.4.4. Discussion .........................................18
   4. Security Considerations ........................................18
   5. Conclusion .....................................................19
   6. Acknowledgements ...............................................20
   7. IAB Members at the Time of This Writing ........................20
   8. IAB Members at the Time of Approval ............................20
   9. References .....................................................20
      9.1. Normative References ......................................20
      9.2. Informative References ....................................21

1. Introduction

Since the Internet Protocol was first published as [IEN028] in 1978, IP has provided a network-layer connectivity service to upper-layer protocols and applications. The basic IP service model was documented in the original IENs (and subsequently in the RFCs that obsolete them). However, since the mantra has been "Everything Over IP", the IP service model has evolved significantly over the past 30 years to enable new behaviors that the original definition did not envision. For example, by 1989 there was already some confusion and so [RFC1122] clarified many things and extended the model. In 2004, [RFC3819] advised link-layer protocol designers on a number of issues that affect upper layers and is the closest in intent to this document. Today's IP service model is not well documented in a single place, but is either implicit or discussed piecemeal in many different RFCs. As a result, today's IP service model is actually not well known, or at least is often misunderstood. In the early days of IP, changing or extending the basic IP service model was easier since it was not as widely deployed and there were fewer implementations. Today, the ossification of the Internet makes evolving the IP model even more difficult. Thus, it is important to understand the evolution of the IP model for two reasons: 1. To clarify what properties can and cannot be depended upon by upper-layer protocols and applications. There are many misconceptions on which applications may be based and which are problematic. 2. To document lessons for future evolution to take into account. It is important that the service model remain consistent, rather than evolving in two opposing directions. It is sometimes the case in IETF Working Groups today that directions are considered or even taken that would change the IP service model. Doing this without understanding the implications on applications can be dangerous.
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   This RFC attempts to document various aspects of the IP service model
   and how it has evolved over time.  In particular, it attempts to
   document the properties of the IP layer, as seen by upper-layer
   protocols and applications, especially properties that were (and at
   times still are) incorrectly perceived to exist.  It also highlights
   properties that would cause problems if changed.

2. The IP Service Model

In this document, we use the term "IP service model" to refer to the model exposed by IP to higher-layer protocols and applications. This is depicted in Figure 1 by the horizontal line. +-------------+ +-------------+ | Application | | Application | +------+------+ +------+------+ | | +------+------+ +------+------+ | Upper-Layer | | Upper-Layer | | Protocol | | Protocol | +------+------+ +------+------+ | | ------------------------------------------------------------------ | | +--+--+ +-----+ +--+--+ | IP | | IP | | IP | +--+--+ +--+--+ +--+--+ | | | +-----+------+ +-----+------+ +-----+------+ | Link Layer | | Link Layer | | Link Layer | +-----+------+ +--+-----+---+ +-----+------+ | | | | +---------------------+ +--------------------+ Source Destination IP Service Model Figure 1 The foundation of the IP service model today is documented in Section 2.2 of [RFC0791]. Generally speaking, IP provides a connectionless delivery service for variable size packets, which does not guarantee ordering, delivery, or lack of duplication, but is merely best effort (although some packets may get better service than others). Senders can send to a destination address without signaling a priori, and receivers just listen on an already provisioned address, without signaling a priori.
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   Architectural principles of the IP model are further discussed in
   [RFC1958] and in Sections 5 and 6 of [NEWARCH].

2.1. Links and Subnets

Section 2.1 of [RFC4903] discusses the terms "link" and "subnet" with respect to the IP model. A "link" in the IP service model refers to the topological area within which a packet with an IPv4 Time to Live (TTL) or IPv6 Hop Limit of 1 can be delivered. That is, where no IP-layer forwarding (which entails a TTL/Hop Limit decrement) occurs between two nodes. A "subnet" in the IP service model refers to the topological area within which addresses from the same subnet prefix are assigned to interfaces.

3. Common Application Misconceptions

Below is a list of properties that are often assumed by applications and upper-layer protocols, but which have become less true over time.

3.1. Misconceptions about Routing

3.1.1. Claim: Reachability is symmetric

Many applications assume that if a host A can contact a host B, then the reverse is also true. Examples of this behavior include request- response patterns, which require reverse reachability only after forward reachability, as well as callbacks (e.g., as used by the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) [RFC0959]). Originally, it was the case that reachability was symmetric (although the path taken may not be), both within a link and across the Internet. With the advent of technologies such as Network Address Translators (NATs) and firewalls (as in the following example figure), this can no longer be assumed. Today, host-to-host connectivity is challenging if not impossible in general. It is relatively easy to initiate communication from hosts (A-E in the example diagram) to servers (S), but not vice versa, nor between hosts A-E. For a longer discussion on peer-to-peer connectivity, see Appendix A of [RFC5694].
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           __________                                 ___       ___
          /          \             ___        ___    /   \ ____|FW |__A
         /            \    ___    /   \ _____|NAT|__|     |    |___|
        |              |__|NAT|__|     |     |___|  |     |__B
        |              |  |___|  |     |__C          \___/
        |              |          \___/               ___
     S__|   Internet   |           ___        ___    /   \
        |              |   ___    /   \ _____|NAT|__|     |__D
        |              |__|FW |__|     |     |___|  |     |
        |              |  |___|  |     |__E          \___/
         \            /           \___/

                                 Figure 2

   However, it is still the case that if a request can be sent, then a
   reply to that request can generally be received, but an unsolicited
   request in the other direction may not be received.  [RFC2993]
   discusses this in more detail.

