Network Working Group                                     R. Finlayson
Request for Comments: 2771                                    LIVE.COM
Category: Informational                                  February 2000

            An Abstract API for Multicast Address Allocation

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document describes the "abstract service interface" for the
   dynamic multicast address allocation service, as seen by
   applications.  While it does not describe a concrete API (i.e., for a
   specific programming language), it describes - in abstract terms -
   the semantics of this service, including the guarantees that it makes
   to applications.

   Additional documents (not necessarily products of the IETF) would
   describe concrete APIs for this service.

1. Introduction

   Applications are the customers of a multicast address allocation
   service, so a definition of this service should include not only the
   inter-node network protocols that are used to implement it, but also
   the 'protocol' that applications use to access the service.  While
   APIs ("application programming interfaces") for specific programming
   languages (or operating systems) are outside the domain of the IETF,
   it is appropriate for us to define - in abstract terms - the semantic
   interface that this service presents to applications.  Specific APIs
   would then be based upon this abstract service interface.

   Note that it is possible to implement the multicast address
   allocation service in at least two different ways.  The first (and
   perhaps most common) way is for end nodes to allocate addresses by
   communicating with a separate "Address Allocation Server" node, using
   the "Host to Address Allocation Server" network protocol (MADCAP)
   [1][7].  Alternatively, an "Address Allocation Server" implementation

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   might be co-located (along with one or more applications) on an end
   node, in which case some other, internal, mechanism might be used to
   access the server.  In either case, however, the abstract service
   interface (and, presumably, any specific APIs) would remain the same.

   The remainder of this document describes the abstract interface.

   Note that this interface is intended only for the allocation of
   dynamic multicast addresses, as used by the traditional multicast
   service model [2].  Future multicast service models might allocate or
   assign multicast addresses in other ways, but this is outside the
   scope of this document.

2. Abstract Data Types

   The interface described below uses the following abstract data types:

   -  AddressFamily: e.g., IPv4 or IPv6

   -  MulticastAddress: An actual multicast address (i.e., that could
      subsequently be used as the destination of a datagram)

   -  MulticastAddressSet: A set of "MulticastAddress"es

   -  LanguageTag: The code for a (human) language, as defined in [4]

   -  Scope: An "administrative scope" [3] from which multicast
             addresses are to be allocated.  Each scope is a
             "MulticastAddressSet", with an associated set of
             (character-string) names - indexed by "LanguageTag".  (Each
             language tag has at most one corresponding name, per
             scope.)  For each scope, a (language tag, name) pair may be
             defined to be the 'default' name for this scope. (See the
             section "Querying the name of a scope" below.)

             (An implementation of this abstract data type might also
             include other information, such as a default TTL for the

   -  Time: An (absolute) event time.  This is used for specifying the
            "lifetime" of multicast addresses: the period of time during
            which allocated multicast addresses are guaranteed to be
            available.  (It is also used to specify the desired start
            time for an "advance allocation".)

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            Note that a concrete API might prefer to specify some of
            these times as relative times (i.e., relative to the current
            time-of-day), rather than absolute time.  (Relative times
            have the advantage of not requiring clock synchronization.)

   -  Lease: A compound data type that describes the result of a
             (successful) multicast address allocation.  It consists of:

             -  [MulticastAddressSet] The set of addresses that were

             -  [AddressFamily] The address family of these addresses

             -  [Time] The lifetime of these addresses (the same for
                each address)

             -  [Time] The "start time" of the allocation.  (See the
                discussion of "advance allocation" below.)  (A concrete
                API would likely also include a MADCAP "Lease
                Identifier" [1].)

   -  NestingRelationship: A binary data type that describes whether or
                           not two scopes nest. Two scopes nest if
                           traffic sent sent to a multicast group within
                           one scope could be seen by all hosts present
                           within the other scope were they to join the
                           multicast group within the first scope. This
                           value would be "False" for overlapping scopes
                           where only some (or none) of the hosts within
                           the second scope could see traffic sent to an
                           address due to the presence of an
                           administratively scoped boundary. In cases
                           where the first and second scopes are
                           topologically identical this value would be

   -  Status: A result code.

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3. The Abstract Interface

3.1 Allocating multicast addresses:

   alloc_multicast_addr(in AddressFamily family,
                        in Scope scope,
                        in Integer minDesiredAddresses,
                        in Integer maxDesiredAddresses,
                        in Time minDesiredStartTime,
                        in Time maxDesiredStartTime,
                        in Time minDesiredLifetime,
                        in Time maxDesiredLifetime,
                        out Lease multicastAddressSetLease,
                        out Status status)

   This operation attempts to allocate a set of multicast addresses (the
   size of this set is in the range [minDesiredAddresses,
   maxDesiredAddresses]) within the given address family and scope, and
   within a given range of desired lifetimes.  ("minDesiredStartTime"
   and "maxDesiredStartTime" are used to specify "advance allocation";
   this is described in more detail below.)

