Internet-Draft SFC Parallelism and Diversions May 2023
Eastlake Expires 22 November 2023 [Page]
SFC Working Group
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
D. Eastlake
Futurewei Technologies

Service Function Chaining (SFC) Parallelism and Diversions


Service Function Chaining (SFC) is the processing of packets through a sequence of Service Functions (SFs) within an SFC domain by the addition of path information and metadata on entry to that domain, the use and modification of that path information and metadata to step the packet through a sequence of SFs, and the removal of that path information and metadata on exit from that domain. The IETF has standardized a method for SFC using the Network Service Header specified in RFC 8300.

There are requirements for SFC to process packets through parallel sequences of service functions and to easily splice in additional service functions or splice service functions out of a service chain. This document provides use cases for these requirements and extensions to SFC to support them.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 22 November 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Service Function Chaining (SFC) is the processing of packets through a sequence of Service Functions (SFs) within an SFC domain by the addition of path information and metadata on entry to that domain, the use and modification of that path information and metadata to step the packet through a sequence of SFs, and the removal of that path information and metadata on exit from that domain. The IETF has standardized a method for SFC using the Network Service Header specified in [RFC8300].

There are requirements for SFC to process packets through parallel sequences of service functions and to easily splice in additional service functions or splice service functions out of a service chain. This document provides use cases for these requirements and extensions to SFC to support them.

1.1. Conventions Used in This Document

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.

Acronyms and terms:

downstream -
The direction from ingress to egress.
diversion -
A reclassification of an SFC packet into one or multiple parallel packets with difference SPIs where this reclassified packet or packets are, in the normal case, combined at a downstream rendezvous point which restores the original SPI.
DP -
Diversion Point - An SF implementing a diversion.
MD -
Metadata - Part of the NSH.
Network Service Header [RFC8300].
rendezvous -
The process of taking one or more corresponding SFC packets that have been diverted at an upstream DP, combining the packets if there are more than one, and restoring the original SPI.
RePIn -
Rendezvous Point Information. Metadata included in an SFC packet for use at an RP.
RP -
Rendezvous Point - An SF implementing a rendezvous.
SF -
Service Function [RFC7665].
Service Function Chaining [RFC7665].
Service Function Forwarder [RFC7665] - A type of node that forwards packets based on the NSH.
Service Function Path.
SI -
Service Index - Part of the NSH.
Service Path Identifier - Part of the NSH.
Type Length Value.
upstream -
The direction from egress to ingress.
Variable Length Context Header - A type of NSH header metadata.

2. Service Function Chaining Background

Service Function Chaining (SFC) calls for the encapsulation of traffic within a service function chaining domain using a Network Service Header (NSH [RFC8300]) added by the "Classifier" (ingress node) on entry to the domain and the NSH being removed on exit from the domain at the downstream egress node as shown in Figure 1. The NSH controls the path of a packet in an SFC domain and includes additional information.

 . .|Classifier|. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 .  +----------+                          .
 .       |          +----+                .
 .       |        --+ SF |     Service    .
 .       |       /  +----+     Function   .
 .       v    ---              Chaining   .
 .    +-----+/       +----+    domain     .
 .    | SFF |--------+ SF |               .
 .    +-----+\       +----+               .
 .       |    ---                         .
 .       |       \  +----+                .
 .       |        --+ SF |                .
 .       v          +----+                .
 .    +-----+                 +----+      .
 .    | SFF |-----------------+ SF |      .
 .    +-----+                 +----+      .
 .       |          +----+                .
 .       |        --+ SF |                .
 .       |       /  +----+                .
 .       v    ---                         .
 .    +-----+/       +----+               .
 .    | SFF |--------+ SF |               .
 .    +-----+\       +----+               .
 .       |    ---                         .
 .       |       \  +----+                .
 .       |        --+ SF |                .
 .       v          +----+                .
 .    +------+                            .
 . . .| Exit |. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Figure 1: Example SFC Path Forwarding Nodes

Traffic passes through a sequence of Service Function Forwarders (SFFs) each of which sends the traffic to one or, sequentially, more than one Service Functions (SFs). Each SF performs some operation on the traffic, for example firewall or Network Address Translation (NAT) or load balancer, and then returns it to the SFF from which it was received. There may be multiple instances of SFs performing the same function attached to the same or different SFFs.