   There are also links (e.g., satellite) that were defined as
   unidirectional links and hence an address on such a link results in
   asymmetric reachability.  [RFC3077] explicitly addresses this problem
   for multihomed hosts by tunneling packets over another interface in
   order to restore symmetric reachability.

   Finally, even with common wireless networks such as 802.11, this
   assumption may not be true, as discussed in Section 5.5 of

3.1.2. Claim: Reachability is transitive

Many applications assume that if a host A can contact host B, and B can contact C, then host A can contact C. Examples of this behavior include applications and protocols that use referrals. Originally, it was the case that reachability was transitive, both within a link and across the Internet. With the advent of technologies such as NATs and firewalls and various routing policies, this can no longer be assumed across the Internet, but it is often still true within a link. As a result, upper-layer protocols and applications may be relying on transitivity within a link. However, some radio technologies, such as 802.11 ad hoc mode, violate this assumption within a link.
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3.1.3. Claim: Error messages can be received in response to data packets

Some upper-layer protocols and applications assume that ICMP error messages will be received in response to packets sent that cannot be delivered. Examples of this include the use of Path MTU Discovery [RFC1191] [RFC1981] relying on messages indicating packets were too big, and traceroute and the use of expanding ring search [RFC1812] relying on messages indicating packets reached their TTL/Hop Limit. Originally, this assumption largely held, but many ICMP senders then chose to rate-limit responses in order to mitigate denial-of-service attacks, and many firewalls now block ICMP messages entirely. For a longer discussion, see Section 2.1 of [RFC2923]. This led to an alternate mechanism for Path MTU Discovery that does not rely on this assumption being true [RFC4821] and guidance to firewall administrators ([RFC4890] and Section 3.1.1 of [RFC2979]).

3.1.4. Claim: Multicast is supported within a link

[RFC1112] introduced multicast to the IP service model. In this evolution, senders still just send to a destination address without signaling a priori, but in contrast to the original IP model, receivers must signal to the network before they can receive traffic to a multicast address. Today, many applications and protocols use multicast addresses, including protocols for address configuration, service discovery, etc. (See [MCAST4] and [MCAST6] for those that use well-known addresses.) Most of these only assume that multicast works within a link and may or may not function across a wider area. While network-layer multicast works over most link types, there are Non-Broadcast Multi- Access (NBMA) links over which multicast does not work (e.g., X.25, ATM, frame relay, 6to4, Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP), Teredo) and this can interfere with some protocols and applications. Similarly, there are links such as 802.11 ad hoc mode where multicast packets may not get delivered to all receivers on the link. [RFC4861] states: Note that all link types (including NBMA) are expected to provide multicast service for applications that need it (e.g., using multicast servers). and its predecessor [RFC2461] contained similar wording.
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   However, not all link types today meet this expectation.

3.1.5. Claim: IPv4 broadcast is supported

IPv4 broadcast support was originally defined on a link, across a network, and for subnet-directed broadcast, and it is used by many applications and protocols. For security reasons, however, [RFC2644] deprecated the forwarding of broadcast packets. Thus, since 1999, broadcast can only be relied on within a link. Still, there exist NBMA links over which broadcast does not work, and there exist some "semi-broadcast" links (e.g., 802.11 ad hoc mode) where broadcast packets may not get delivered to all nodes on the link. Another case where broadcast fails to work is when a /32 or /31 is assigned to a point-to-point interface (e.g., [RFC3021]), leaving no broadcast address available. To a large extent, the addition of link-scoped multicast to the IP service model obsoleted the need for broadcast. It is also worth noting that the broadcast API model used by most platforms allows receivers to just listen on an already provisioned address, without signaling a priori, but in contrast to the unicast API model, senders must signal to the local IP stack (SO_BROADCAST) before they can send traffic to a broadcast address. However, from the network's perspective, the host still sends without signaling a priori.

3.1.6. Claim: Multicast/broadcast is less expensive than replicated unicast

Some applications and upper-layer protocols that use multicast or broadcast do so not because they do not know the addresses of receivers, but simply to avoid sending multiple copies of the same packet over the same link. In wired networks, sending a single multicast packet on a link is generally less expensive than sending multiple unicast packets. This may not be true for wireless networks, where implementations can only send multicast at the basic rate, regardless of the negotiated rates of potential receivers. As a result, replicated unicast may achieve much higher throughput across such links than multicast/broadcast traffic.

3.1.7. Claim: The end-to-end latency of the first packet to a destination is typical

Many applications and protocols choose a destination address by sending a message to each of a number of candidates, picking the first one to respond, and then using that destination for subsequent communication. If the end-to-end latency of the first packet to each
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   destination is atypical, this can result in a highly non-optimal
   destination being chosen, with much longer paths (and hence higher
   load on the Internet) and lower throughput.

