Re: [Roll] Border router failure detection

Konrad Iwanicki <> Wed, 21 April 2021 08:38 UTC

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From: Konrad Iwanicki <>
To: Routing Over Low power and Lossy networks <>, "Pascal Thubert (pthubert)" <>
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Subject: Re: [Roll] Border router failure detection
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Hi Pascal,

Thanks for reading the draft in such a great depth!

A short answer to your questions: sentinel selection and other issues 
you mention are very much dependent on a particular deployment (i.e., 
network topology, application, other technologies used with RPL); RNFD 
thus focuses on providing mechanism for enforcing deployment-specific 
policies in that matter, including possibilities for dynamically 
changing the policies at runtime.

A much longer answer follows.

On 14/04/2021 16:47, Pascal Thubert (pthubert) wrote:
> At an abstract level I see your proposal as a form of BFD where the network assesses the liveliness of the root. The operation is done by a number of representatives that must agree that the root is gone. The draft does a good job at addressing the Byzantine problem once we know who the generals are, but it's unclear to me how they are elected and how they converse.

This intuition is correct. Just one remark to be precise: the algorithm 
assumes no Byzantine nodes, merely ones that may have incorrect 
observations about the state of the DODAG root but otherwise follow the 

> That's a family of questions around the issue of how we avoid false positive. Seems that the more sentinels the less of them. But the less efficient the algorithm is.

I think this intuition is by and large justified. However, it need not 
be correct formally, especially if one considers corner cases. Let me 
try to build up more intuition, which will hopefully also clarify some 
of my answers to your detailed questions.

To start with, as you pointed up above, the decision that the root is 
down is a collective one. It is based on observations of multiple 
sentinel nodes. Each observation regards the direct link between the 
corresponding sentinel and the root. The observations are communicated 
between nodes---both sentinels and acceptors---in CFRCs. A decision 
based on such accumulated observations can be made by any node: sentinel 
or acceptor.

It is important to note that "multiple" here means a number above some 
threshold, referred to in the draft as RNFD_CONSENSUS_THRESHOLD. The 
threshold should be reasonably large (e.g., more than 50%). However, it 
should not be too large (in particular, equal to 100%) because some 
sentinels may be dead as well or may be too slow detecting the failure.

Formally, this implies that false positives are unavoidable. For 
example, assume that you have N>=3 sentinels, your threshold is 51%, 1 
sentinel is certain that the root is up while the other N-1 sentinels 
claim the opposite, and the root is actually up and communicating with 
the 1 sentinel. In such a case, the N-1 sentinels claiming that the root 
is dead will outvote the 1 sentinel claiming otherwise and a global 
decision will be made that the root has crashed, which---formally---is a 
false positive irrespective of how large N is. What will happen is that, 
being able to communicate with the 1 sentinel, the root will learn the 
decision and rapidly initiate DODAG rebuilding by generating a new DODAG 
Version. In the new version, the N-1 old sentinels will likely not be 
sentinels anymore because they will not satisfy the necessary condition 
(unless their connectivity to the root is restored).

Are such false positives bad? A sentinel claims that the root is dead if 
and only if its link with the root seems to be down. If a significant 
number of sentinels (e.g., more than the aforementioned 50%) claim this, 
then something undesirable must have happened to the connectivity within 
the DODAG. Therefore, in practice, even if the root has not crashed, it 
may make a lot of sense to rebuild the DODAG to account for the 
connectivity changes, especially since RPL's rank assignment algorithms 
may preclude some nodes from assigning ranks significantly larger than 
their minimal ones.

Is there anything to be done to prevent such rebuilding from disrupting 
routing? First of all, if so many links are broken to make nodes believe 
that the root is dead, then routing is likely already significantly 
disrupted. Nevertheless, one may still want to avoid all nodes emptying 
their parent sets, which happens when RNFD's LORS transits to GLOBALLY 
DOWN. In this case, the root may act proactively, as mentioned in 
paragraph 2, Section 5.5 of the draft:

     It [the root] MAY also generate a new DODAG Version if fraction
     value(NegativeCFRC)/value(PositiveCFRC) approaches
     RNFD_CONSENSUS_THRESHOLD, so as to avoid potential interruptions
     to routing.

