The night of living dead protocols: RIPv2

RIP's name seems to have anticipated its ultimate fate. It used to stand for Routing Information Protocol before newer and better protocols killed it. Still, most routers in the world still support it even though few people seriously consider using it, thus making it an undead protocol.

This is mainly for compatibility reasons. After all, if you have an old box at a remote location, connected to a 128kbps ISDN line or worse, that is working fine and is impractical to replace, but supports nothing but RIP, what can you do? Likewise, some modern small routers by Netgear or D-link only have RIP, so if you can't just replace it, there's no other choice.

Besides, RIP remains a valuable teaching tool since it's conceptually simple, and understanding its limitations can help one understand the new routing protocols and their strengths.

What's bad about RIP?

There are some very good reasons to choose something else than RIP if you can. It's one of the oldest protocols in existence, and it was designed at the time when neither modern route selection techniques existed, nor the size of networks was big enough to warrant those techniques. When RIP reached its scalability limits, it was impossible to retrofit those techniques into it, so it was replaced rather than upgraded. RIPv2, the latest version, replaced broadcast advertisments with multicast and added support for CIDR, but that's about it — the fundamental design problems are, well, fundamental.

The biggest issue is that in RIP, routers are only aware of themselves and their immediate peers. They are completely blind to the rest of  the network. Link-state and path-vector protocols such as OSPF and eBGP are aware of the full topology (concrete or abstract), and can either reduce the full network graph to loop-free tree or immediately detect route advertisments as loop-inducing respectively.

All information that RIP advertisments include is the network, next hop, and an integer metric value. No router has any idea how its peers are connected to one another, so there is no way to detect loops before they form.

RIP includes a number of solutions to this problem, and they all have a limiting effect on its scalability.

Split horizon

It's simple — do not advertise routes received from peers back to them. It prevents the trivial loop when peers are trying to route traffic to networks they learnt about from someone else through you, but it cannot prevent wider loops. At least it has no effect on convergence time and doesn't create scalability limits either.

Counting to infinity

Before the other mechanisms were developed, this one was the only measure for detecting unreachable or looping routes. To make sure a route that is not actually reachable will be eventually recognized as such, it was decided to choose a maximum value that represents "infinite" (unreachable) metric. Since this process already can take quite some time, the value had to be small. In RIP, the infinite metric was set to 16. This means if a network has paths longer than 15 hops, the protocol just stops working.

Reverse poisoning

Even with 16 as infinite metric, the process of counting to infinity can be slow. The next idea was to not just wait for unreachable routes to become known as unreachable naturally, but actively advertise them to your peers as unreachable if a peer that was advertising them goes down.

This still is not a complete solution because if a router first receives  an unreachability advertisment from a router who's aware of the true situation, but later receives an update from a router that is still not aware of it, it will start using the second false advertisment.

Hold timer

The ultimate solution is to ignore any advertisment for a network whose metric has recently increased for some time, to avoid receiving updates from routers who do not know the real situation yet. This time shouldn't be too small, it should be similar to the time it takes for updates to propagate through the entire network. A common default value is 180 seconds. That is, to prevent convergence issues completely, it may take a network of just a few routers three minutes to converge.


So, suppose you are aware of all issues, but want or need to configure RIP nonetheless. It's pretty simple. First, enable RIP on all interfaces where you want to send and receive advertisments:

set protocols rip interface eth0
set protocols rip interface eth1

Networks that are configured on those interfaces will become a part of the RIP table automatically. If you want to advertise networks that are on other interfaces, you need to add them explicitly:

set protocols rip network

You can also use "redistribute" and "default-information originate" commands just like in all other routing protocols.

If everything is right, you will see something like this on the neighbor router:

vyos@vyos# run show ip rip 
Codes: R - RIP, C - connected, S - Static, O - OSPF, B - BGP
      (n) - normal, (s) - static, (d) - default, (r) - redistribute,
      (i) - interface

     Network            Next Hop         Metric From            Tag Time
R(n)         2     0 02:55
C(i)               1 self              0

If you remove the interface or the network statement, you will see the unreachable metric 16 for the duration of the hold timer, and only when the timer expires it will disappear from your table complely:

vyos@vyos# run show ip rip 
Codes: R - RIP, C - connected, S - Static, O - OSPF, B - BGP
      (n) - normal, (s) - static, (d) - default, (r) - redistribute,
      (i) - interface

     Network            Next Hop         Metric From            Tag Time
R(n)        16     0 01:57