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BGP Fundamentals

Chapter Description

In This sample chapter from Troubleshooting BGP: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Troubleshooting BGP, the authors cover BGP Messages and Inter-Router Communication, Basic BGP Configuration for IOS, IOS XR, and NX-OS, IBGP Rules, EBGP Rules, and BGP Route Aggregation

BGP Messages

BGP communication uses four message types, as shown in Table 1-2.

Table 1-2 BGP Packet Types



Functional Overview



Sets up and establishes BGP adjacency



Advertises, updates, or withdraws routes



Indicates an error condition to a BGP neighbor



Ensures that BGP neighbors are still alive


The OPEN message is used to establish a BGP adjacency. Both sides negotiate session capabilities before a BGP peering establishes. The OPEN message contains the BGP version number, ASN of the originating router, Hold Time, BGP Identifier, and other optional parameters that establish the session capabilities.

Hold Time

The Hold Time attribute sets the Hold Timer in seconds for each BGP neighbor. Upon receipt of an UPDATE or KEEPALIVE, the Hold Timer resets to the initial value. If the Hold Timer reaches zero, the BGP session is torn down, routes from that neighbor are removed, and an appropriate update route withdraw message is sent to other BGP neighbors for the impacted prefixes. The Hold Time is a heartbeat mechanism for BGP neighbors to ensure that the neighbor is healthy and alive.

When establishing a BGP session, the routers use the smaller Hold Time value contained in the two router’s OPEN messages. The Hold Time value must be at least three seconds, or zero. For Cisco routers the default hold timer is 180 seconds.

BGP Identifier

The BGP Router-ID (RID) is a 32-bit unique number that identifies the BGP router in the advertised prefixes as the BGP Identifier. The RID can be used as a loop prevention mechanism for routers advertised within an autonomous system. The RID can be set manually or dynamically for BGP. A nonzero value must be set for routers to become neighbors. The dynamic RID allocation logic varies between the following operating systems.

  • IOS: IOS nodes use the highest IP address of the any up loopback interfaces. If there is not an up loopback interface, then the highest IP address of any active up interfaces becomes the RID when the BGP process initializes.

  • IOS XR: IOS XR nodes use the IP address of the lowest up loopback interface. If there is not any up loopback interfaces, then a value of zero ( is used and prevents any BGP adjacencies from forming.

  • NX-OS: NX-OS nodes use the IP address of the lowest up loopback interface. If there is not any up loopback interfaces, then the IP address of the lowest active up interface becomes the RID when the BGP process initializes.

Router-IDs typically represent an IPv4 address that resides on the router, such as a loopback address. Any IPv4 address can be used, including IP addresses not configured on the router. For IOS and IOS XR, the command bgp router-id router-id is used, and NX-OS uses the command router-id router-id under the BGP router configuration to statically assign the BGP RID. Upon changing the router-id, all BGP sessions reset and need to be reestablished.


BGP does not rely on the TCP connection state to ensure that the neighbors are still alive. Keepalive messages are exchanged every one-third of the Hold Timer agreed upon between the two BGP routers. Cisco devices have a default Hold Time of 180 seconds, so the default Keepalive interval is 60 seconds. If the Hold Time is set for zero, no Keepalive messages are sent between the BGP neighbors.


The Update message advertises any feasible routes, withdraws previously advertised routes, or can do both. The Update message includes the Network Layer Reachability Information (NLRI) that includes the prefix and associated BGP PAs when advertising prefixes. Withdrawn NLRIs include only the prefix. An UPDATE message can act as a Keepalive to reduce unnecessary traffic.


A Notification message is sent when an error is detected with the BGP session, such as a hold timer expiring, neighbor capabilities change, or a BGP session reset is requested. This causes the BGP connection to close.

4. BGP Neighbor States | Next Section Previous Section

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