A value of 135 in the Type field of the ICMP packet header identifies a neighbor solicitation message. Neighbor solicitation messages are sent on the local link when a node wants to determine the link-layer address of another node on the same local link (see the figure below). When a node wants to determine the link-layer address of another node, the source address in a neighbor solicitation message is the IPv6 address of the node sending the neighbor solicitation message. The destination address in the neighbor solicitation message is the solicited-node multicast address that corresponds to the IPv6 address of the destination node. The neighbor solicitation message also includes the link-layer address of the source node.
Figure 1. IPv6 Neighbor Discovery: Neighbor Solicitation Message
After receiving the neighbor solicitation message, the destination node replies by sending a neighbor advertisement message, which has a value of 136 in the Type field of the ICMP packet header, on the local link. The source address in the neighbor advertisement message is the IPv6 address of the node (more specifically, the IPv6 address of the node interface) sending the neighbor advertisement message. The destination address in the neighbor advertisement message is the IPv6 address of the node that sent the neighbor solicitation message. The data portion of the neighbor advertisement message includes the link-layer address of the node sending the neighbor advertisement message.
After the source node receives the neighbor advertisement, the source node and destination node can communicate.
Neighbor solicitation messages are also used to verify the reachability of a neighbor after the link-layer address of a neighbor is identified. When a node wants to verify the reachability of a neighbor, the destination address in a neighbor solicitation message is the unicast address of the neighbor.
Neighbor advertisement messages are also sent when there is a change in the link-layer address of a node on a local link. When there is such a change, the destination address for the neighbor advertisement is the all-nodes multicast address.
Neighbor solicitation messages are also used to verify the reachability of a neighbor after the link-layer address of a neighbor is identified. Neighbor unreachability detection identifies the failure of a neighbor or the failure of the forward path to the neighbor, and is used for all paths between hosts and neighboring nodes (hosts or devices). Neighbor unreachability detection is performed for neighbors to which only unicast packets are being sent and is not performed for neighbors to which multicast packets are being sent.
A neighbor is considered reachable when a positive acknowledgment is returned from the neighbor (indicating that packets previously sent to the neighbor have been received and processed). A positive acknowledgment from an upper-layer protocol (such as TCP) indicates that a connection is making forward progress (reaching its destination) or the receipt of a neighbor advertisement message in response to a neighbor solicitation message. If packets are reaching the peer, they are also reaching the next-hop neighbor of the source. Therefore, forward progress is also a confirmation that the next-hop neighbor is reachable.
For destinations that are not on the local link, forward progress implies that the first-hop device is reachable. When acknowledgments from an upper-layer protocol are not available, a node probes the neighbor using unicast neighbor solicitation messages to verify that the forward path is still working.
The return of a solicited neighbor advertisement message from the neighbor is a positive acknowledgment that the forward path is still working (neighbor advertisement messages that have the solicited flag set to a value of 1 are sent only in response to a neighbor solicitation message). Unsolicited messages confirm only the one-way path from the source to the destination node; solicited neighbor advertisement messages indicate that a path is working in both directions.
A neighbor advertisement message that has the solicited flag set to a value of 0 must not be considered as a positive acknowledgment that the forward path is still working.
Neighbor solicitation messages are also used in the stateless autoconfiguration process to verify the uniqueness of unicast IPv6 addresses before the addresses are assigned to an interface. Duplicate address detection is performed first on a new, link-local IPv6 address before the address is assigned to an interface (the new address remains in a tentative state while duplicate address detection is performed). Specifically, a node sends a neighbor solicitation message with an unspecified source address and a tentative link-local address in the body of the message. If another node is already using that address, the node returns a neighbor advertisement message that contains the tentative link-local address. If another node is simultaneously verifying the uniqueness of the same address, that node also returns a neighbor solicitation message. If no neighbor advertisement messages are received in response to the neighbor solicitation message and no neighbor solicitation messages are received from other nodes that are attempting to verify the same tentative address, the node that sent the original neighbor solicitation message considers the tentative link-local address to be unique and assigns the address to the interface.
Every IPv6 unicast address (global or link-local) must be verified for uniqueness on the link; however, until the uniqueness of the link-local address is verified, duplicate address detection is not performed on any other IPv6 addresses associated with the link-local address. The Cisco implementation of duplicate address detection in the Cisco software does not verify the uniqueness of anycast or global addresses that are generated from 64-bit interface identifiers.