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6 PNNI

ATM Basics, Version 1.6

T.O.P. BusinessInteractive GmbH

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6.1 Introduction ..................................................................................3 6.2 Features ........................................................................................4 6.3 Foundations for Dynamic Routing ..............................................5 6.4.1 Hello Packets .............................................................................6 6.4.2 Link State Algorithm .................................................................7 6.4.3 Peer Group Leaders (1/2) ..........................................................8 6.4.3 Peer Group Leaders (2/2) ..........................................................9 6.5 How PNNI operates (1/2) ............................................................ 10 6.5 How PNNI operates (2/2) ............................................................ 11

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6.1 Introduction

Public/Private Network Node Interface (PNNI) is a protocol able to dynamically set up and close down virtual circuits across an ATM network.It is a signalling protocol which sets up connections based on routing information. It is also a routing protocol which distributes information on reachability, capacity and QoS within the network. The basic functionality of PNNI is based on the fact that the network and its switches are constantly kept up to date as to the transmission circumstances, so that data can be sent to its destination over the best route possible. PNNI has been specified for private networks. But due to its flexibility regarding its size, and due to its robustness, it can also be used in public networks. Many things suggest that an official NNI signalling standard will be based to a great extent on PNNI.

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6.2 Features

Let's take a brief look at the most important PNNI features:


Information on ATM network topology is shared by all the switches on the network. This optimizes routing and increases its flexibility. PNNI works both at node-to-node and at network-to-network interfaces. The organization of switches into hierarchical groups allows the system's scalability. Switches can set up routing tables containing topology information. Crankback is possible. This means that data can be sent back from a node to the source node, from where an alternative route across the network will be tried.

The PNNI interface specification uses a Link State Algorithm (LSA) to distribute routing information in the network and thus keep it up to date.

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6.3 Foundations for Dynamic Routing

Let' s consider an ATM network with several switches, which would be suitable for PNNI. The switches are physically interconnected. Without PNNI, every switch would need a complete overview of the whole network. It would have to know every switch, port, connection, endpoint and QoS feature. This flood of information would take up the switches' capacity to an extent that efficient routing would hardly be possible anymore. To route a call dynamically and efficiently across an ATM network, the following things must be established: - A unique addressing system: the ATM address we discussed in module 3 is 20 bytes and consists of three parts a 13 byte prefix, which allows data to be routed to its destination edge switch; a 6 byte End Station Identifier (ESI) for identification of the hosts or LECs belonging to the switch, and a 1 byte selector to identify different services on the host, like LECS, LES or BUS. Every ATM switch port has an ATM address. - A User-to-Network Signaling System (UNI): call set-up information to the local switch, e.g. the ATM address of the destination device plus the QoS parameters, is exchanged through this interface between the host and the ATM network. - Finally, a Network-to-Network Signalling System is required: this protocol detects all the switches on the network, generates a topological database, then it routes data to the destination computer using a hierarchical addressing mechanism.

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6.4.1 Hello Packets

To reduce the organizational effort for the individual switches, PNNI forms switch groups. This is done as follows. At the beginning, all the PNNI nodes send out "hello packets" over all the connected interfaces for neighbour discovery. By doing so, the neighbouring nodes exchange their ID numbers. All the nodes with the same ID number form a so-called logical peer group, e.g. group 202. Nodes with at least one connection to a different group are called border nodes. Grouping is a hierarchical process: a number of groups can form a higher group, and so on. This allows structural selection and backtracking of routes in data transfer.

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6.4.2 Link State Algorithm

All the nodes in a peer group exchange link state information using the Link State Algorithm (LSA). The information is packed into PNNI Topology State Packets (PTSP). These contain information on the physical links that are currently possible, the currently reachable addresses, the supported QoS, the available virtual circuits, and so on. This allows all the switches in a peer group to set up an identical network database, which can be used during connection set-up to find the most efficient route from source to destination. Such a message is sent within a group only after a change in the link state. This is called the convergence principle.

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6.4.3 Peer Group Leaders (1/2)

The nodes within a peer group elect a group leader. The selection can occur based on a configured priority number, or the node with the lowest address is picked out. Different leaders establish logical connections between each other and exchange general group information. Thus each group leader receives as little information as possible, but still as much as necessary, and thus has the necessary overview of the network.

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6.4.3 Peer Group Leaders (2/2)

The group leaders see a simplified, logical topology of the network. Nevertheless, a group leader has a detailed overview of its own group, including the border nodes, and as a consequence, the physical connections to the neighbouring groups. Group leaders forward their simplified version of the network's topology to the members of their group. Thus, every PNNI node gets a detailed knowledge of its own group, as well as a logical overview of the complete network, so it knows how other groups can be contacted. Please note that the beginning of an end station address always matches with the address sequence of the group the end station is connected to.

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6.5 How PNNI operates (1/2)

Let's look at the following example to understand how PNNI works. An end station wants to set up a connection and sends an appropriate request to the connected switch over the UNI interface. It contains the parameters required for the connection that is to be established. The switch must find out whether or not it has the required resources. To do this, the switch carries out a Connection Admission Control (CAC) algorithm. To be able to determine a route across the complete network to the destination, the switch then carries out a Generic Connection Admission Control (GCAC). The GCAC gives a prediction as to whether the following switches between the source and the destination will be able to support the connection. Of course, the first switch cannot perform a full CAC, since it has only a generic overview of the network and cannot consider sudden changes in the netload. After the GCAC algorithm has been carried out, the switch compiles a list containing the planned network route for the requested connection. This list is the Designated Transmit List (DTL). The DTL is added to the set-up message and sent to the next node along the planned route. During connection set-up this list is gradually completed. A route through the network is built up. The intermediate switches use the information in the DTL to route subsequent traffic. This is also referred to as source routing.

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6.5 How PNNI operates (2/2)

Of course, in a dynamic network environment like ATM, the traffic situation can change faster than the PNNIs are kept up to date. For example, a call set-up message could reach the switch over the planned route. But as soon as it gets there, it turns out that the available bandwidth has already been assigned to another connection. In this case the PNNI can initiate a crankback; in other words, the message is sent back to the preceding node and then an alternative route is tried. In case of doubt, the crankback can reach the first switch of the route. In principle, crankback works according to the hierarchical PNNI structure. Once the connection has been successfully established, i.e. as soon as the CAC has been passed through all the interfaces, a Call Confirm message is sent back to the source. Communication can start.

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