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A BGPv4 daemon to distribute an infrequently-changing set of static routes
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by Matthew Bloch

bgpfeeder is a program to feed a BGPv4 speaker with an infrequently changing list of static internal routes. We use it at Bytemark to rearrange routing information from our "network organiser" database, to avoid staff having to log in to core routers to effect common routing changes. We also use it to communicate with transit providers to communicate "black hole" information about traffic we don't want passed on to our routers.

Quick start

bgpfeeder is portable and should run on any system that has Ruby 1.8 installed (though only tested on Linux). Here's an example of how to use it:

# These are the routes I'd like distributed:
echo ' via via via communities 65534:10 local_pref 50
' > routes

# Here are the BGP peers that I'd like them distributed to:
echo '' > peers

# Start bgpfeeder as AS 65534, BGP ID and set the local_pref
# value to 200 unless otherwise specified.
./bgpfeeder --as-number 65534 --bgp-identifier --local-pref 200

# Go ahead and change the routes / peers files after the program has
# started, it will pick up any changes.

How to use

bgpfeeder is configured with a set of static parameters on the command line which cannot be changed once started. These are your routers' AS number and BGP identifier (which is usually the IPv4 address of the router). You can also set the local_pref value for the routes and the list of communities to add to every route which may be useful extra information for your routers to filter on. Finally there is the hold time which defaults to 60s, and some logging settings.

The administrator also specifies filenames of two database files: the peers file, and the routes file. These are the two lists which can change while the program is running.

Here is the help:

Usage: ./bgpfeeder [options...]

Options (must specify as-number and bgp-identifier at least):
    -h, --help                       Show this message
    -a, --as-number                  Set local AS number (default 65534)
    -i, --bgp-identifier IP.ADDRESS  Set BGP identifier
    -r, --routes FILE                Set routes file (default routes)
    -p, --peers FILE                 Set peers file (default peers)
        --local-pref PREF            Set local preference (default 100)
        --hold-time SECS             Set hold time (default 60)
        --communities a,b,c          Set list of communities (default _)
        --log-level LEVEL            Set log level (default INFO)
        --log-file FILE              Set log file (default STDOUT)

The peers file contains a list of BGP peers (and TCP-MD5 passwords for each one).

When a new peer is seen for the first time, the program continually tries to connect to it and send its current complete route list. When a peer is removed from the list, the BGP connection is terminated. Peers are IPv4 or IPv6 addresses, and can have a port specifier i.e. all of these are valid:

  • fc00🔢:1

The port syntax can be useful for testing (though no real BGP speaker will listen on a port other than the default 179). You can also specify an optional second parameter after a space, which is the TCP-MD5 password e.g. my_session_secret would specify peer with the password my_session_secret. If no password is specified, an ordinary TCP socket will be used.

You can also specify a source address (and port) if you want, e.g. here is the above list with an example source address supplied for each.

  • fc00🔢:400-fc00🔢:1

The routes file contains a list of static routes with "next hop" specifiers. These can either be in roughly "Linux" or "Cisco" formats; e.g. any of these means the same thing: via
ip route

i.e. routing the IP block via the next hop of

Duplicate routes in the route file will be ignored. You may also specify IPv6 routes in the usual formats:

aaaa:bbbb:cccc:dddd::/64 fc00:1234::1
aaaa:bbbb:cccc:dddd::/64 via fc00:1234::1

As well as the obvious NEXT_HOP attribute (3), the BGP UPDATE messages sent by bgpfeeder contain an ORIGIN setting indicating that these have been learned by an IGP.

For "exterior" BGP, where the peer's AS# is different from our local one, we send our AS as the full path, and no local preference.

For "interior" BGP, where we're in the same AS as our peer, we send a zero- length AS path, and a local preference attribute.

You can specify local_pref and communities values on a route-by-route basis, e.g. via communities 65534:111 via communities 65534:111,0xff001122 local_pref 50

The local_pref in the routes file will always override the value set on the command line. However communities set on the command line will always be present, and those specified in the routes file will be appended to the list.

The routes file is checked for differences whenever it is changed and UPDATE messages sent to current peers accordingly. When routes are removed, the message puts the route into the 'withdrawn' section. When routes are replaced, the same UPDATE message contains both the withdrawn route and the new new one so the peer can update its database without a "flap" (i.e. removing the route and adding it again).

IPv6 route updates are always sent using the multiprotocol extensions, and IPv4 updates are always sent using "plain" BGPv4 UPDATE messages, even if the peer supports multiprotocol extensions (I'm not sure which is customary, this is just what wseemed to work against an IPv4 and IPv6 neighbour specification under IOS).

The peers file is checked for differences whenever it is changed; new peers are started within a second. Old peers are signalled to close straight away but may take a few seconds to close down properly. Exactly-specified duplicates will be ignored.

Multiple sets of routes & peers, IPv6 support

When you have established a BGP session to a peer over IPv6, you probably want to avoid sending IPv4 routes over the same connection. To avoid having to start lots of copies of bgpfeeder, you can instead specify --routes and --peers multiple times, and maintain separate databases of IPv4 and IPv6 routes, e.g:

./bgpfeeder ... --routes r4 --peers p4 \
                --routes r6 --peers p6

tells the program to send the routes in the file 'r4' to the peers in file 'p4' and the same for files 'r6' and 'p6'.