Logically, during the transit of an SFF, the outer transport header that got the packet to the SFF is stripped (see Figure 2), the SFF decides on the next forwarding step, either (1) adding a new transport header or (2) in case of error discarding or logging the packet and not forwarding it or, (3) if the SFF is the exit/egress, removing the NSH header and then adding a new transport header. The transport used may be different in different regions of the SFC domain. For example, a version of the Internet Protocol (IP) could be used in some part and Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) used in other part of the SFC domain.

|   Outer Transport Header          |
|   Network Service Header (NSH)    |
| +------------------------------+  |
| | Base Header                  |  |
| +------------------------------+  |
| | Service Path Header          |  |
| +------------------------------+  |
| | Metadata (Context Header(s)) |  |
| +------------------------------+  |
| Original Packet / Frame / Payload |

Figure 2: Data Encapsulation with the NSH

An SF can receive one or more SFC packets from an SFF and return to it a larger or smaller number of SFC packets; that is to say, SFC packets can be discarded or created by an SF.

2.1. The Network Service Header (NSH)

The NSH header is used to encapsulate and control the subsequent path of traffic. It consists of three parts, the initial 32-bit Base Header, the 32-bit Service Path Header, and any Context Headers holding metadata, as shown in more detail in Figure 3 and specified in [RFC8300].

The Base Header includes a Length field whose value is the overall NSH length. Because the Base Header and Service Path Header are fixed length, the length of the Metadata can be computed from this Length field. The Base Header also includes a field indicating the type of metadata in the NSH.

The Service Path Header consists of a Service Path Identifier (SPI) and a Service Index (SI). The SPI identifies the logical path the packet should follow while the SI indicates which step along that path the packet is at.

An SF anywhere along a Service Function Path can re-classify an SFC packet by replacing the Service Path Identifier (SPI) and Service Index (SI) in the NSH. SFFs can also insert, delete, or change metadata (Context Header(s)) in the NSH.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
|Ver|O|U|    TTL    |   Length  |U|U|U|U|MD Type| Next Protocol |
|  Service Path Identifier                      | Service Index |
|  Optional Context Headers / Metadata                ~

Figure 3: Network Service Header Details from [RFC8300]

2.2. NSH Metadata and Variable Length Context Headers

If the MD Type field in the NSH Base Header has the value 1, there is a single fixed length 128-bit Context Header whose format is not further defined by the IETF. In that case, the NSH Length field has the value 6.

If the MD Type field has the value 2, there are zero or more Variable-Length Context Headers (VLCHs) as shown in Figure 4 at the end of the NSH. The absence of any Context Headers is indicated by using MD Type 2 and an NSH Length of 2. MD Type 0 is reserved and MD Types 3 through 15 are unassigned.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Metadata Class                | Type          |U| Length      |
|  Variable Length Metadata                           ~

Figure 4: Variable Length Context Header

The minimum size for a VLCH is 32 bits consisting of the Metadata Class, Type, one unused bit, and Length as shown in Figure 4.

The Metadata Class field is 16 bits, and its value specifies the organization under which the particular of VLCHs specified. Metadata Class zero is the IETF base class. The 8-bit Type field's value, along with the Metadata Class value, indicates the meaning of the Context Header and its Variable-Length Metadata. The size of the Length field is 7 bits and its value gives the length in octets of the Variable-Length Metadata that follows the initial fixed length portion of the VLCH. A VLCH with no Variable-Length Metadata is indicated by a Length field whose value is zero. VLCHs are padded so that they always start and end at a multiple of 4 bytes from the beginning of the NSH.

3. Requirements for Parallelism and Diversions

There are requirements to split a Service Function Chain (SFC) into two or more parallel Service Function Paths (SFPs) that later rejoin as shown in Figure 5.

