IP Routing: BGP Configuration Guide, Cisco IOS XE Release 3SE (Catalyst 3850 Switches)
Cisco BGP Overview
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Cisco BGP Overview

Last Updated: November 21, 2012

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is an interdomain routing protocol designed to provide loop-free routing between separate routing domains that contain independent routing policies (autonomous systems).

The Cisco IOS software implementation of BGP version 4 includes support for 4-byte autonomous system numbers and multiprotocol extensions to allow BGP to carry routing information for IP multicast routes and multiple Layer 3 protocol address families, including IP Version 4 (IPv4), IP Version 6 (IPv6), Virtual Private Networks Version 4 (VPNv4), Connectionless Network Services (CLNS), and Layer 2 VPN (L2VPN).

This module contains conceptual material to help you understand how BGP is implemented in Cisco IOS software.

Finding Feature Information

Your software release may not support all the features documented in this module. For the latest caveats and feature information, see Bug Search Tool and the release notes for your platform and software release. To find information about the features documented in this module, and to see a list of the releases in which each feature is supported, see the feature information table at the end of this module.

Use Cisco Feature Navigator to find information about platform support and Cisco software image support. To access Cisco Feature Navigator, go to www.cisco.com/go/cfn. An account on Cisco.com is not required.

Information About Cisco BGP

BGP Version 4 Functional Overview

BGP is an interdomain routing protocol designed to provide loop-free routing links between organizations. BGP is designed to run over a reliable transport protocol; it uses TCP (port 179) as the transport protocol because TCP is a connection-oriented protocol. The destination TCP port is assigned 179, and the local port is assigned a random port number. Cisco software supports BGP version 4 and it is this version that has been used by Internet service providers (ISPs) to help build the Internet. RFC 1771 introduced and discussed a number of new BGP features to allow the protocol to scale for Internet use. RFC 2858 introduced multiprotocol extensions to allow BGP to carry routing information for IP multicast routes and multiple Layer 3 protocol address families, including IPv4, IPv6, and CLNS.

BGP is mainly used to connect a local network to an external network to gain access to the Internet or to connect to other organizations. When connecting to an external organization, external BGP (eBGP) peering sessions are created. Although BGP is referred to as an exterior gateway protocol (EGP), many networks within an organization are becoming so complex that BGP can be used to simplify the internal network used within the organization. BGP peers within the same organization exchange routing information through internal BGP (iBGP) peering sessions.

BGP uses a path-vector routing algorithm to exchange network reachability information with other BGP-speaking networking devices. Network reachability information is exchanged between BGP peers in routing updates. Network reachability information contains the network number, path-specific attributes, and the list of autonomous system numbers that a route must transit to reach a destination network. This list is contained in the AS-path attribute. BGP prevents routing loops by rejecting any routing update that contains the local autonomous system number because this indicates that the route has already traveled through that autonomous system and a loop would therefore be created. The BGP path-vector routing algorithm is a combination of the distance-vector routing algorithm and the AS-path loop detection.

BGP selects a single path, by default, as the best path to a destination host or network. The best path selection algorithm analyzes path attributes to determine which route is installed as the best path in the BGP routing table. Each path carries well-known mandatory, well-known discretionary, and optional transitive attributes that are used in BGP best path analysis. Cisco software provides the ability to influence BGP path selection by altering some of these attributes using the command-line interface (CLI.) BGP path selection can also be influenced through standard BGP policy configuration. For more details about using BGP to influence path selection and configuring BGP policies to filter traffic, see the "BGP 4 Prefix Filter and Inbound Route Maps" module and the "BGP Prefix-Based Outbound Route Filtering" module.

BGP uses the best-path selection algorithm to find a set of equally good routes. These routes are the potential multipaths. In Cisco IOS Release 12.2(33)SRD and later releases, when there are more equally good multipaths available than the maximum permitted number, the oldest paths are selected as multipaths.

BGP can be used to help manage complex internal networks by interfacing with Interior Gateway Protocols (IGPs). Internal BGP can help with issues such as scaling the existing IGPs to match the traffic demands while maintaining network efficiency.


BGP requires more configuration than other routing protocols and the effects of any configuration changes must be fully understood. Incorrect configuration can create routing loops and negatively impact normal network operation.

BGP Autonomous Systems

An autonomous system is a network controlled by a single technical administration entity. BGP autonomous systems are used to divide global external networks into individual routing domains where local routing policies are applied. This organization simplifies routing domain administration and simplifies consistent policy configuration. Consistent policy configuration is important to allow BGP to efficiently process routes to destination networks.

Each routing domain can support multiple routing protocols. However, each routing protocol is administered separately. Other routing protocols can dynamically exchange routing information with BGP through redistribution. Separate BGP autonomous systems dynamically exchange routing information through eBGP peering sessions. BGP peers within the same autonomous system exchange routing information through iBGP peering sessions.

The figure below illustrates two routers in separate autonomous systems that can be connected using BGP. Router A and Router B are ISP routers in separate routing domains that use public autonomous system numbers. These routers carry traffic across the Internet. Router A and Router B are connected through eBGP peering sessions.

Figure 1 BGP Topology with Two Autonomous Systems

Each public autonomous system that directly connects to the Internet is assigned a unique number that identifies both the BGP routing process and the autonomous system.

