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Routing Table Principles

At times in this course we will refer to three principles regarding routing tables that will help you understand, configure, and troubleshoot routing issues. These principles are from Alex Zinin's book, Cisco IP Routing.

1. Every router makes its decision alone, based on the information it has in its own routing table.

2. The fact that one router has certain information in its routing table does not mean that other routers have the same information.

3. Routing information about a path from one network to another does not provide routing information about the reverse, or return, path.

What is the effect of these principles? Let's look at the example in the figure.

1. After making its routing decision, router R1 forwards the packet destined for PC3 to router R2. R1 only knows about the information in its own routing table, which indicates that router R2 is the next-hop router. R1 does not know whether or not R2 actually has a route to the destination network.

2. It is the responsibility of the network administrator to make sure that all routers within their control have complete and accurate routing information so that packets can be forwarded between any two networks. This can be done using static routes, a dynamic routing protocol, or a combination of both.

3. Router R2 was able to forward the packet toward PC3's destination network. However, the packet from PC2 to PC1 was dropped by R2. Although R2 has information in its routing table about the destination network of PC1, we do not know if it has the information for the return path back to PC1's network.

Asymmetric Routing

Because routers do not necessarily have the same information in their routing tables, packets can traverse the network in one direction, using one path, and return via another path. This is called asymmetric routing. Asymmetric routing is more common in the Internet, which uses the BGP routing protocol than it is in most internal networks.

This example implies that when designing and troubleshooting a network, the network administrator should check the following routing information:
Is there a path from source to destination available in both directions?
Is the path taken in both directions the same path? (Asymmetrical routing is not uncommon, but sometimes can pose additional issues.)
Related Topic Router
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