Every multi-access network has a Designated Router. The Designated Router performs two main functions for the routing protocol:
The Designated Router is elected by the Hello Protocol. A router's Hello Packet contains its Router Priority, which is configurable on a per-interface basis. In general, when a router's interface to a network first becomes functional, it checks to see whether there is currently a Designated Router for the network. If there is, it accepts that Designated Router, regardless of its Router Priority. (This makes it harder to predict the identity of the Designated Router, but ensures that the Designated Router changes less often. See below.) Otherwise, the router itself becomes Designated Router if it has the highest Router Priority on the network. A more detailed (and more accurate) description of Designated Router election is presented in Section 9.4.
The Designated Router is the endpoint of many adjacencies. In order to optimize the flooding procedure on broadcast networks, the Designated Router multicasts its Link State Update Packets to the address AllSPFRouters, rather than sending separate packets over each adjacency.
Section 2 of this document discusses the directed graph representation of an area. Router nodes are labelled with their Router ID. Multi-access network nodes are actually labelled with the IP address of their Designated Router. It follows that when the Designated Router changes, it appears as if the network node on the graph is replaced by an entirely new node. This will cause the network and all its attached routers to originate new link state advertisements. Until the topological databases again converge, some temporary loss of connectivity may result. This may result in ICMP unreachable messages being sent in response to data traffic. For that reason, the Designated Router should change only infrequently. Router Priorities should be configured so that the most dependable router on a network eventually becomes Designated Router.