BGP (Border Gateway Protocol)

Contributor(s): John Burke

BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) is protocol that manages how packets are routed across the internet through the exchange of routing and reachability information between edge routers. BGP directs packets between autonomous systems (AS) -- networks managed by a single enterprise or service provider. Traffic that is routed within a single network AS is referred to as internal BGP, or iBGP. More often, BGP is used to connect one AS to other autonomous systems, and it is then referred to as an external BGP, or eBGP.

What is BGP used for?

BGP offers network stability that guarantees routers can quickly adapt to send packets through another reconnection if one internet path goes down. BGP makes routing decisions based on paths, rules or network policies configured by a network administrator. Each BGP router maintains a standard routing table used to direct packets in transit. This table is used in conjunction with a separate routing table, known as the routing information base (RIB), which is a data table stored on a server on the BGP router. The RIB contains route information both from directly connected external peers, as well as internal peers, and continually updates the routing table as changes occur. BGP is based on TCP/IP and uses client-server topology to communicate routing information, with the client-server initiating a BGP session by sending a request to the server.

BGP enables backbone route sharing

BGP routing basics

BGP sends updated router table information only when something changes -- and even then, it sends only the affected information. BGP has no automatic discovery mechanism, which means connections between peers have to be set up manually, with peer addresses programmed in at both ends.

BGP makes best-path decisions based on current reachability, hop counts and other path characteristics. In situations where multiple paths are available -- as within a major hosting facility -- BGP can be used to communicate an organization's own preferences in terms of what path traffic should follow in and out of its networks. BGP even has a mechanism for defining arbitrary tags, called communities, which can be used to control route advertisement behavior by mutual agreement among peers.

Ratified in 2006, BGP-4, the current version of BGP, supports both IPv6 and classless interdomain routing (CIDR), which enables the continued viability of IPv4. Use of the CIDR is a way to have more addresses within the network than with the current IP address assignment scheme.

See also: Interior Gateway Protocol (IGP), Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) interior gateway protocol and Exterior Gateway Protocol (EGP).

This was last updated in September 2016

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What's a reason you would not want automatic discovery of BGP peers?
Probably because it runs in the core of the internet and any accidental connections to misconfigured routers which advertise paths to networks they are not really connected to could take down large parts of the internet.  Also malicious use is possible then.  Suppose I set my router up to advertise that it has a really fast path to Google's networks, and make it a peer of my ISP's router - then the ISP would see my router as the best path to google and send everyone's google traffic to me - but since I don't actually have a path to google's network all the traffic would not be delivered... this is why peering is not automatic
How does BGP work even in the time of any regular traffic path will down?


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