   Today, there are a number of reasons this is not true.  First, when
   sending to a new destination there may be some startup latency
   resulting from the link-layer or network-layer mechanism in use, such
   as the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), for instance.  In addition,
   the first packet may follow a different path from subsequent packets.
   For example, protocols such as Mobile IPv6 [RFC3775], Protocol
   Independent Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM) [RFC4601], and the
   Multicast Source Discovery Protocol (MSDP) [RFC3618] send packets on
   one path, and then allow immediately switching to a shorter path,
   resulting in a large latency difference.  There are various proposals
   currently being evaluated by the IETF Routing Research Group that
   result in similar path switching.

3.1.8. Claim: Reordering is rare

As discussed in [REORDER], [RFC2991], and Section 15 of [RFC3819], there are a number of effects of reordering. For example, reordering increases buffering requirements (and jitter) in many applications and in devices that do packet reassembly. In particular, TCP [RFC0793] is adversely affected by reordering since it enters fast- retransmit when three packets are received before a late packet, which drastically lowers throughput. Finally, some NATs and firewalls assume that the initial fragment arrives first, resulting in packet loss when this is not the case. Today, there are a number of things that cause reordering. For example, some routers do per-packet, round-robin load balancing, which, depending on the topology, can result in a great deal of reordering. As another example, when a packet is fragmented at the sender, some hosts send the last fragment first. Finally, as discussed in Section 3.1.7, protocols that do path switching after the first packet result in deterministic reordering within the first burst of packets.

3.1.9. Claim: Loss is rare and probabilistic, not deterministic

In the original IP model, senders just send, without signaling the network a priori. This works to a degree. In practice, the last hop (and in rare cases, other hops) of the path needs to resolve next hop information (e.g., the link-layer address of the destination) on demand, which results in queuing traffic, and if the queue fills up, some traffic gets dropped. This means that bursty sources can be problematic (and indeed a single large packet that gets fragmented becomes such a burst). The problem is rarely observed in practice
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   today, either because the resolution within the last hop happens very
   quickly, or because bursty applications are rarer.  However, any
   protocol that significantly increases such delays or adds new
   resolutions would be a change to the classic IP model and may
   adversely impact upper-layer protocols and applications that result
   in bursts of packets.

   In addition, mechanisms that simply drop the first packet, rather
   than queuing it, also break this assumption.  Similar to the result
   of reordering, they can result in a highly non-optimal destination
   being chosen by applications that use the first one to respond.  Two
   examples of mechanisms that appear to do this are network interface
   cards that support a "Wake-on-LAN" capability where any packet that
   matches a specified pattern will wake up a machine in a power-
   conserving mode, but only after dropping the matching packet, and
   MSDP, where encapsulating data packets is optional, but doing so
   enables bursty sources to be accommodated while a multicast tree is
   built back to the source's domain.

3.1.10. Claim: An end-to-end path exists at a single point in time

In classic IP, applications assume that either an end-to-end path exists to a destination or that the packet will be dropped. In addition, IP today tends to assume that the packet delay is relatively short (since the "Time"-to-Live is just a hop count). In IP's earlier history, the TTL field was expected to also be decremented each second (not just each hop). In general, this assumption is still true today. However, the IRTF Delay Tolerant Networking Research Group is investigating ways for applications to use IP in networks where this assumption is not true, such as store-and-forward networks (e.g., packets carried by vehicles or animals).

3.1.11. Discussion

The reasons why the assumptions listed above are increasingly less true can be divided into two categories: effects caused by attributes of link-layer technologies and effects caused by network-layer technologies. RFC 3819 [RFC3819] advises link-layer protocol designers to minimize these effects. Generally, the link-layer causes are not intentionally trying to break IP, but rather adding IP over the technology introduces the problem. Hence, where the link-layer protocol itself does not do so, when specifying how IP is defined over such a link protocol, designers should compensate to the maximum extent possible. As examples, [RFC3077] and [RFC2491] compensate for
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   the lack of symmetric reachability and the lack of link-layer
   multicast, respectively.  That is, when IP is defined over a link
   type, the protocol designers should attempt to restore the
   assumptions listed in this document.  For example, since an
   implementation can distinguish between 802.11 ad hoc mode versus
   infrastructure mode, it may be possible to define a mechanism below
   IP to compensate for the lack of transitivity over such links.

   At the network layer, as a general principle, we believe that
   reachability is good.  For security reasons ([RFC4948]), however, it
   is desirable to restrict reachability by unauthorized parties; indeed
   IPsec, an integral part of the IP model, provides one means to do so.
   Where there are issues with asymmetry, non-transitivity, and so
   forth, which are not direct results of restricting reachability to
   only authorized parties (for some definition of authorized), the IETF
   should attempt to avoid or solve such issues.  Similar to the
   principle outlined in Section 3.9 of [RFC1958], the general theme
   when defining a protocol is to be liberal in what effects you accept,
   and conservative in what effects you cause.

