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BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) is a protocol for exchanging routing information betweengateway hosts (each with its own

router) in a network of autonomous systems. BGP is often the protocol used between gateway hosts on the Internet. The routing table contains a list of known routers, the addresses they can reach, and a cost metric associated with the path to each router so that the best available route is chosen. Hosts using BGP communicate using the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and send updated router table information only when one host has detected a change. Only the affected part of the routing table is sent. BGP-4, the latest version, lets adminstrators configure cost metrics based on policy statements. (BGP-4 is sometimes called BGP4, without the hyphen.) BGP communicates with autonomous (local) networks using Internal BGP (IBGP) since it doesn't work well with IGP. The routers inside the autonomous network thus maintain two routing tables: one for the interior gateway protocol and one for IBGP. BGP-4 makes it easy to use Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR), which is a way to have more addresses within the network than with the current IP address assignment scheme. BGP is a more recent protocol than the Exterior Gateway Protocol (EGP). Also see the Interior Gateway Protocol (IGP) and the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) interior gateway protocol.

What is BGP, anyway?

When you make a modem connection to your ISP and want to connect to, for instance,, all the routers along the way have to know where to send the packets you're sending to our Web server, and the packets from the server have to find their way back to your computer. For the first few hops, this isn't much of the problem. For instance, your computer only knows the packets don't have a local destination, so they should be sent over the modem connection. This can continue for a while, but at some point the decision where to send the packet next becomes more complex than just "local: keep it" / "not local: send it to a smarter router". The router making this decision will have to know where to send the packet based on the destination IP address contained in it. Since IP addresses are distributed fairly randomly around the globe, there aren't any shortcuts or calculations that make it possible for the router to decide this for itself.

The only way a router can know where to send a packet, is when another router tells it "send those packets to me, I know how to deliver them". The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is a protocol that is used between routers to convey this information. Since the routers that talk BGP to each other aren't owned by the same organization (that would kind of defeat the purpose of creating global reachability) this is often called "interdomain" routing.

BGP and Interdomain Routing Terms

AS Autonomous System. AS Number Autonomous System Number. Each AS has a unique number that is used to identify it in BGP processing. Autonomous System An Autonomous System is a network that has its own routing policy. In most cases, customers belong to their ISP's Autonomous System, but multihomed customers obviously have their own routing policy that is different from either ISP so they must be a separate AS. BGP Border Gateway Protocol. EGP Exterior Gateway Protocol: a routing protocol used between organizations/networks. BGP is an EGP, but there is also an older EGP calledEGP. Gateway Older term for router. Sometimes the word "gateway" is used to describe a system that connects two dissimilar networks or protocols. IGP Interior Gateway Protocol: a routing protocol used within an organization/network. Examples are RIP, OSPF, IS-IS and EIGRP. Multihoming The practice of connecting to two or more ISPs. Most multihomed networks run BGP so the rest of the Internet knows where to send packets for the multihomed network even if one of the connections fails. Router 1. Any system that will receive packets over one network connection and then forward them to another by looking at the network address inside the packet. 2. A special-purpose system (like a computer, but usually without a screen, keyboard and harddisks) that forwards packets. Routing Policy A policy that defines how a network is connected to other networks and how packets are allowed to flow.