Virtual Routing White Paper

Service Providers (SP) are continually adding new and more complex services for their most critical customers. One of the most cost-effective services that can be provided by an SP is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. By providing VPN services at the SP site rather than using hardware or software at the end user location, significant economies of scale can be leveraged to reduce the overall cost to the end user, while significantly adding revenue to the SP. In order to provision this VPN service in Provider Edge (PE) equipment, it would be necessary to setup a complex access control and route filtering mechanism to ensure that routing information did not propagate from one user to another when it was not desired. This is difficult, if not impossible, to manage.

There are also many complex SP users, i.e. enterprise customers, which need control of their routing configuration but still want to employ the SP to provide Internet access and other services, such as VPN. In order to provide this additional control, the SP needs to provision a separate router for this customer, which can get expensive and difficult to manage.

Virtual routing solves both of these problems by allowing a single router to be configured into multiple virtual routers (VR), with each VR instance acting like its own separate router, both for routing and configuration control. By using virtual routing, it is possible for service providers to provision VPN services and offer additional control to enterprise and advanced user using a single PE platform. This lowers costs for the SP and increases revenue opportunities. Coupled with additional services, such as traffic engineering, a complete PE solution can be provided to the SP.

This paper provides an introduction to virtual routing, discusses virtual routing requirements and design considerations, and provides a system level overview of the architecture and management of a virtual router implementation. Lastly, we will discuss several of markets that will drive the use of virtual routing.

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