   However, in being liberal in what effects you accept, it is also
   important to remember that diagnostics are important, and being too
   liberal can mask problems.  Thus, a tussle exists between the desire
   to provide a better experience to one's own users or applications and
   thus be more successful ([RFC5218]), versus the desire to put
   pressure on getting problems fixed.  One solution is to provide a
   separate "pedantic mode" that can be enabled to see the problems
   rather than mask them.

3.2. Misconceptions about Addressing

3.2.1. Claim: Addresses are stable over long periods of time

Originally, addresses were manually configured on fixed machines, and hence addresses were very stable. With the advent of technologies such as DHCP, roaming, and wireless, addresses can no longer be assumed to be stable for long periods of time. However, the APIs provided to applications today typically still assume stable addresses (e.g., address lifetimes are not exposed to applications that get addresses). This can cause problems when addresses become stale. For example, many applications resolve names to addresses and then cache them without any notion of lifetime. In fact, the classic name resolution APIs do not even provide applications with the lifetime of entries.
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   Proxy Mobile IPv6 [RFC5213] tries to restore this assumption to some
   extent by preserving the same address while roaming around a local
   area.  The issue of roaming between different networks has been known
   since at least 1980 when [IEN135] proposed a mobility solution that
   attempted to restore this assumption by adding an additional address
   that can be used by applications, which is stable while roaming
   anywhere with Internet connectivity.  More recent protocols such as
   Mobile IPv6 (MIP6) [RFC3775] and the Host Identity Protocol (HIP)
   [RFC4423] follow in this same vein.

3.2.2. Claim: An address is four bytes long

Many applications and protocols were designed to only support addresses that are four bytes long. Although this was sufficient for IPv4, the advent of IPv6 made this assumption invalid and with the exhaustion of IPv4 address space this assumption will become increasingly less true. There have been some attempts to try to mitigate this problem with limited degrees of success in constrained cases. For example, "Bump-In-the-Stack" [RFC2767] and "Bump-in-the- API" [RFC3338] attempt to provide four-byte "IPv4" addresses for IPv6 destinations, but have many limitations including (among a number of others) all the problems of NATs.

3.2.3. Claim: A host has only one address on one interface

Although many applications assume this (e.g., by calling a name resolution function such as gethostbyname and then just using the first address returned), it was never really true to begin with, even if it was the common case. Even [RFC0791] states: ... provision must be made for a host to have several physical interfaces to the network with each having several logical Internet addresses. However, this assumption is increasingly less true today, with the advent of multiple interfaces (e.g., wired and wireless), dual-IPv4/ IPv6 nodes, multiple IPv6 addresses on the same interface (e.g., link-local and global), etc. Similarly, many protocol specifications such as DHCP only describe operations for a single interface, whereas obtaining host-wide configuration from multiple interfaces presents a merging problem for nodes in practice. Too often, this problem is simply ignored by Working Groups, and applications and users suffer as a result from poor merging algorithms. One use of protocols such as MIP6 and HIP is to make this assumption somewhat more true by adding an additional "address" that can be the one used by such applications, and the protocol will deal with the complexity of multiple physical interfaces and addresses.
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3.2.4. Claim: A non-multicast/broadcast address identifies a single host over a long period of time

Many applications and upper-layer protocols maintain a communication session with a destination over some period of time. If that address is reassigned to another host, or if that address is assigned to multiple hosts and the host at which packets arrive changes, such applications can have problems. In addition, many security mechanisms and configurations assume that one can block traffic by IP address, implying that a single attacker can be identified by IP address. If that IP address can also identify many legitimate hosts, applying such a block can result in denial of service. [RFC1546] introduced the notion of anycast to the IP service model. It states: Because anycasting is stateless and does not guarantee delivery of multiple anycast datagrams to the same system, an application cannot be sure that it is communicating with the same peer in two successive UDP transmissions or in two successive TCP connections to the same anycast address. The obvious solutions to these issues are to require applications which wish to maintain state to learn the unicast address of their peer on the first exchange of UDP datagrams or during the first TCP connection and use the unicast address in future conversations. The issues with anycast are further discussed in [RFC4786] and [ANYCAST]. Another mechanism by which multiple hosts use the same address is as a result of scoped addresses, as defined for both IPv4 [RFC1918] [RFC3927] and IPv6 [RFC4007]. Because such addresses can be reused within multiple networks, hosts in different networks can use the same address. As a result, a host that is multihomed to two such networks cannot use the destination address to uniquely identify a peer. For example, a host can no longer use a 5-tuple to uniquely identify a TCP connection. This is why IPv6 added the concept of a "zone index". Yet another example is that, in some high-availability solutions, one host takes over the IP address of another failed host. See [RFC2101], [RFC2775], and [SHARED-ADDRESSING] for additional discussion on address uniqueness.
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3.2.5. Claim: An address can be used as an indication of physical location

Some applications attempt to use an address to infer some information about the physical location of the host with that address. For example, geo-location services are often used to provide targeted content or ads. Various forms of tunneling have made this assumption less true, and this will become increasingly less true as the use of IPv4 NATs for large networks continues to increase. See Section 7 of [SHARED-ADDRESSING] for a longer discussion.