                      +------+      +-----+
                ----->|SFF 2a|<---->| SF 2|
               /      +------+\     +-----+
              /                \____
             /                      \
     +-----+/         +------+       ->+-----+
---->|SFF 1|--------->|SFF 2b|-------->|SFF 3|----->
     +-----+\         +------+       ->+-----+
       /|\   \          /|\         /    /|\
        |     \          |         /      |
       \|/     \        \|/       |      \|/
     +-----+    \      +-----+    |    +-----+
     | SF 1|     \     | SF 3|    /    | SF 5|
     | DP  |      \    +-----+   /     | RP  |
     +-----+       \            /      +-----+
                    \  +------+/     +-----+
                     ->|SFF 2c|<---->| SF 4|
                       +------+      +-----+

Figure 5: Parallel Service Function Paths

For example, there may be two or more Service Functions (SFs) that can be performed in parallel with the goal, for time critical traffic such as some financial or gaming traffic, of delaying the stream of packets only by the amount of time taken by the slowest single SF; if the packets went through the SFs sequentially, the delay would be the sum of the times taken by each of the SFs. An example of such potential parallel processing might be that the SFs operate of different parts of the packet such as one SF operating on packet addressing while another operates on the information payload. Another example might be that one SF creates a signature or integrity code over parts of the packet to be inserted into the packet payload while another SF encrypts parts of the packet (or alternatively, they verify and decrypt in parallel).

Another example of desirable parallelism would be improved reliability or accuracy if the SFs executed in parallel were unreliable or were different implementations of doing the same processing. For example, some quantum computers are currently unreliable so it would be desirable to perform some quantum process several times and compare the results to pick the most common value, or a vote could be taken between the results of different implementations of some process.

In Figure 5 it could be that any of the parallel paths could have more or less than one SFF, although exactly one is shown in the example for simplicity and any of the SFFs in any of the parallel SFPs could process a packet through more than one SF, although they are shown using only one SF in Figure 5 for simplicity. (Note that while SFFs implement an SFP, SFPs logically consists of the sequence of SFs. Thus, for example, an SFP could divert into multiple parallel SFPs that rejoin at an RP all implemented through SFs off of one and the same SFF.) It could also be that one or more of the parallel paths would themselves further split into parallel paths and so on.

There are cases where it is desirable to divert an SFP so as to splice one or more added SFs into that SFP or to divert it so as to slice out one or more sequential SFs that were downstream in that SFP, as shown in Figure 6 and Figure 7. Although SF 3 in each of those two cases could re-classify the packet with a new SPI and SI that include the remainder of the new diverted path, this would require that a new SFP with this new SPI already be configured in all the SFFs for the remainder of the Service Function Path after a diversion. In the case of Figure 7, SF 3 could possibly just adjust the Service Index, but this would require relaxing any checking at SF 5 of the SPI/SI or source address of packets on the main SFP or may otherwise be undesirable.

                           +-----+       +-----+
                         ->|SFF 3| <---->| SF 4|
                        /  +-----+\      +-----+
                       /           \
    +-----+      +-----+            ->+-----+      +-----+
--->|SFF 1|----->|SFF 2| - - - - - - >|SFF 4|----->|SFF 5|--->
    +-----+      +-----+              +-----+      +-----+
      /|\          /|\                  /|\          /|\
       |            |                    |            |
      \|/          \|/                  \|/          \|/
    +-----+      +-----+              +-----+      +-----+
    | SF 1|      | SF 3|              | SF 5|      | SF 6|
    +-----+      | DP  |              | RP  |      +-----+
                 +-----+              +-----+

Figure 6: Splicing in One or More SFFs

                        /             \
                       /               \
    +-----+      +-----+      +-----+   \->+-----+
--->|SFF 1|----->|SFF 2|- - ->|SFF 4|- - ->|SFF 5|--->
    +-----+      +-----+      +-----+      +-----+
      /|\          /|\          /|\          /|\
       |            |            |            |
      \|/          \|/          \|/          \|/
    +-----+      +-----+      +-----+      +-----+
    | SF 1|      | SF 3|      | SF 5|      | SF 5|
    +-----+      | DP  |      +-----+      | RP  |
                 +-----+                   +-----+

Figure 7: Splicing out One or More SFFs

Combinations of the cases shown in Figure 5, Figure 6, and Figure 7 may be needed where a diversion such as in Figure 6 or Figure 7 occur within a parallel path as in Figure 5 or parallel paths as in Figure 5 occur within a diversion as in Figure 6. Generalizing Figure 6 and Figure 7, a diversion might splice in a path with some number of SFs that cuts out a portion of the original SFP that had some number of SFs.

Although DPs and RPs are logically Service Functions (SFs) and shown as separate boxes in the above figures, like any other SF they can be implemented as co-located with an SFF.