Classless Interdomain Routing

BGP version 4 supports classless interdomain routing (CIDR). CIDR eliminates classful network boundaries, providing more efficient usage of the IPv4 address space. CIDR provides a method to reduce the size of routing tables by configuring aggregate routes (or supernets). CIDR processes a prefix as an IP address and bit mask (bits are processed from left to right) to define each network. A prefix can represent a network, subnetwork, supernet, or single host route.

For example, using classful IP addressing, the IP address is defined as a single host in the Class C network Using CIDR, the IP address can be shown as, which defines a network (or supernet) of

CIDR is enabled by default for all routing protocols in Cisco software. Enabling CIDR affects how packets are forwarded, but it does not change the operation of BGP.

Multiprotocol BGP Extensions for IP Multicast

The routes associated with multicast routing are used by the Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) feature to build data distribution trees. Multiprotocol BGP is useful when you want a link that is dedicated to multicast traffic, perhaps to limit which resources are used for which traffic. For example, you want all multicast traffic exchanged at one network access point (NAP). Multiprotocol BGP allows you to have a unicast routing topology different from a multicast routing topology, which allows you more control over your network and resources.

In BGP, the only way to perform interdomain multicast routing is to use the BGP infrastructure that is in place for unicast routing. If the routers are not multicast-capable, or if there are differing policies about where multicast traffic should flow, multicast routing cannot be supported without multiprotocol BGP.

A multicast routing protocol, such as PIM, uses both the multicast and unicast BGP database to source the route, perform Reverse Path Forwarding (RPF) lookups for multicast-capable sources, and build a multicast distribution tree (MDT). The multicast table is the primary source for the router, but if the route is not found in the multicast table, the unicast table is searched. Although multicast can be performed with unicast BGP, multicast BGP routes allow an alternative topology to be used for RPF.

It is possible to configure BGP peers that exchange both unicast and multicast Network Layer Reachability Information (NLRI) where multiprotocol BGP routes can be redistributed into BGP. Multiprotocol extensions, however, will be ignored by any peers that do not support multiprotocol BGP. When PIM builds a multicast distribution tree through a unicast BGP network (because the route through the unicast network is the most attractive), the RPF check may fail, preventing the MDT from being built. If the unicast network runs multiprotocol BGP, peering can be configured using the appropriate multicast address family. The multicast address family configuration enables multiprotocol BGP to carry the multicast information and the RPF lookup will succeed.

The figure below illustrates a simple example of unicast and multicast topologies that are incongruent; these topologies cannot exchange information without implementing multiprotocol BGP. Autonomous systems 100, 200, and 300 are each connected to two NAPs that are FDDI rings. One is used for unicast peering (and therefore the exchanging of unicast traffic). The Multicast Friendly Interconnect (MFI) ring is used for multicast peering (and therefore the exchanging of multicast traffic). Each router is unicast- and multicast-capable.

Figure 2 Incongruent Unicast and Multicast Routes

The figure below is a topology of unicast-only routers and multicast-only routers. The two routers on the left are unicast-only routers (that is, they do not support or are not configured to perform multicast routing). The two routers on the right are multicast-only routers. Routers A and B support both unicast and multicast routing. The unicast-only and multicast-only routers are connected to a single NAP.

In the figure below, only unicast traffic can travel from Router A to the unicast routers to Router B and back. Multicast traffic could not flow on that path, because multicast routing is not configured on the unicast routers and therefore the BGP routing table does not contain any multicast routes. On the multicast routers, multicast routes are enabled and BGP builds a separate routing table to hold the multicast routes. Multicast traffic uses the path from Router A to the multicast routers to Router B and back.

The figure below illustrates a multiprotocol BGP environment with a separate unicast route and multicast route from Router A to Router B. Multiprotocol BGP allows these routes to be noncongruent. Both of the autonomous systems must be configured for internal multiprotocol BGP (labeled "IMBGP" in the figure).

Figure 3 Multicast BGP Environment

For more information about IP multicast, see the "Configuring IP Multicast" configuration library.

Additional References for Cisco BGP Overview

Related Documents

Related Topic Document Title

Cisco IOS commands

Cisco IOS Master Command List, All Releases

BGP commands

Cisco IOS BGP Command Reference

IP Multicast

IP Multicast Configuration Guide Library

Standards and RFCs

Standard/RFC Title

RFC 1771

A Border Gateway Protocol 4 (BGP-4)

RFC 2858

Multiprotocol Extensions for BGP-4

Technical Assistance

Description Link

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Feature Information for Cisco BGP

The following table provides release information about the feature or features described in this module. This table lists only the software release that introduced support for a given feature in a given software release train. Unless noted otherwise, subsequent releases of that software release train also support that feature.

Use Cisco Feature Navigator to find information about platform support and Cisco software image support. To access Cisco Feature Navigator, go to www.cisco.com/go/cfn. An account on Cisco.com is not required.

Table 1 Feature Information for Cisco BGP
Feature Name Releases Feature Information

Multicast BGP (MBGP)



Cisco IOS XE Release 3.2SE

Multicast BGP (MBGP) adds capabilities to BGP to enable multicast routing policy throughout the Internet and to connect multicast topologies within and between BGP autonomous systems. That is, MBGP is an enhanced BGP that carries IP multicast routes. BGP carries two sets of routes, one set for unicast routing and one set for multicast routing. The routes associated with multicast routing are used by PIM to build data distribution trees.

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Any Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and phone numbers used in this document are not intended to be actual addresses and phone numbers. Any examples, command display output, network topology diagrams, and other figures included in the document are shown for illustrative purposes only. Any use of actual IP addresses or phone numbers in illustrative content is unintentional and coincidental.

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