3.2.6. Claim: An address used by an application is the same as the address used for routing

Some applications assume that the address the application uses is the same as that used by routing. For example, some applications use raw sockets to read/write packet headers, including the source and destination addresses in the IP header. As another example, some applications make assumptions about locality (e.g., whether the destination is on the same subnet) by comparing addresses. Protocols such as Mobile IPv6 and HIP specifically break this assumption (in an attempt to restore other assumptions as discussed above). Recently, the IRTF Routing Research Group has been evaluating a number of possible mechanisms, some of which would also break this assumption, while others preserve this assumption near the edges of the network and only break it in the core of the Internet. Breaking this assumption is sometimes referred to as an "identifier/ locator" split. However, as originally defined in 1978 ([IEN019], [IEN023]), an address was originally defined as only a locator, whereas names were defined to be the identifiers. However, the TCP protocol then used addresses as identifiers. Finally, in a liberal sense, any tunneling mechanism might be said to break this assumption, although, in practice, applications that make this assumption will continue to work, since the address of the inside of the tunnel is still used for routing as expected.

3.2.7. Claim: A subnet is smaller than a link

In the classic IP model, a "subnet" is smaller than, or equal to, a "link". Destinations with addresses in the same on-link subnet prefix can be reached with TTL (or Hop Count) = 1. Link-scoped multicast packets, and all-ones broadcast packets will be delivered (in a best-effort fashion) to all listening nodes on the link.
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   Subnet broadcast packets will be delivered (in a best effort fashion)
   to all listening nodes in the subnet.  There have been some efforts
   in the past (e.g., [RFC0925], [RFC3069]) to allow multi-link subnets
   and change the above service model, but the adverse impact on
   applications that have such assumptions recommend against changing
   this assumption.

   [RFC4903] discusses this topic in more detail and surveys a number of
   protocols and applications that depend on this assumption.
   Specifically, some applications assume that, if a destination address
   is in the same on-link subnet prefix as the local machine, then
   therefore packets can be sent with TTL=1, or that packets can be
   received with TTL=255, or link-scoped multicast or broadcast can be
   used to reach the destination.

3.2.8. Claim: Selecting a local address selects the interface

Some applications assume that binding to a given local address constrains traffic reception to the interface with that address, and that traffic from that address will go out on that address's interface. However, Section of [RFC1122] defines two models: the Strong End System (or strong host) model where this is true, and the Weak End System (or weak host) model where this is not true. In fact, any router is inherently a weak host implementation, since packets can be forwarded between interfaces.

3.2.9. Claim: An address is part of an on-link subnet prefix

To some extent, this was never true, in that there were cases in IPv4 where the "mask" was, such as on a point-to-point link where the two endpoints had addresses out of unrelated address spaces, and no on-link subnet prefix existed on the link. However, this didn't stop many platforms and applications from assuming that every address had a "mask" (or prefix) that was on-link. The assumption of whether a subnet is on-link (in which case one can send directly to the destination after using ARP/ND) or off-link (in which case one just sends to a router) has evolved over the years, and it can no longer be assumed that an address has an on-link prefix. In 1998, [RFC2461] introduced the distinction as part of the core IPv6 protocol suite. This topic is discussed further in [ON-OFF-LINK], and [RFC4903] also touches on this topic with respect to the service model seen by applications.

3.2.10. Discussion

Section 4.1 of RFC 1958 [RFC1958] states: "In general, user applications should use names rather than addresses".
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 16
   We emphasize the above point, which is too often ignored.  Many
   commonly used APIs unnecessarily expose addresses to applications
   that already use names.  Similarly, some protocols are defined to
   carry addresses, rather than carrying names (instead of or in
   addition to addresses).  Protocols and applications that are already
   dependent on a naming system should be designed in such a way that
   they avoid or minimize any dependence on the notion of addresses.

   One challenge is that many hosts today do not have names that can be
   resolved.  For example, a host may not have a fully qualified domain
   name (FQDN) or a Domain Name System (DNS) server that will host its

   Applications that, for whatever reason, cannot use names should be
   IP-version agnostic.

3.3. Misconceptions about Upper-Layer Extensibility

3.3.1. Claim: New transport-layer protocols can work across the Internet

IP was originally designed to support the addition of new transport- layer protocols, and [PROTOCOLS] lists many such protocols. However, as discussed in [WAIST-HOURGLASS], NATs and firewalls today break this assumption and often only allow UDP and TCP (or even just HTTP). Hence, while new protocols may work from some places, they will not necessarily work from everywhere, such as from behind such NATs and firewalls. Since even UDP and TCP may not work from everywhere, it may be necessary for applications to support "HTTP failover" modes. The use of HTTP as a "transport of last resort" has become common (e.g., [BOSH] among others) even in situations where it is sub-optimal, such as in real-time communications or where bidirectional communication is required. Also, the IETF HyBi Working Group is now in the process of designing a standards-based solution for layering other protocols on top of HTTP. As a result of having to support HTTP failover, applications may have to be engineered to sustain higher latency.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 17

3.3.2. Claim: If one stream between a pair of addresses can get through, then so can another

Some applications and protocols use multiple upper-layer streams of data between the same pair of addresses and initiated by the same party. Passive-mode FTP [RFC0959], and RTP [RFC3550], are two examples of such protocols, which use separate streams for data versus control channels. Today, there are many reasons why this may not be true. Firewalls, for example, may selectively allow/block specific protocol numbers and/or values in upper-layer protocol fields (such as port numbers). Similarly, middleboxes such as NATs that create per-stream state may cause other streams to fail once they run out of space to store additional stream state.