For example, if the fraction exceeds 50% or 80% of the aforementioned 
threshold. Also, additional solutions are possible to further alleviate 
the problem but I think we have never needed to implement them, and 
hence they are omitted in the draft.

So let's proceed to your detailed questions.

> - do the sentinels encompass all first hop nodes?

The formal answer is "not necessarily", which is what the draft states: 
to be sentinel a node must be a first-hop node but not every first-hop 
node has to be sentinel.

The practical answer is that if one can accommodate all such nodes as 
sentinels (see the next question), then why not.

> - how do we compute the right number of sentinels?

The formal answer is that an optimal selection of sentinels depends on a 
number of deployment-specific factors and may thus be extremely hard to 

Therefore, rather than an exact formula describing the number (and the 
placement) of sentinels, it is better to think in terms of trade-offs, 
precisely as in your intuition:
- on the one hand, the more sentinels and the higher the decision 
threshold, the more "confidence" one can feel about their decisions on 
the root's crashes being correct but
- on the other hand, the greater the overhead in that: the larger the 
CFRCs (which implies longer DIOs, possibly even fragmented), the more 
trickle timer resets, and potentially the more load on the root during 
suspicion verification.
Given this, ideally, to select root's neighbors acting as sentinels, one 
would do a thorough statistical analysis factoring in all major risks. 
This may also be too difficult, though.

My practical, experience-based recommendation for the sentinel selection 
procedure is thus roughly as follows:
1. Select the CFRC size such that the RNFD Option fits a DIO without 
causing too much overhead (especially to avoid fragmentation).
2. Let the root's neighbors become sentinels at random and gradually 
adapt their behavior such that PositiveCFRCs do not fill up (as 
described in Section 6) of the draft. More specifically,
- start with all neighbors having the possibility of becoming sentinels;
- if PositiveCFRCs do fill up (without a significant increase in 
NegativeCFRC), decrease the probability of becoming sentinel by half and 
issue a new DODAG version (this can be done autonomously by the 
individual nodes observing filling up of PositiveCFRC);
- repeat the last step unless satisfied.
3. Furthermore, if some of the root's neighbors tend to switch roles too 
often or have unstable links to the root, blacklist them from becoming 
sentinels (again, this can be done autonomously by the nodes -- they can 
4. Finally, if RNFD experiences too many false positives nevertheless 
(which at this point probably means that the root is poorly connected in 
general), simply disable the algorithm (never happened in our deployments).
To give some absolute numbers, I would aim at ~10, at most ~20 sentinels 
with stable links to the root. In the end, they are just representatives 
of the root's neighbors' population.

After going though this a few times, one will probably have a good 
setting of initial parameters for similar deployments and the particular 
technologies employed with RPL. In effect, one would have to fine-tune 
them only in extreme cases, like ultra-sparse or ultra-dense networks.

What I am trying to convey here is that sentinel selection is a matter 
of managing the network rather than a responsibility of the RNFD 
protocol itself. The protocol strives to provide only mechanisms that 
enable effective management by network administrators. Equipped with 
such tools, it is the administrators who will come up with the best 
management policies, which are inherently deployment-specific. What is 
more, the mechanisms provided by RNFD allow for having the policy 
enforcement automated to a large extent.

> - do the sentinels needs direct connectivity to one another?

No. The sentinels alone do not even need to form a connected graph on 
their own (decisions are made by sentinels or acceptors), which makes 
the algorithm really broadly applicable (including the aforementioned 
possibility of random sentinel selection and robustness to some of the 
security threats mentioned earlier by Michael).

> - how quick should the protocol react ?

This also depends on the particular technologies one uses RPL with. At 
worst, RNFD must react as soon as routing adjacency maintenance at a 
root's neighbor acting as sentinel detects that the link to the root is 
down. More aggressive approaches can be adopted though, especially since 
for some neighbor unreachability detection solutions, the precise 
convergence criteria need not be straightforward to infer.

> - I mean, if the root reboots, is that worth the hassle of breaking and forming the DODAG again?

This also depends on a particular deployment, the duration of the 
reboot, and other technologies that RPL is used with (e.g., how quickly 
a link failure is detected by routing adjacency maintenance). In our 
settings, an immediate LBR reboot could pass undetected, unless we did 
not want it to. In this context, I believe that one DODAG rebuilding due 
to an LBR reboot probably does not hurt. However, repeated reboots may 
indicate some problems with the LBR that may require attention, 
irrespective of whether RNFD is used or not.