4. Diversion Points and Rendezvous Points

SF 1 in Figure 5 and SF 3 in Figure 6 and Figure 7 are referred to as Diversion Points (DPs) because they are nodes at which an SFP is diverted to one or more SFPs with new SPIs that are intended to rejoint/return to the original SPI at a downstream Rendezvous Point. SF 5 in Figure 5, Figure 6, and Figure 7 is referred to as a Rendezvous Point (RP) because it is the node at which one or more SFPs from an upstream DP rejoin an original SFP with an original SPI. The coresponding packets so received at an RP are merged or coordinated.

In general, an RP needs to be configured to expect SFC packets to arrive at that RP on diverted SFPs. An RP may need additional information in the SFC packets, as discussed in Section 4.1, to be included in their NSH. Divergence point behavior is discussed in Section 4.2 and RP behavior is discussed in Section 4.3.

4.1. Rendezvous Point Information (RePIn)

To recombine packets from divergent SFP(s) at a Rendezvous Point (RP), or rejoin a diverted SFP to the original SFP, additional information may be needed in the packets. This is accomplished through inclusion of the RP Information (RePIn) Variable Length Context Header (VLCH), as shown in Figure 8, in the packet's NSH.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Metadata Class = 0x0000       | Type=TBD      |U| Length      |
| Saved Service Path Identifier                 | Saved SI      |
|  Variable Length Sub-TLVs                           ~

Figure 8: RePIn VLCH

The Length field is the total length of the Variable Length Sub-TLVs in octets.

The Saved Service Path Identifier and Saved SI are the SPI and SI in the NSH of the SFC packet being diverted after entry to the DP SF and the SI has been decremented.

The Variable Length Sub-TLVs consist of zero or more RePIn VLCH Sub-TLVs. The format of a RePIn VLCH Sub-TLV is as shown in Figure 9 except for Sub-Type 1 as discussed in Section 4.1.1; however, all RePIn VLCH Sub-TLVs are padded at the end up to an even multiple of 4 octets.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Sub-Type      |X|Sub-Length   | Variable Length Metadata      ~

Figure 9: General RePIn VLCH Sub-TLV

The Sub-Type field is an 8-bit unsigned integer that is always present and indicates the format of the rest of the Sub-TLV. The X bit may be assigned a meaning for particular Sub-Types; if no such meaning is assigned for a particular Sub-Type, the X bit MUST be sent as zero and ignored on receipt. Sub-Length is an unsigned integer giving the length of the variable length metadata in octets.

Unless the specification for a RePIn VLCH Sub-TLV Sub-Type specifies that there may be multiple occurrences of that Sub-TLV, it may only be included once. If there are multiple instances, the first occurrence is used with any subsequent occurrences being ignored.

4.1.1. Packet Identifier

When an SFC packet is replicated and diverted to more than one parallel path to be merged back together at a Rendezvous Point (RP), a method of matching packets is needed such as labeling each copy that originated with the same packet before the split using a packet identifier such as a packet counter, fine grained time stamp, or hash code. Such an identifier might already exist in the packet, for example a TCP sequence number. If not, it is included as a VLCH special Sub-TLV as shown below. Use of a packet counter is RECOMMENDED.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Sub-Type=1    | Packet Identifier                             |

Figure 10: Packet Identifier Special Sub-TLV

Because this is expected to be a common RePIn VLCH Sub-TLV, in order to save octets, for this Sub-Type only, the "Sub-TLV" X and Sub-Length fields are subsumed into the Packet Identifier field.

4.1.2. Packet Extent Modified

If two or more SFPs used in parallel have modified parts of a packet, the RP may need additional information to be able to recombine the different copies of the packet it will be receiving. As an example of the complexities involved, an SF could change the length of part of a packet in a way dependent on the content of that part such as by applying a data compression or de-compression algorithm to part of the packet or by conditionally inserting or removing a VLAN tag depending on addressing information.

In simple cases such as parallel SFPs that modify fixed size disjoint parts of a packet without changing the size of those parts, it may be possible for an RP to be configured to recombine the results without added information. But in more complex or variable length cases, parallel SFPs need to add information as to what part of the original packet they modified and how this may have changed the length of that part. Also, with such additional information, in some cases only one of the parallel SFPs would need to forward all of the original packet with modifications to the RP; one or more other parallel SFPs could just forward their modified part and the RP would be able to recombine the results thus saving communications link capacity that would be used if they all sent full packets.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Sub-Type=2    |X|Sub-Length=6 | Offset                        |
| Priority      | Original Size         | Modified Size         |

Figure 11: Packet Extent Modified Sub-TLV

If the X bit is zero, the entire modified packet is present in the SFC packet. If the X bit is a one, only the modified portion appears in the packet which requires any SFs between the SF that modified the packet and the RP to be capable of handling such an abbreviated packet.