3.3.3. Discussion

Section 5.1 of [NEWARCH] discusses the primary requirements of the original Internet architecture, including Service Generality. It states: This goal was to support the widest possible range of applications, by supporting a variety of types of service at the transport level. Services might be distinguished by speed, latency, or reliability, for example. Service types might include virtual circuit service, which provides reliable, full-duplex byte streams, and also datagram service, which delivers individual packets with no guarantees of reliability or ordering. The requirement for datagram service was motivated by early ARPAnet experiments with packet speech (using IMP Type 3 messages). The reasons that the assumptions in this section are becoming less true are due to network-layer (or higher-layer) techniques being introduced that interfere with the original requirement. Generally, these are done either in the name of security or as a side effect of solving some other problem such as address shortage. Work is needed to investigate ways to restore the original behavior while still meeting today's security requirements.

3.4. Misconceptions about Security

3.4.1. Claim: Packets are unmodified in transit

Some applications and upper-layer protocols assume that a packet is unmodified in transit, except for a few well-defined fields (e.g., TTL). Examples of this behavior include protocols that define their own integrity-protection mechanism such as a checksum.
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   This assumption is broken by NATs as discussed in [RFC2993] and other
   middleboxes that modify the contents of packets.  There are many
   tunneling technologies (e.g., [RFC4380]) that attempt to restore this
   assumption to some extent.

   The IPsec architecture [RFC4301] added security to the IP model,
   providing a way to address this problem without changing
   applications, although transport-mode IPsec is not currently widely
   used over the Internet.

3.4.2. Claim: Packets are private

The assumption that data is private has never really been true. However, many old applications and protocols (e.g., FTP) transmit passwords or other sensitive data in the clear. IPsec provides a way to address this problem without changing applications, although it is not yet widely deployed, and doing encryption/decryption for all packets can be computationally expensive.

3.4.3. Claim: Source addresses are not forged

Most applications and protocols use the source address of some incoming packet when generating a response, and hence assume that it has not been forged (and as a result can often be vulnerable to various types of attacks such as reflection attacks). Various mechanisms that restore this assumption include, for example, IPsec and Cryptographically Generated Addresses (CGAs) [RFC3972].

3.4.4. Discussion

A good discussion of threat models and common tools can be found in [RFC3552]. Protocol designers and applications developers are encouraged to be familiar with that document.

4. Security Considerations

This document discusses assumptions about the IP service model made by many applications and upper-layer protocols. Whenever these assumptions are broken, if the application or upper-layer protocol has some security-related behavior that is based on the assumption, then security can be affected.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 19
   For example, if an application assumes that binding to the IP address
   of a "trusted" interface means that it will never receive traffic
   from an "untrusted" interface, and that assumption is broken (as
   discussed in Section 3.2.8), then an attacker could get access to
   private information.

   As a result, great care should be taken when expanding the extent to
   which an assumption is false.  On the other hand, application and
   upper-layer protocol developers should carefully consider the impact
   of basing their security on any of the assumptions enumerated in this

   It is also worth noting that many of the changes that have occurred
   over time (e.g., firewalls, dropping directed broadcasts, etc.) that
   are discussed in this document were done in the interest of improving
   security at the expense of breaking some applications.

5. Conclusion

Because a huge number of applications already exist that use TCP/IP for business-critical operations, any changes to the service model need to be done with extreme care. Extensions that merely add additional optional functionality without impacting any existing applications are much safer than extensions that change one or more of the core assumptions discussed above. Any changes to the above assumptions should only be done in accordance with some mechanism to minimize or mitigate the risks of breaking mission-critical applications. Historically, changes have been done without regard to such considerations and, as a result, the situation for applications today is already problematic. The key to maintaining an interoperable Internet is documenting and maintaining invariants that higher layers can depend on, and being very judicious with changes. In general, lower-layer protocols should document the contract they provide to higher layers; that is, what assumptions the upper layer can rely on (sometimes this is done in the form of an applicability statement). Conversely, higher-layer protocols should document the assumptions they rely on from the lower layer (sometimes this is done in the form of requirements). We must also recognize that a successful architecture often evolves as success brings growth and as technology moves forward. As a result, the various assumptions made should be periodically reviewed when updating protocols.
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6. Acknowledgements

Chris Hopps, Dow Street, Phil Hallam-Baker, and others provided helpful discussion on various points that led to this document. Iain Calder, Brian Carpenter, Jonathan Rosenberg, Erik Nordmark, Alain Durand, and Iljitsch van Beijnum also provided valuable feedback.