   If the address allocation succeeds, the result is returned in
   "multicastAddressSetLease" (with "status" = OK).

   During the lifetime of this lease, the allocation service will make a
   "best-effort" attempt to not allocate any of these addresses to
   others.  (However, once the lease's lifetime has expired, any of its
   addresses can be allocated to others.)

   Multicast addresses are allocated for a limited lifetime.  An
   application may attempt to extend this lifetime, but this operation
   may fail.  Therefore, an application must be prepared for the
   possibility it will not be able to use the same addresses for as long
   as it desires.  In particular, the application must be prepared to
   either quit early (because its original multicast address assignments
   have expired), or, alternatively, to occasionally 'renumber' its
   multicast addresses (in some application or higher-level-protocol
   dependent way), by making a new allocation.  However, if an
   application needs to consider 'renumbering', it will always know this
   in advance, at the time it acquired its current address(es) - by
   checking the lifetime in the returned lease.  An application will
   never need to be notified asynchronously of the need to 'renumber'.

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   Possible errors:

         - bad address family
         - bad scope
         - bad desired number of addresses (e.g., max < min)
         - bad desired lifetimes (e.g., max < min)
         - errors with the two "start time" parameters (see
           "Advance allocation" below)
         - no addresses can be allocated (for the requested parameters)

   An allocation attempt can also fail with a result "status" code of
   TRY_LATER, indicating that the requested allocation cannot be made at
   this time, but that it might succeed if the caller retries the
   attempt at some future time.  (This future time is returned in the
   "start time" field of the

           the other parts of this lease are undefined.)

   Note that a concrete (i.e., programming language-specific) API for
   multicast address allocation will probably include additional,
   specialized variants of this general allocation operation.  For
   instance, it may include separate operations for:

           - allocating only a single address
             (i.e., minDesiredAddresses = maxDesiredAddresses = 1);
           - (attempting to) allocate an address with a single, fixed
              lifetime (i.e., minDesiredLifetime = maxDesiredLifetime);
           - (attempting to) allocate an address for immediate use
             (i.e., minDesiredStartTime = maxDesiredStartTime = 'now')

3.2 Changing multicast addresses' lifetime:

    change_multicast_addr_lifetime(in Lease multicastAddressSetLease,
                                   in Time minDesiredLifetime,
                                   in Time maxDesiredLifetime,
                                   out Time lifetime)

   This operation attempts to change the lifetime of previously
   allocated multicast addresses.  Unless an error occurs, it returns
   the new lifetime (which might remain unchanged).

   Possible errors:

           - bad address family
           - bad durations (e.g., max < min)

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           - the addresses' lifetime could not be changed
             (and the existing lifetime was not in the requested range
           - the addresses were not ones that we had allocated
             (see section 5.9) - or they have already expired

3.3 Deallocating multicast addresses:

   deallocate_multicast_addr(in Lease multicastAddressSetLease) This
   operation attempts to deallocate previously allocated multicast

   Possible errors:

           - bad address family
           - the addresses were not ones that we had allocated
                   (or they have already expired)

3.4 Querying the set of usable multicast address scopes:

    get_multicast_addr_scopes(in AddressFamily family,
                             out "set of" Scope)

   This operation returns the set of administrative multicast address
   scopes that are defined for this node.

   Possible errors:

           - bad address family

3.5 Querying the name of a scope:

    get_scope_name(in Scope scope,
                   in LanguageTag language,
                   out String name,
                   out LanguageTag languageForName)

   This operation returns a character-string name for a given scope.  If
   the scope has a name in the specified "language", then this name (and
   language) is returned.  Otherwise, the scope's default (language,
   name) pair is returned.

   Possible errors:

           - bad scope.

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3.6 Querying the nesting state of known usable multicast address scopes:

    get_scope_nesting_state(in "set of" Scope,
                            out "matrix of" NestingRelationship)

   Possible errors:

       - bad scope.
       - nesting state undetermined at this time.

   This operation would return a matrix that shows the
   current nesting relationships between the supplied
   set of scopes which would have previously been supplied
   via the get_multicast_addr_scopes(...) function.

3.7 Querying the set of scopes that a given scope is known to nest inside:

    get_larger_scopes(in Scope,
                      out "set of" Scope)

   This operation returns the set of administrative multicast
   address scopes that are known to encompass the supplied

   Possible errors:

       - bad scope.
       - nesting state undetermined at this time.