Offset is the number of bits between the end of the NSH or the last NSH if there are multiple stacked NSHs and the portion of the packet being modified. Original Size and Modified Size are the size in bits of the portion being modified before and after that modification. Any of the Offset, Original Size, and Modified Size fields may have the value zero.

If parallel SFPs have modified the same or overlapping parts of a packet, the RP may need some way to resolve this conflict which could include a relative priority for changes made by different SFs configured at the RP and/or indicated in the RP Information (RePIn) or from other sources. The Priority field MAY be used for this purpose; it contains an unsigned integer where a larger magnitude value indicates a higher priority that would prevail over a lower priority. If not used, the Priority field MUST be sent as zero and ignored on receipt.

If a path has modified more than one portion of a packet, multiple instance of the Packet Extent Modified Sub-TLV can be included in the RePIn VLCH. If any Packet Extent Modified Sub-TLV Sub-Lenth is any value other than 6, the meta-data is corrupt, the packet is silently discarded, and an error SHOULD be logged.

4.1.3. Saved Metadata

A DP may need to save Metadata so it will not be seen inside a diversion and will be restored at the RP. This Sub-TLV is used for that purpose. See Section 4.2 and 4.3 for further details on the use of this sub-TLV.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Sub-Type=3    |X| Sub-Length  | MBZ                   |MetaTyp|
| Variable Length Saved Metadata                  ~

Figure 12: Saved Metadata Sub-TLV

The X and MBZ bits MUST be sent as zero and ignored on receipt. MetaTyp is the MD Type of Metadata saved. The presence of the MBZ field causes the saved metadata to be aligned on a multiple of 4 octets.

4.1.4. Saved TTL

The TTL limits the number of SFs that can be traversed between ingress and egress. The packet is discarded if the TTL is exhausted. This is a safety measure to defend against infinite or very large loops due to malfunctions, configuration error, or other reasons. Thus, the RECOMMENDED mode of operation is to use a TTL value that is decremented continuously from original SFC domain ingress to final SFC egress including throughout any diversions. If the TTL is reset on entry to a diversion, then the Saved TTL Sub-TLV MUST be used so that the previous TTL can be restored at the diversion's RP.

Note that resetting the TTL on entry to a diversion opens the possibility for loop where a diversion diverts to itself or there are two diversions X and Y where X diverts to Y and Y diverts to X or more complex scenarios all of which are made safe by using a continuous TTL and unsafe by resetting the TTL on diversion entry. Such loops will result in a growing amount of metadata which might safely lead to packet discard or unsafely cause repeated fragmentation.

If, despite the above warning, it is desired to reset the TTL at the DP and restore it at the RP, the Saved TTL Sub-TLV as shown below is used.

 0                   1                   2                   3
 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| Sub-Type=4    |X| Sub-Length=2| MBZ           | Saved TTL     |

Figure 13: Saved TTL Sub-TLV

The X and MBZ bits MUST be sent as zero and ignored on receipt. The Saved TTL is the value of the TTL field copied from the NSH after its initial decrement on entering the DP SF. If the Saved TTL Sub-TLV Sub-Lenth is any value other than 2, the meta-data is corrupt, the packet is silently discarded, and an error SHOULD be logged.

4.2. Diversion Point (DP) Behavior

If it is desired to simply skip some SFs in an SFP, a diversion may not be necessary. The SI can simply be decreased to that for the next SF desired if the SFF to which the SF/DP that reduces the SI returns the packet can handle that reduced SI value and forward the packet to the appropriate SFF. Otherwise, the procedure below in this section is used and this procedure MAY be used even in cases where simple reduction of the SI would work.

If the RP can recognize diverted SFC packets and modify/merge them appropriately to restore them to the original SFP with appropriate Metadata, then inserting a RePIn VLCH might not be needed. In other cases take the steps below. This is a logical procedure and any procedure can be used that results in the same diverted SFC packet(s).