7. IAB Members at the Time of This Writing

Loa Andersson Gonzalo Camarillo Stuart Cheshire Russ Housley Olaf Kolkman Gregory Lebovitz Barry Leiba Kurtis Lindqvist Andrew Malis Danny McPherson David Oran Dave Thaler Lixia Zhang

8. IAB Members at the Time of Approval

Bernard Aboba Marcelo Bagnulo Ross Callon Spencer Dawkins Russ Housley John Klensin Olaf Kolkman Danny McPherson Jon Peterson Andrei Robachevsky Dave Thaler Hannes Tschofenig

9. References

9.1. Normative References

[RFC0791] Postel, J., "Internet Protocol", STD 5, RFC 791, September 1981. [RFC1112] Deering, S., "Host extensions for IP multicasting", STD 5, RFC 1112, August 1989.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 21
   [RFC1122]  Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -
              Communication Layers", STD 3, RFC 1122, October 1989.

   [RFC1546]  Partridge, C., Mendez, T., and W. Milliken, "Host
              Anycasting Service", RFC 1546, November 1993.

   [RFC2461]  Narten, T., Nordmark, E., and W. Simpson, "Neighbor
              Discovery for IP Version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 2461,
              December 1998.

   [RFC2644]  Senie, D., "Changing the Default for Directed Broadcasts
              in Routers", BCP 34, RFC 2644, August 1999.

   [RFC4301]  Kent, S. and K. Seo, "Security Architecture for the
              Internet Protocol", RFC 4301, December 2005.

   [RFC4861]  Narten, T., Nordmark, E., Simpson, W., and H. Soliman,
              "Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 4861,
              September 2007.

9.2. Informative References

[ANYCAST] McPherson, D. and D. Oran, "Architectural Considerations of IP Anycast", Work in Progress, February 2010. [BOSH] Paterson, I., Smith, D., Saint-Andre, P., and J. Moffitt, "Bidirectional-streams Over Synchronous HTTP (BOSH)", XEP 0124, 2010, <>. [IEN019] Shoch, J., "A note on Inter-Network Naming, Addressing, and Routing", IEN 19, January 1978, <>. [IEN023] Cohen, D., "On Names, Addresses and Routings", IEN 23, January 1978, <>. [IEN028] Postel, J., "Draft Internetwork Protocol Specification", IEN 28, February 1978, <>. [IEN135] Sunshine, C. and J. Postel, "Addressing Mobile Hosts in the ARPA Internet Environment", IEN 135, March 1980, <>. [MCAST4] Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, "IPv4 Multicast Addresses", <>.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 22
   [MCAST6]   Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, "INTERNET PROTOCOL

   [NEWARCH]  Clark, D., et al., "New Arch: Future Generation Internet
              Architecture", Air Force Research Laboratory Technical
              Report AFRL-IF-RS-TR-2004-235, August 2004, <http://

              Singh, H., Beebee, W., and E. Nordmark, "IPv6 Subnet
              Model", Work in Progress, February 2008.

              Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, "Protocol Numbers",

   [REORDER]  Bennett, J., Partridge, C., and N. Shectman, "Packet
              reordering is not pathological network behavior", IEEE/ACM
              Transactions on Networking, Vol. 7, No. 6, December 1999.

   [RFC0793]  Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7,
              RFC 793, September 1981.

   [RFC0925]  Postel, J., "Multi-LAN address resolution", RFC 925,
              October 1984.

   [RFC0959]  Postel, J. and J. Reynolds, "File Transfer Protocol",
              STD 9, RFC 959, October 1985.

   [RFC1191]  Mogul, J. and S. Deering, "Path MTU discovery", RFC 1191,
              November 1990.

   [RFC1812]  Baker, F., "Requirements for IP Version 4 Routers",
              RFC 1812, June 1995.

   [RFC1918]  Rekhter, Y., Moskowitz, R., Karrenberg, D., Groot, G., and
              E. Lear, "Address Allocation for Private Internets",
              BCP 5, RFC 1918, February 1996.

   [RFC1958]  Carpenter, B., "Architectural Principles of the Internet",
              RFC 1958, June 1996.

   [RFC1981]  McCann, J., Deering, S., and J. Mogul, "Path MTU Discovery
              for IP version 6", RFC 1981, August 1996.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 23
   [RFC2101]  Carpenter, B., Crowcroft, J., and Y. Rekhter, "IPv4
              Address Behaviour Today", RFC 2101, February 1997.

   [RFC2491]  Armitage, G., Schulter, P., Jork, M., and G. Harter, "IPv6
              over Non-Broadcast Multiple Access (NBMA) networks",
              RFC 2491, January 1999.

   [RFC2767]  Tsuchiya, K., HIGUCHI, H., and Y. Atarashi, "Dual Stack
              Hosts using the "Bump-In-the-Stack" Technique (BIS)",
              RFC 2767, February 2000.

   [RFC2775]  Carpenter, B., "Internet Transparency", RFC 2775,
              February 2000.

   [RFC2923]  Lahey, K., "TCP Problems with Path MTU Discovery",
              RFC 2923, September 2000.

