October 12, 2006 2:24am CST
IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING 1089-7801/01/$10.00©2001 IEEE MAY • JUNE 2001 81 On the Wire Autoconfiguration for IP Networking: Enabling Local Communication It would be ideal if a host implementation of the Internet protocol suite could be entirely self-configuring. This would allow the whole suite to be implemented in ROM or cast into silicon, it would simplify diskless workstations, and it would be an immense boon to harried LAN administrators as well as system vendors. We have not reached this ideal; in fact, we are not even close. —RFC 11221 IP hosts and network infrastructure have historically been difficult to configure—requiring network services and relying on highly trained network administrators—but emerging networking protocols promise to enable hosts to establish IP networks without prior configuration or network services. Even very simple devices with few computing resources will be able to communicate via standardstrack protocols wherever they are attached. Current IETF standardization efforts, such as those in the Zeroconf working group, aim to make this form of networking simple and inexpensive. Hosts that are permanently connected to an administered network are usually assigned static network configurations by network administrators. Other hosts are attached to administered networks (such as corporate local-area networks or dial-in accounts) using dynamic network configuration. In these, all necessary parameters are assigned to the host by a network configuration service, which also requires configuration. In many situations— impromptu meetings, administered network misconfigurations, or network service failures, for example—establishing an IP network is desirable, but administering it can be impractical or impossible. In these cases, automatic network configuration of parameters is valuable for hosts. The IETF Zeroconf WG’s real goal is to enable direct communications between two or more computing devices via IP. In this tutorial, I examine the background, current status, and future prospects for zero configuration networking. Zero Configuration Networking Automatic configuration parameters have different properties from those assigned by static and dynamic configuration. They are ephemeral; they will likely be different each time they are obtained and might even change at any time. Automatically configured hosts actively participate in assigning and maintaining their configuration parameters, which have only local significance. Autonomy from network services implies that hosts must network configuration. In direct contrast, normal IP configuration is persistent (especially for servers), or at the very least, stable. The IP protocol suite aims at scalability, especially with respect to configuration. Addresses and names often have global significance, which has proven essential for enabling Internet growth. Obtaining and managing global addresses and names requires a great deal of administrative work, however. These processes are not at all automatic and likely never will be. Despite these differences, the essential zero configuration networking protocols really imply changes to only the lower layers of IP-enabled devices. (See the sidebar “IP Host Layering” for an introduction to the terminology required for discussing automatic configuration.) Existing network-based applications will work without modification over enhanced network service and application layers using standard interfaces. Indeed, users should not even be aware that the network service layer has been configured automatically rather than statically or dynamically. Four functions will benefit from zero configu- Erik Guttman Sun Microsystems, Germany ration protocols, in the context of both IPv4 and IPv6. With no modification to existing interfaces, zero configuration protocols will improve nameto- address translation (at the application level) and IP interface configuration (at the network level). Functions previously unavailable to IP hosts will introduce new interfaces: service discovery at the application layer and multicast address allocation at the network layer. These additional services will not disrupt existing applications. They will “raise the bar” by providing additional features long absent from the Internet protocol suite, but (in the case of service discovery) available in proprietary network protocol suites from Apple, Microsoft, and Novell. (See the sidebar “Early Autoconfiguration Efforts”, next page). These proprietary protocols continue to be used only because of their ease-of-configuration features. Adopting emerging zero configuration protocol standards will let us retire proprietary networking —a move that has broad support. Even network equipment vendors uniformly accept that proprietary network protocols have seen their day and should be replaced by IP standards. For reasons of scalability and reducing impact on existing networks, the zero configuration protocols’ effect on the overall network must be limited. The algorithms used for zero configuration protocols generally use multicast. In practice, these protocols are limited to either a single network link (that is, routers do not forward these protocol messages) or to a set of networks (where some routers are configured as boundaries, over which protocol messages are not forwarded). Defining an Approach Those working on IETF zero configuration protocol standardization (currently in the Zeroconf, Service Location Protocol, DNS Extensions, and IPng working groups) have considered two main approaches to overcoming the differences between configured and automatic operation. The first strategy requires transitions between local and global configuration and has been explored through consumer-oriented operating system software since 1998. This strategy implies that hosts would support automatic configuration only for as long as they lacked global configuration. The two modes are exclusive, and the presence of a dynamic configuration service requires a transition from automatic (local) to dynamic (global) configuration. An example of this transition strategy is the network interface autoconfiguration protocol adopted for desktop operating systems from Apple and Microsoft. This protocol (which the IETF has not yet standardized) enables a host to simply choose an unassigned IP address from a reserved range. The host then attempts to obtain (global) IP configuration parameters from the network via the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.2 The host issues periodic DHCP requests, which will eventually succeed in reaching a DHCP server if one ever becomes available on the network. Once a DHCP server responds and offers IP configuration parameters, these replace automatic configuration. This mechanism works fine for clients employing common client-server protocols because very few make use of long-duration connections. Individual network application operations result in distinct transactions even when connections fail. If the client host experi- 82 MAY • JUNE 2001 IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING Tutorial Layering provides the foundation for numerous, stable extensible computing platforms. Figure A depicts the pervasive layered architecture, often called the IP stack, which is used for Internet hosts.This roughly corresponds to the OSI seven-layer model.1 The figure excludes the OSI presentation and session layers. IP applications implement data presentation functions themselves. Session features such as encryption,compression, or persistence between protocol transactions are added in an ad hoc fashion at various layers. Each layer provides services to the layer above it through standard interfaces. If lower layers provide the same functionality using the same interfaces, services can be implemented in different ways; new mechanisms defined at the network services layer can thus support unmodified existing applications.Avoiding changes in upper layers eases the adoption of new Internet technologies. Network service layer enhancements that require client applications (such as e-mail readers and Web browsers) to be upgraded are not broadly adopted. Each layer could be automatically configured. In practice, the less configuration required, the better, because simpler technology works more predictably and eases deployment. The transport service, link control, and media access layers rarely require configuration in Internet hosts. By contrast, the application and network service layers nearly always require configuration in order to operate at all. References 1. A.Tanenbaum, Computer Networks, Second Edition, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1989. Application Transport service Network service Link control Physical network Figure A. Internet host layering. Zero configuration protocols will be implemented at the application and network service layers of the Internet protocol stack. IP Host Layering IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING MAY • JUNE 2001 83 ences network reconfiguration, applications simply establish new connections. If a server’s configuration changes, however, recovery is not so easy: Client applications cease to function if they cannot find a server. Servers with dynamic addresses can only be located via a dynamic service discovery protocol, and very few IP-based applications currently employ service discovery. Server address reconfiguration can break server software, which typically binds to a (presumably immutable) address to accept incoming messages. Moreover, when a server reconfigures via DHCP, it can no longer communicate with clients that have not yet reconfigured. Conversely, if DHCP configures client systems and then fails to configure a server (if the DHCP server becomes
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12 Oct 06
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