  1. Construct a RePIn VLCH containing the SPI and SI from the NSH and then change those fields in the NSH to the diversion SPI and SI. If diversion is to multiple parallel SFPs, make a copy of the SFC packet for each diversion, then construct a VLCH and modify the NSH as in the previous sentence for each one of the parallel paths. Then perform the following steps to each modified copy and its corresponding RePIn VLCH.
  2. If it will be necessary for the RP to merge the modified copies of the original SFC packet sent over parallel paths or if the RP needs to restore a particular ordering to packets, then add a Packet Identification Sub-TLV to the RePIn VLCH unless sufficient information is available in the packet payload for the RP to do so without a Packet Identification Sub-TLV.
  3. Take any Metadata from the original NSH that should be restored at the RP and add it to the RePIn VLCH as a Saved Metadata Sub-TLV. If the NSH already has any RePIn VLCHs, they need not be saved as they will be masked by the new RePIn VLCH that will be inserted before them (this indicates that a diversion from a diversion is being created). To save space, any Metadata that has been saved in the RePIn VLCH and is not needed in the diversion SFP SHOULD be removed from the NSH if MD Type 2 and MUST be removed from the NSH if MD Type 1. (In the Type 1 case, this converts the NSH to MD Type 2 with no Metadata.)
  4. If it is desired to use a new value for the NSH TTL in the diversion, with the old value restored at the RP, add a Saved TTL Sub-TLV to the RePIn VLCH and set the TTL in the NSH to a configured value which may be dependent on the diversion being entered. This is NOT RECOMMENDED as discussed in Section 4.1.4.
  5. The RePIn VLCH constructed as above is inserted into an NSH as in the subpoints below:

    5.a. If, after the above step 3, the initial NSH in the SFC packet is MD Type 2, insert the RePIn VLCH constructed above before any existing RePIn VLCH in the NSH.

    5.b. If, after the above step 3, the initial NSH in the SFC packet is MD Type 1, this implies that there is Type 1 metadata that may be needed by one or more SFs in the diversion. If the SFs in the diversion can handle stacked NSHs, insert an MD Type 2 NSH copied from the initial NSH except for metadata, after the initial MD Type 1 NSH to hold the RePIn VLCH. Handling stacks NSHs means the SF (or its proxy) can parse through them to find the needed metadata and the payload to operate on and, if the SF generates packets, can create them with appropriate stacked NSHs. If the SFs in the diversion cannot handle stacked NSHes, the creation of the diversion is beyond the scope of this document.

  6. Perform such other functions or modifications to the metadata or other parts of the SFC packet as are appropriate based on the saved or new SPI or other factors.
  7. Transmit the modified packets.

The addition of Metadata and possible additional NSH header (see step 5.b above) may lead to fragmentation or decreased payload Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) in some networks.

4.3. Rendezvous Point (RP) Behavior

A RP will have been configured to know the SFC packet SPI and SI values in diverted packets for which it is to perform the RP service. The SI is decremented when an SFC packet is received by an SF; for an RP this might decrement the SI to zero. The RP performs the steps below. If the RP can restore diverted SFC packets to their former SFP and, to the extent necessary, match and merge diverted packets received over parallel paths and correctly order the resulting SFC packets, without the presence of a RePIn VLCH, it does so and the remainder of this section is inapplicable. If not, the following logical procedure or any procedure resulting in the same SFC packet is used.

  1. Steps 2 and 3 below are performed on each diverted packet received by the RP. If the RP is merging parallel diversions, step 4 is then performed on the set of matching packets. In this case and any case where the RP should restore packet order, the RP must be prepared to buffer packets until they can be processed and forwarded. Overflow of such a buffer will result in lost packets and SHOULD be logged as an error. How long to wait for missing diverted packets and what action to take if it is decided they have been lost are application and implementation dependent. Finally, Step 5 is performed.
  2. Find and remove the first RePIn VLCH in the diverted packet. This is referred to below as the removed VLCH. It might be in a second stacked NSH if the initial NSH has MD Type 1.
  3. Restore the packet from the diversion through the sub-steps listed below.

    3.a. If there is a Saved TTL in the removed VLCH, restore the old TTL into the initial NSH.

    3.b. Restore the saved SPI and SI from the removed RePIn VLCH into the initial NSH.

    3.c. Restore metadata as follows:

    3.c.1. Restore any MD Type 2 Saved Metadata from the removed VLCH into the NSH from which that VLCH was removed.