3.8 Querying the set of scopes that are known to nest inside a given scope:

    get_smaller_scopes(in Scope,
                      out "set of" Scope)

   This operation returns the set of administrative multicast address
   scopes that are known to nest inside the supplied Scope (NB this
   would include those scopes that are topologically identical to the
   supplied scope).

   Possible errors:

       - bad scope.
       - nesting state undetermined at this time.

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RFC 2771     Abstract API for Multicast Address Allocation February 2000

3.9 Note: The decision as to who is allowed to deallocate (or change
    the lifetime of) a previously allocated multicast address set lease
    is implementation-specific, and depends upon the security policy of
    the host system.  Thus it is not specified in this abstract API.
    One possible starting point, however, is the following:

      A previously allocated multicast address can be deallocated (or
      have its lifetime queried or changed) by the same "principal", and
      on the same node, as that which originally allocated it.
      ("principal" might, for example, be a "user" in the host operating

3.10 Advance allocation

      By specifying "minDesiredStartTime = maxDesiredStartTime = 'now'",
      the address allocation operation - "alloc_multicast_addr" -
      described above can be used to request a set of multicast
      addresses that can be used *immediately* (and until their lifetime
      expires).  During this whole time, the addresses are not available
      for allocation to others.

      It is also possible - using the "minDesiredStartTime" and
      "maxDesiredStartTime" parameters - to allocate multicast addresses
      *in advance* - i.e., so that they have a future "start time" as
      well as an expiration time.  Before the start time, the multicast
      addresses may be allocated to others.

      Advance allocation is convenient for allocating addresses for
      events that begin far in the future - e.g., several weeks or
      months away.  Without advance allocation, it would be necessary to
      allocate addresses for a long period of time - even when it will
      not be used.  Such a request would not only be a wasteful use of
      the multicast address space, but it may also be difficult to
      implement (especially since address allocations are expected to
      remain valid in spite of topology changes).

      Advance allocation requests can produce the following errors (in
      addition to those defined earlier):

      - bad start time durations (e.g., max < min)
      - requested start times conflict with requested lifetimes
        (i.e., min start time > max lifetime)

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   The following operation is also defined:

      change_multicast_addr_start_time(in Lease multicastAddressSetLease,
                                       in Time minDesiredStartTime,
                                       in Time maxDesiredStartTime,
                                       out Time startTime)

      This operation attempts to change the start time of previously
      allocated multicast addresses.  Unless an error occurs, it returns
      the new start time (which might remain unchanged).

      Possible errors: the same as "change_multicast_addr_lifetime"

4. Security Considerations

   As noted in section 5.9 above, each implementation of this abstract
   API should define a security policy that specifies when (and by whom)
   previously allocated multicast addresses can be deallocated (or
   queried, or have their lifetime changed).

   Because multicast addresses are a finite resource, there is a
   potential for a "denial of service" attack by allocating a large
   number of multicast addresses without deallocating them.  Preventing
   such an attack, however, is not the role of the API, but rather by
   the underlying MAAS ("Multicast Address Allocation Server(s)" [6]).

5. Acknowledgements

   Many thanks to other participants in the "MALLOC" working group - in
   particular Steve Hanna, Dave Thaler, Roger Kermode, and Pavlin
   Radoslavov - for their valuable comments.

6. References

   [1] Hanna, S., Patel, B. and M. Shah, "Multicast Address Dynamic
       Client Allocation Protocol (MADCAP)", RFC 2730, December 1999.

   [2] Deering, S., "Host Extensions for IP Multicasting", STD 5, RFC
       1112, August 1989.

   [3] Meyer, D., "Administratively Scoped IP Multicast", BCP 23, RFC
       2365, July, 1998.

   [4] Alvestrand, H., "Tags for the Identification of Languages", RFC
       1766, March 1995.

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RFC 2771     Abstract API for Multicast Address Allocation February 2000

   [5] Handley, M. and V. Jacobson, "SDP: Session Description Protocol",
       RFC 2327, April 1998.

   [6] Estrin, D., Handley, M. and D. Thaler, "The Internet Multicast
       Address Allocation Architecture", Work in Progress.

   [7] Kermode, R., "MADCAP Multicast Scope Nesting State Option", Work
       in Progress.

7. Author's Address

   Ross Finlayson,
   Live Networks, Inc. (LIVE.COM)


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8. Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000).  All Rights Reserved.

   This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
   others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
   or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
   and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
   kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
   included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
   document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
   the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
   Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
   developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
   copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
   followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than

   The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
   revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

   This document and the information contained herein is provided on an


   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.

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