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Open Shortest Path First (OSPF)

Open Shortest Path First is a true link state protocol developed as an open standard for routing IP across large multi-vendor networks. A link state protocol will send link state advertisements to all connected neighbors of the same area to communicate route information. Each OSPF enabled router, when started, will send hello packets to all directly connected OSPF routers. The hello packets contain information such as router timers, router ID and subnet mask. If the routers agree on the information they become OSPF neighbors. Once routers become neighbors they establish adjacencies by exchanging link state databases. Routers on point-to-point and point-to-multipoint links (as specified with the OSPF interface type setting) automatically establish adjacencies. Routers with OSPF interfaces configured as broadcast (Ethernet) and NBMA (Frame Relay) will use a designated router that establishes those adjacencies.


OSPF uses a hierarchy with assigned areas that connect to a core backbone of routers. Each area is defined by one or more routers that have established adjacencies. OSPF has defined backbone area 0, stub areas, not-so-stubby areas and totally stubby areas. Area 0 is built with a group of routers connected at a designated office or by WAN links across several offices. It is preferable to have all area 0 routers connected with a full mesh using an Ethernet segment at a core office. This provides for high performance and prevents partitioning of the area should a router connection fail. Area 0 is a transit area for all traffic from attached areas. Any inter-area traffic must route through area 0 first. Stub areas use a default route injected from the ABR to forward traffic destined for any external routes (LSA 5,7) to the area border router. Inter-area (LSA 3,4) and intra-area (LSA 1,2) routing is as usual. Totally Stubby areas are a Cisco specification that uses a default route injected from the ABR for all Inter-area and external routes. The Totally Stubby area doesn’t advertise or receive external or Inter-area LSA’s. The Not-So-Stubby area ABR is a transit area that will import external routes with type 7 LSA and flood them to other areas as type 5 LSA. External routes aren’t received at that area type. Inter-area and intra-area routing is as usual. OSPF defines internal routers, backbone routers, area border routers (ABR) and autonomous system boundary routers (ASBR). Internal routers are specific to one area. Area border routers have interfaces that are assigned to more than one area such as area 0 and area 10. An autonomous system boundary router has interfaces assigned to OSPF and a different routing protocol such as EIGRP or BGP. A virtual link is utilized when an area doesn’t have a direct connection to area 0. A virtual link is established between an area border router for an area that isn’t connected to area 0, and an area border router for an area that is connected to area 0. Area design involves considering geographical location of offices and traffic flows across the enterprise. It is important to be able to summarize addresses for many offices per area and minimize broadcast traffic.


Fast convergence is accomplished with the SPF (Dijkstra) algorithm which determines a shortest path from source to destination. The routing table is built from running SPF which determines all routes from neighbor routers. Since each OSPF router has a copy of the topology database and routing table for its particular area, any route changes are detected faster than with distance vector protocols and alternate routes are determined.

Designated Router

Broadcast networks such as Ethernet and Non-Broadcast Multi Access networks such as Frame Relay have a designated router (DR) and a backup designated router (BDR) that are elected. Designated routers establish adjacencies with all routers on that network segment. This is to reduce broadcasts from all routers sending regular hello packets to its neighbors. The DR sends multicast packets to all routers that it has established adjacencies with. If the DR fails, it is the BDR that sends multicasts to specific routers. Each router is assigned a router ID, which is the highest assigned IP address on a working interface. OSPF uses the router ID (RID) for all routing processes.


Link State
Routes IP
Routing Advertisements: Partial When Route Changes Occur
Metric: Composite Cost of each router to Destination (100,000,000/interface speed)
Hop Count: None (Limited by Network)
Variable Length Subnet Masks
Summarization on Network Class Address or Subnet Boundary
Load Balancing Across 4 Equal Cost Paths
Router Types: Internal, Backbone, ABR, ASBR
Area Types: Backbone, Stubby, Not-So-Stubby, Totally Stubby
LSA Types: Intra-Area (1,2) Inter-Area (3,4), External (5,7)
Fast Hello Timer Interval: 250 msec. for Ethernet, 30 seconds for Non-Broadcast
Dead Timer Interval: 1 second for Ethernet, 120 seconds for Non-Broadcast
Bidirectional Forwarding Detection (BFD) Support
LSA Multicast Address: and (DR/BDR) Don’t Filter!
Interface Types: Point to Point, Broadcast, Non-Broadcast, Point to Multipoint, Loopback