There is nothing stopping you from using as many -r and -p directives as you need if you wanted to maintain lots of separate bgpfeeder sessions.

If you try to feed IPv6 routes to a peer that does not understand BGP multiprotocol extensions, those routes will be silently ignored.

When bgpfeeder first connects to any peer, it declares its own multiprotocol support. If gets a Notification back that suggests the peer doesn't understand IPv6, it will disconnect and try again without.


There should be no limits on the size of the routes and peers files other than what the system imposes. The routes file is re-read and parsed in its entirety when it is changed, so updates may be slower to get into the BGP network the larger the file is. However this is by design; the program is not intended to serve very frequenty changing routes (i.e. more than about once per minute).

bgpfeeder is not a "proper" BGPv4 daemon in that it doesn't listen on port 179 for incoming connections, and discards any UPDATE messages from its peers. Its state machine bears no relation to the complicated one described in RFC 1771. None of this should affect it doing its job.

Received UPDATE messages generate a warning as the system is written in a scripting language which is relatively slow to handle large amounts of data. If a peer is bombarding it with an entire internet routing table when it starts up, it will take a lot of CPU time to discard such information relative to a normal BGP program.

The program is pretty dim and basically single threaded (despite using Ruby-internal threads in a couple of places) so if it has to process large amounts of data on a particularly busy system, it may risk tripping hold times more than other BGP daemons might. The logs should make clear when this happens but I'm not sure how big a risk this is.

Known bugs

  • "Expected OPEN, got instead" log message - peers don't open first time, should work again after retry 20s later.

  • It will eat memory in proportion to the number of changes in the routes file because it keeps a complete update log in RAM.

  • TODO: STDIN mode, allow user to make their own route and peer updates fed from an external tool?

  • Probably won't always detect when the BGP stream is corrupt, and will crash out with a NoMethodError or something ugly.

Deployment example

If you were running the program on the IP, you might use a script like this:

cd /home/bgpfeeder
./bgpfeeder --as-number 65534 --bgp-identifier \
  --host-time 60 --local-pref 100  --routes routes --peers peers

The program does not daemonise itself - an example init script is provided as bgpfeeder.init.d or you can make your own arrangements.

You can set the environment variable BGPFEEDER_LOG_LEVEL to one of DEBUG, INFO, WARN or ERROR to make the logging more or less verbose. The default is WARN.

It is important that the routes and peers files are updated atomically, i.e.

  • DO use rsync if you are copying the peers & routes file on remotely
  • DO write to (for instance) peers.tmp and then "mv peers.tmp peers"
  • DON'T edit the peers or routes file directory with vi, or scribble to them with "echo >>peers"

If you don't follow this advice you may find routes or peers flapping unpredictably, as bgpfeeder won't care if your file is only half written.

If you're talking to a core BGP router with a full routing table you may want to make sure that it never sends prefixes back to bgpfeeder with a configuration snippet like this (either quagga or Cisco):

  access-list 100 deny ip any any
  router bgp xxx
     neighbor yyy distribute-list 100 out

Where xxx is your AS number and yyy is the BGP ID of your bgpfeeder instance.

Testing against quagga

A half-finished test rig is included for use on Debian systems. If you "rake test:qemu_shell" the system will build a Debian test system with a suitably configured BGP daemon, then dump you in a shell.

In the qemu window, run:

/usr/lib/quagga/bgpd &
debug bgp updates
debug bgp events

If you're not using qemu and setting up your own bgpd, I only needed the following file in /etc/quagga/bgpd.conf:

log stdout debugging
router bgp 65534
  neighbor remote-as 65534

Then in another window, run:

touch routes peers
BGPFEEDER_LOG_LEVEL=DEBUG ./bgpfeeder 65534 60 100 routes peers

You should now be able to see the systems start up and warn that they are doing nothing. Verify that "show ip bgp" shows no BGP peers. Now add to the peers file and watch it connect. Now try adding and deleting routes to the routes files, or add some duff peers etc. to see the system work.

Testing against Cisco IOS

I have only tried with dynamips and a Cisco 7200 image, which I started with this command line:

  ./dynamips image.bin -t npe-400 \
    -p 1:PA-A1 -p 2:PA-8T -p 3:PA-4E -p 4:PA-POS-OC3 -p 6:PA-FE-TX \
    -s 0:0:tap:c7200
  ip link set c7200 up
  ip addr add dev c7200
  ip addr add fc00:1234::2/64 dev c7200

Then on the IOS command line (assuming a completely fresh router configuration):

 configure terminal
  ip routing
  ipv6 unicast-routing
  ipv6 cef

 interface FastEthernet0/0
  ip address
  ipv6 address fc00:1234::1/64
  no shutdown

 router bgp 65534
  neighbor remote-as 65534
  neighbor password TopSecret
  neighbor fc00:1234::2 remote-as 65534
  neighbor fc00:1234::2 activate
write memory

You should now be able to ping to talk to your virtual Cisco.

Then run bgpfeeder as before but your peer address will be simply " TopSecret"; the IOS output is very helpful when things go wrong, and you can "show ip bgp" to see which routes are being received. I also find that "debug ip bgp all", "debug ip bgp events" and "debug ip bgp updates" are very useful to have turned on.


bgpfeeder is (C) Bytemark Hosting 2009-2016, and may be distributed according to the terms of the GNU General Public License version 3 ONLY.

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