The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is an inter-Autonomous System routing protocol. It is built on experience gained with EGP as defined in RFC 904  and EGP usage in the NSFNET Backbone as described in RFC 1092  and RFC 1093 .
The primary function of a BGP speaking system is to exchange network reachability information with other BGP systems. This network reachability information includes information on the list of Autonomous Systems (ASs) that reachability information traverses. This information is sufficient to construct a graph of AS connectivity from which routing loops may be pruned and some policy decisions at the AS level may be enforced.
BGP-4 provides a new set of mechanisms for supporting classless interdomain routing. These mechanisms include support for advertising an IP prefix and eliminates the concept of network "class" within BGP. BGP-4 also introduces mechanisms which allow aggregation of routes, including aggregation of AS paths. These changes provide support for the proposed supernetting scheme [8, 9].
To characterize the set of policy decisions that can be enforced using BGP, one must focus on the rule that a BGP speaker advertise to its peers (other BGP speakers which it communicates with) in neighboring ASs only those routes that it itself uses. This rule reflects the "hop-by-hop" routing paradigm generally used throughout the current Internet. Note that some policies cannot be supported by the "hop-by-hop" routing paradigm and thus require techniques such as source routing to enforce. For example, BGP does not enable one AS to send traffic to a neighboring AS intending that the traffic take a different route from that taken by traffic originating in the neighboring AS. On the other hand, BGP can support any policy conforming to the "hop-by-hop" routing paradigm. Since the current Internet uses only the "hop-by-hop" routing paradigm and since BGP can support any policy that conforms to that paradigm, BGP is highly applicable as an inter-AS routing protocol for the current Internet.
A more complete discussion of what policies can and cannot be enforced with BGP is outside the scope of this document (but refer to the companion document discussing BGP usage ).
BGP runs over a reliable transport protocol. This eliminates the need to implement explicit update fragmentation, retransmission, acknowledgement, and sequencing. Any authentication scheme used by the transport protocol may be used in addition to BGP's own authentication mechanisms. The error notification mechanism used in BGP assumes that the transport protocol supports a "graceful" close, i.e., that all outstanding data will be delivered before the connection is closed.
BGP uses TCP  as its transport protocol. TCP meets BGP's transport requirements and is present in virtually all commercial routers and hosts. In the following descriptions the phrase "transport protocol connection" can be understood to refer to a TCP connection. BGP uses TCP port 179 for establishing its connections.
This document uses the term `Autonomous System' (AS) throughout. The classic definition of an Autonomous System is a set of routers under a single technical administration, using an interior gateway protocol and common metrics to route packets within the AS, and using an exterior gateway protocol to route packets to other ASs. Since this classic definition was developed, it has become common for a single AS to use several interior gateway protocols and sometimes several sets of metrics within an AS. The use of the term Autonomous System here stresses the fact that, even when multiple IGPs and metrics are used, the administration of an AS appears to other ASs to have a single coherent interior routing plan and presents a consistent picture of what destinations are reachable through it.
The planned use of BGP in the Internet environment, including such issues as topology, the interaction between BGP and IGPs, and the enforcement of routing policy rules is presented in a companion document . This document is the first of a series of documents planned to explore various aspects of BGP application. Please send comments to the BGP mailing list (email@example.com).