    3.c.2. If there is MD Type 1 Saved Metadata in the removed VLCH and there is an initial MD Type 1 NSH in the packet, replace the MD Type 1 metadata with the saved MD Type 1 metadata.

    3.c.3. If there is MD Type 1 Saved Metadata in the removed VLCH and there is an initial MD Type 2 NSH in the packet, insert a new initial NSH into the packet which is a copy of that MD Type 2 NSH except that it is MD Type 1 with the saved MD Type 1 metadata.

    3.d. If, at this point, the packet starts with an MD Type 1 NSH followed by an MD Type 2 NSH with no metadata, remove that 2nd NSH.

  4. Match up SFC packets arriving at the RP through parallel paths using the Packet Identification Sub-TLV in the removed RePIn VLCH or using some other technique. For each matching set, perform the sub-steps below. Arbitrarily select one of the matching diverted packets to modify into the merged packet unless configured to use some particular diverted packet such as the one received over a particular diversion. This is referred to below as the merged packet even before the merger is complete.

    4.a For error checking, any saved SPI and SI in the matching packets SHOULD be compared and an error logged if they are not identical.

    4.b For safety, it is RECOMMENDED that the minimum NSH TTL from the parallel SFC packets be copied into the merged packet.

    4.c Depending on the application and implementation, the remaining metadata in the merged packet may be used or updated based on the remaining Metadata in the other packets being merged. How to do this is beyond the scope of this document.

    4.d The payloads of the other packets being merged, that is the portion after any NSHs, are used to update the payload in the merged packet. This may be based on RP configuration for the application or Packet Extent Modified Sub-TLVs in the removed RePIn VLCHs or a combination of these.

  5. Perform such other functions or modifications to the metadata or other parts of the SFC packet as are appropriate based on the saved or new SPI or other factors.
  6. Trasnmit the merged packet.

5. IANA Considerations

The following subsections provide IANA assignment considerations.

5.1. Variable Length Context Header Type

IANA is requested to assign a variable length context header type from the "NSH IETF-Assigned Optional Variable-Length Metadata Types" registry as follows:

Table 1
Value Description Reference
TDB Rendezvous Point Information (RePIn) [this document]

5.2. RePIn VLCH Sub-Types

IANA is requested to create a sub-registry under the "NSH IETF-Assigned Optional Variable-Length Metadata Types" registry as follows

Name: Sub-TLVs under the Type TBD Variable Length Context Header

Registration Procedure: Expert Review

Reference: [this document]

Table 2
Sub-Type Description Reference
0 reserved [this document]
1 Packet Identifier [this document]
2 Packet Extent Modified [this document]
3 Saved Metadata [this document]
4 Saved TTL [this document]
5-254 unassigned [this document]
255 reserved [this document]

6. Security Consideration

For general SFC and NSH security considerations, see [RFC8300].

More TBD...

7. Normative References

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, , <>.
Quinn, P., Ed., Elzur, U., Ed., and C. Pignataro, Ed., "Network Service Header (NSH)", RFC 8300, DOI 10.17487/RFC8300, , <>.

8. Informative References

"LS on recent service function chaining related developments in Q4/SG11: two new draft Supplements", ITU-T SG11-LS-179, , <>.
Halpern, J., Ed. and C. Pignataro, Ed., "Service Function Chaining (SFC) Architecture", RFC 7665, DOI 10.17487/RFC7665, , <>.
Dolson, D., Homma, S., Lopez, D., and M. Boucadair, "Hierarchical Service Function Chaining (hSFC)", RFC 8459, DOI 10.17487/RFC8459, , <>.

Appendix A. Relation to Hierarchical SFC

Experimental [RFC8459] describes "Hierarchical SFC" in which SFs in a higher level SFP can be entire lower level SFPs with a different SPI and where the higher level SPI is restored at the end of the lower level SFP. This is similar to a diversion in this document. The Internal Boundary Nodes (IBNs) in [RFC8459] that transition an SFC packet between the higher and lower levels are similar to DPs/RPs in the terminology of this document.

Experimental [RFC8459] discusses a wide variety of mechanisms to implement Hierarchical SFC while this document looks toward specifying a more specific set of mechanisms as a Proposed Standard to support parallelism and other types of diversions.

Author's Address

Donald E. Eastlake 3rd
Futurewei Technologies
2386 Panoramic Circle
Apopka, Florida 32703
United States of America