   [RFC2979]  Freed, N., "Behavior of and Requirements for Internet
              Firewalls", RFC 2979, October 2000.

   [RFC2991]  Thaler, D. and C. Hopps, "Multipath Issues in Unicast and
              Multicast Next-Hop Selection", RFC 2991, November 2000.

   [RFC2993]  Hain, T., "Architectural Implications of NAT", RFC 2993,
              November 2000.

   [RFC3021]  Retana, A., White, R., Fuller, V., and D. McPherson,
              "Using 31-Bit Prefixes on IPv4 Point-to-Point Links",
              RFC 3021, December 2000.

   [RFC3069]  McPherson, D. and B. Dykes, "VLAN Aggregation for
              Efficient IP Address Allocation", RFC 3069, February 2001.

   [RFC3077]  Duros, E., Dabbous, W., Izumiyama, H., Fujii, N., and Y.
              Zhang, "A Link-Layer Tunneling Mechanism for
              Unidirectional Links", RFC 3077, March 2001.

   [RFC3338]  Lee, S., Shin, M-K., Kim, Y-J., Nordmark, E., and A.
              Durand, "Dual Stack Hosts Using "Bump-in-the-API" (BIA)",
              RFC 3338, October 2002.

   [RFC3550]  Schulzrinne, H., Casner, S., Frederick, R., and V.
              Jacobson, "RTP: A Transport Protocol for Real-Time
              Applications", STD 64, RFC 3550, July 2003.

   [RFC3552]  Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, "Guidelines for Writing RFC
              Text on Security Considerations", BCP 72, RFC 3552,
              July 2003.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 24
   [RFC3618]  Fenner, B. and D. Meyer, "Multicast Source Discovery
              Protocol (MSDP)", RFC 3618, October 2003.

   [RFC3775]  Johnson, D., Perkins, C., and J. Arkko, "Mobility Support
              in IPv6", RFC 3775, June 2004.

   [RFC3819]  Karn, P., Bormann, C., Fairhurst, G., Grossman, D.,
              Ludwig, R., Mahdavi, J., Montenegro, G., Touch, J., and L.
              Wood, "Advice for Internet Subnetwork Designers", BCP 89,
              RFC 3819, July 2004.

   [RFC3927]  Cheshire, S., Aboba, B., and E. Guttman, "Dynamic
              Configuration of IPv4 Link-Local Addresses", RFC 3927,
              May 2005.

   [RFC3972]  Aura, T., "Cryptographically Generated Addresses (CGA)",
              RFC 3972, March 2005.

   [RFC4007]  Deering, S., Haberman, B., Jinmei, T., Nordmark, E., and
              B. Zill, "IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture", RFC 4007,
              March 2005.

   [RFC4380]  Huitema, C., "Teredo: Tunneling IPv6 over UDP through
              Network Address Translations (NATs)", RFC 4380,
              February 2006.

   [RFC4423]  Moskowitz, R. and P. Nikander, "Host Identity Protocol
              (HIP) Architecture", RFC 4423, May 2006.

   [RFC4601]  Fenner, B., Handley, M., Holbrook, H., and I. Kouvelas,
              "Protocol Independent Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM):
              Protocol Specification (Revised)", RFC 4601, August 2006.

   [RFC4786]  Abley, J. and K. Lindqvist, "Operation of Anycast
              Services", BCP 126, RFC 4786, December 2006.

   [RFC4821]  Mathis, M. and J. Heffner, "Packetization Layer Path MTU
              Discovery", RFC 4821, March 2007.

   [RFC4890]  Davies, E. and J. Mohacsi, "Recommendations for Filtering
              ICMPv6 Messages in Firewalls", RFC 4890, May 2007.

   [RFC4903]  Thaler, D., "Multi-Link Subnet Issues", RFC 4903,
              June 2007.

   [RFC4948]  Andersson, L., Davies, E., and L. Zhang, "Report from the
              IAB workshop on Unwanted Traffic March 9-10, 2006",
              RFC 4948, August 2007.
Top   ToC   RFC6250 - Page 25
   [RFC5213]  Gundavelli, S., Leung, K., Devarapalli, V., Chowdhury, K.,
              and B. Patil, "Proxy Mobile IPv6", RFC 5213, August 2008.

   [RFC5218]  Thaler, D. and B. Aboba, "What Makes For a Successful
              Protocol?", RFC 5218, July 2008.

   [RFC5694]  Camarillo, G. and IAB, "Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Architecture:
              Definition, Taxonomies, Examples, and Applicability",
              RFC 5694, November 2009.

              Ford, M., Boucadair, M., Durand, A., Levis, P., and P.
              Roberts, "Issues with IP Address Sharing", Work
              in Progress, March 2011.

              Rosenberg, J., "UDP and TCP as the New Waist of the
              Internet Hourglass", Work in Progress, February 2008.

              Kotz, D., Newport, C., and C. Elliott, "The mistaken
              axioms of wireless-network research", Dartmouth College
              Computer Science Technical Report TR2003-467, July 2003, <

Authors' Addresses

Dave Thaler One Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052 USA Phone: +1 425 703 8835 EMail: Internet Architecture Board EMail: