Internet-Draft BP-over-Ethernet July 2023
Kline Expires 11 January 2024 [Page]
Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking
Intended Status:
E. Kline
Aalyria Technologies, Inc.

Support for the Delay- and Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) Bundle Protocol (BP) Datagrams over Ethernet


This memo describes a mechanism for the transmission of Bundle Protocol (BP) Bundles over Ethernet links (BP-over-Ethernet), describes limitations and operational considerations, and requests some dedicated Ethernet parameters.

About This Document

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

When two Bundle nodes are connected by an Ethernet link, or by a logical link that emulates Ethernet, it may be possible for a Bundle Protocol Agent to transmit Bundles directly in the payload of an Ethernet frame, without higher layer Convergence Layer (CL) overhead.

This memo describes a mechanism for the transmission of Bundle Protocol (BP) Bundles over Ethernet links (BP-over-Ethernet), describes limitations and operational considerations, and requests some dedicated Ethernet parameters.

The mechanism described here acts like a datagram CL, specifically the BP over UDP CL documented in §3.2.2 of [DGRAMCL], ableit suitable for use only among directly connected nodes (i.e. on-link communications only).

While hypothetically applicable to a physical Ethernet LAN, it may find more use within Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) networks, which allow novel software-define connectivity among a set of cooperating Bundle processing cloud compute nodes (i.e. VMs).

2. Conventions and Definitions

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. General Recommendation

Paraphrasing [DGRAMCL], in order to transmit Bundles ([BPv6], [BPv7]) across the Internet it is necessary to encapsulate them in a Convergence Layer that utilizes one of the standard versions of the Internet Protocols (e.g., [TCPCL]).

When two Bundle nodes are directly connected via an Ethernet link, however, it is possible for Bundle Protocol Agents to forego Internet CL encapsulations and instead place Bundles directly in the payload of an Ethernet frame. Section 6.1 lists the IEEE-assigned EtherType used to indicate the Ethernet payload is a [BPv6] or [BPv7] Bundle (or Bundle fragment; section 3.3).

This Ethernet Convergence Layer (ETHCL) avoids incurring the IP and UDP header overhead (28 to 48 bytes, depending on Internet Protocol version and assuming no other headers or options). These savings may, however, be offset by overhead introduced if Bundle fragmentation is necessary (see sections 3.3 and 4.1).

3.1. Bundle Protocol Versions

A single EtherType suffices for both [BPv6] and [BPv7] payloads. Current Bundle Protocol versions are readily distinguishable by the first byte of the payload.

Encoding of [BPv6] bundles begins with the Version field of the Primary Bundle Block, which has a fixed value of 0x06 (§4 and §4.5.1 of [BPv6]).

Encoding of [BPv7] bundles "SHALL be a concatenated sequence of at least two blocks, represented as a CBOR indefinite-length array..." (§4.1 of [BPv7]). Per [CBOR], an indefinite-length array begins with the octet value 0x9f.

All other first octet values indicate some other content. Bundle Protocol over Ethernet receivers MUST NOT attempt to interpret such payloads as bundles and SHOULD log an error for administrator review.

3.2. Destination MAC Address

When transmitting a Bundle directly in the payload of an Ethernet frame a suitable destination MAC address must be selected. Provisioning the sending Bundle node with the correct destination MAC address of the recipient Bundle node is out of scope for this document. There is no Bundle Protocol equivalent of [ARP] or [IPv6ND].

It is possible for a sender to address all BP-over-Ethernet listeners within the broadcast domain should the destination Bundle Endpoint ID refer to "all of a group of nodes" (§3.2 and §3.4 of [ARCH]). How a sending Bundle node determines when this is appropriate is out of scope of this document.

This document does not prohibit the use of the broadcast MAC address for this function, but section 6.2 requests the allocation of a multicast MAC address to represent "all Bundle Protocol over Ethernet capable stations" within a given Ethernet broadcast domain. This may help reduce the number of stations awakened by multicast BP-over-Ethernet frames.

3.3. MTU

In the absence of Ethernet-layer fragmentation, no payload exceeding the local Ethernet MTU can be transmitted. Consequently, the contents of the Ethernet payload MUST be a complete Bundle, employing Bundle fragmention at the sender as necessary ([BPv6] §5.8, [BPv7] §5.8).

In practice the need for fragmentation may be reduced if the local Ethernet MTU can be increased beyond the typical 1500 bytes, e.g. by operator-configured use of "jumbo frames" or cloud management tuning of a virtual Ethernet network.

How a sending Bundle node learns the size of the local Ethernet MTU connected to a given interface is out of scope of this document.

4. Operational Considerations

Conceptually, this Ethernet Convergence Layer (ETHCL) is analogous to the BP over UDPCL in §3.2.2 of [DGRAMCL], with many of the same limitations and considerations.

4.1. Fragmentation and Reassembly

Transmission of Bundles exceeding the transmitting interface's Ethernet MTU MUST be fragmented by the sending node (3.3). If excessive fragmentation proves problematic, network operators may need to consider alternate Convergence Layers.

4.2. Congestion Control

Just as with BP over UDPCL, there is no congestion control that can be relied upon with this Ethernet CL.

Ethernet flow control mechanisms exist but, even if in use, they may not be sufficient to avoid significant loss of Bundles in all situations. Additionally, a Bundle Protocol Agent may not be able to easily determine whether any Ethernet-level flow control mechanism is available; at best it may only be able to infer excessive Bundle delivery failures from the absence of requested status report Bundles and adapt according to local policy.

If congestion control is an operational concern, network operators should to consider alternate Convergence Layers.

4.3. Checksums

To reiterate the observation in §3.5 of [DGRAMCL], the Bundle Protocol specifications assume that Bundles "are transmitted over an erasure channel, i.e., a channel that either delivers packets correctly or not at all".

Ethernet's Frame Check Sequence (FCS) minimally meets this requirement to ensure Bundles are not corrupted in transmission. However, use of stronger integrity checks are RECOMMENDED, especially the integrity provided by use of Bundle Protocol Security (BPSec) ([BPv6Sec] and [BPv7Sec]).

Note that for [BPv7] Bundles, inclusion of a CRC covering the Primary Block is mandatory ([BPv7] §4.3.1) whenever a Bundle Integrity Block (BIB) ([BPv7Sec] §3.7) covering the Primary Block is not present. There is no analogous requirement for [BPv6] Bundles.

4.4. Filtering

A common security paradigm is to "defaul deny" all traffic patterns that, broadly, do not conform to operator expectations. In such environments it may be that this document's new EtherType needs to be added to an allowlist or otherwise explicitly permitted to be used on a given Ethernet segment before Bundles can be successfully delivered.

5. Security Considerations

This specification describes the transmission of Bundles as payloads in Ethernet frames. Without the use of Bundle Protocol Security (BPSec) ([BPv6Sec] and [BPv7Sec]) there are no integrity, confidentiality, nor authentication guarantees. The CRC field available in [BPv7] blocks is not sufficient to maintain integrity when an attacker has the ability to modify frames in transit.

How a sender is configured with the correct destination MAC address for delivery of any given Bundle is out of scope for this document (see 3.2). Relatedly, there is also no mechanism to configure receivers with knowledge of authorized sender source MAC addresses nor any in-scope mechanism to require restriction of source Bundle Endpoint IDs (EIDs) to specifc source MAC addresses. These control and management plane issues are left to implementations, and to future work.

Any attacker with access to the link, or with sufficient knowledge of local Bundle fordwarding configuration so as to inject Bundles and cause them to be sent to an Ethernet peer may overwhelm the receiver to the point of Denial of Service to any other legitimate onlink senders.

IEEE standards include several security mechanisms that may be used in Ethernet networks. Examples of recommended Ethernet-level security mechanisms include: IEEE 802.1X (TODO: reference), which may be used restrict access to the link to authorized participants, and IEEE 802.1AE (TODO: reference), which offers confidentiality of the entire Ethernet payload (even if BPSec provides integrity and confidentiality of a Bundle, several header fields are readily observable).

6. IANA Considerations

Allocation of the following Ethernet parameters is requested.

6.1. EtherType

IANA is requested to work its IEEE liaison magic to request allocation of an EtherType for this document's description of Bundle Protocol over Ethernet (BPoE).

6.2. Multicast MAC Address

In order to identify "all Bundle Protocol over Ethernet capable stations" within the broadcast domain, IANA is requested to allocate one 48-bit multicast MAC address, presumably from the 01-00-5E OUI. The stated Usage is "Bundle Protocol over Ethernet" and the Reference is this document.

7. References

7.1. Normative References

Cerf, V., Burleigh, S., Hooke, A., Torgerson, L., Durst, R., Scott, K., Fall, K., and H. Weiss, "Delay-Tolerant Networking Architecture", RFC 4838, DOI 10.17487/RFC4838, , <>.
Scott, K. and S. Burleigh, "Bundle Protocol Specification", RFC 5050, DOI 10.17487/RFC5050, , <>.
Burleigh, S., Fall, K., and E. Birrane, III, "Bundle Protocol Version 7", RFC 9171, DOI 10.17487/RFC9171, , <>.
Bormann, C. and P. Hoffman, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)", STD 94, RFC 8949, DOI 10.17487/RFC8949, , <>.
Kruse, H., Jero, S., and S. Ostermann, "Datagram Convergence Layers for the Delay- and Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) Bundle Protocol and Licklider Transmission Protocol (LTP)", RFC 7122, DOI 10.17487/RFC7122, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

7.2. Informative References

Plummer, D., "An Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol: Or Converting Network Protocol Addresses to 48.bit Ethernet Address for Transmission on Ethernet Hardware", STD 37, RFC 826, DOI 10.17487/RFC0826, , <>.
Symington, S., Farrell, S., Weiss, H., and P. Lovell, "Bundle Security Protocol Specification", RFC 6257, DOI 10.17487/RFC6257, , <>.
Birrane, III, E. and K. McKeever, "Bundle Protocol Security (BPSec)", RFC 9172, DOI 10.17487/RFC9172, , <>.
Narten, T., Nordmark, E., Simpson, W., and H. Soliman, "Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 4861, DOI 10.17487/RFC4861, , <>.
Sipos, B., Demmer, M., Ott, J., and S. Perreault, "Delay-Tolerant Networking TCP Convergence-Layer Protocol Version 4", RFC 9174, DOI 10.17487/RFC9174, , <>.


Thanks to Wes Eddy for discussions, advice, and early reviews.

Author's Address

Erik Kline
Aalyria Technologies, Inc.