> - do the sentinels form a connected group ? how ? if not, what happens if one group loose connectivity to the root but the other does not?

Ad 1.
No (see one of the previous answers).

Ad 2.

Ad 3.
To answer precisely, one would need to know the sizes of the groups with 
respect to the total number of sentinels and the decision threshold. In 
short, in a pessimistic scenario in which in addition to the crash of 
the root the whole network partitions into multiple groups none of which 
has enough sentinels to exceed the decision threshold, RNFD would not 
detect the crash in any of the groups; it would be detected with RPL's 
own mechanisms, which are much slower though (provided RPL is correctly 

To close this e-mail, I would like to emphasize that, as mentioned in 
the draft, RNFD is inherently probabilistic. It can significantly 
improve RPL's performance in a wide range of deployment settings. 
However, like for any other protocol, this range is not infinite, and 
beyond it, no gains will be observed. Similarly, like any other 
protocol, it may require some maintenance, but this maintenance can be 
largely automated. Finally, should such a need arise, RNFD can always be 
disabled at runtime.

Once again, thank you for your insightful questions Pascal.

Best regards,
- Konrad Iwanicki.

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Roll <> On Behalf Of Konrad Iwanicki
>> Sent: jeudi 8 avril 2021 23:20
>> To: Routing Over Low power and Lossy networks <>; Pascal
>> Thubert (pthubert) <>
>> Subject: Re: [Roll] Border router failure detection
>> Hi again Pascal,
>> On 08/04/2021 16:16, Pascal Thubert (pthubert) wrote:
>>> Hello Konrad
>>> About this text
>>> "
>>>      Since all DODAG paths lead to the corresponding LBR, detecting its
>>>      crash by a node entails dropping all parents and adopting an
>> infinite
>>>      rank, which reflects the node's inability to reach the LBR.
>> However,
>>>      achieving this state for all nodes is slow, can generate heavy
>>>      traffic, and is difficult to implement correctly [Iwanicki16]
>>>      [Paszkowska19] [Ciolkosz19].
>>> "
>>> Please note that this may be what an implementation decides to do, but
>> is by far not my favorite option.
>>> The alternate is to rest the "G" but and become floating root. The
>> benefit is that the DODAG structure is mostly maintained and that routing
>> inside may persist.
>>> See for how to
>> configure this.
>> OK, I think I addressed this in my previous e-mail to you and Michael.
>> (The next two e-mails will have to wait till tomorrow I am affraid.)
>> Best,
>> --
>> - Konrad Iwanicki.
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: Roll <> On Behalf Of Konrad Iwanicki
>>>> Sent: mercredi 7 avril 2021 21:37
>>>> To: Routing Over Low power and Lossy networks <>
>>>> Subject: Re: [Roll] Border router failure detection
>>>> Dear all,
>>>> Approximately a year ago, I joined the WG and advertised an extension
>>>> to RPL that I had been working on for some time with a goal of
>>>> describing it in a draft. Unfortunately, just when I got the
>>>> necessary pointers and a few initial comments, the pandemic broke
>>>> out. The resulting surge of professional and personal obligations
>>>> made it literally impossible for me to participate in and, at some
>>>> point, even follow the group's activities, for which I am sorry.
>>>> However, I did strive to regularly find a little time to get somewhat
>>>> acquainted with IETF's procedures and write up something that may
>>>> resemble a draft. I have just submitted it as:
>>>>       draft-iwanicki-roll-rnfd-00
>>>> and created a dedicated repository on the group's GitHub.
>>>> Since I have no experience writing IETF documents, I would really
>>>> appreciate your collaboration on either turning the text into a true
>>>> draft or concluding that this should not be done.
>>>> Please, keep mind in mind that I decided to maximally cut down the
>>>> original algorithms, so that the extension is as simple as possible
>>>> without losing key properties. Therefore, it is likely that if the
>>>> extension as a whole or any of its parts turn out relevant or
>>>> interesting, still a considerable amount of work may be necessary to
>>>> have it or them described properly. Your contribution is most welcome.
>>>> Thanks in advance.
>>>> Best regards,
>>>> --
>>>> - Konrad Iwanicki.
>>>> _______________________________________________
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