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Re: Gen-Art IETF LC review: draft-ietf-ipfix-testing-04.txt

2008-03-17 04:32:29

Apologies for not responding sooner to your review, as it came right 
ahead of the -00 and -nn cutoffs.

Please see some responses inline.

I have been selected as the General Area Review Team (Gen-ART)
reviewer for this draft (for background on Gen-ART, please see ).

Please resolve these comments along with any other Last Call comments
you may receive.

Document: Guidelines for IP Flow Information eXport (IPFIX) Testing
Reviewer: Joel M. Halpern
Review Date: 15-Feb-2008
IETF LC End Date: 26-Feb-2008
IESG Telechat date: N/A

Summary: This document needs some additional work before publication as 
an informational RFC.
I would particularly recommend considering addressing at least the first 
comment below prior to RFC publication.
I would also suggest that the test descriptions need some clarification 
as described in the technical section below, particularly items 5 and 6.


1) While the document is being published as an information RFC, the 
wording of the abstract and introduction make it seem that this document 
is actually defining conformance to the IPFIX RFCs.  The IETF has 
generally carefully steered clear of defining such conformance.
So, while publishing a useful test suite is probably a good idea, I 
strongly recommend fixing the wording of at least the abstract and 
introduction to make it quite clear that these are not mandatory tests, 
and that these tests do not define conformance.

Sure, the tests are not mandatory. However, if you were purchasing an 
IPFIX device which did not claim to be compliant with this draft, you 
might rightly ask why not when all the IPFIX implementations we know of 
to date have been.

Related to this, please do not assert (in section 3) that passing this 
test suite constitutes conformance to the IPFIX architecture and 
protocol.  (Among other things,test suite passage proves nothing about 
architectural conformance.)


2) In the terminology section, an Observation Point is defined simply as 
a place where packets can be observed.  An Observation Domain is a 
collection of Observation points.  Then, in the middle of the definition 
of an Observation domain it say "In the IPFIX MEssage it generates..." 
but up till now none of the things that have been defined generate IPFIX 
messages.  It is possible that the "it" in the quote is supposed to be 
the "Metering Process" mentioned in passing earlier in the definition. 

Correct, it is.

But the English grammar does not lead the reader to such a conclusion. 
Later in that same definition, it beings to appear that an Observation 
Domain (which is a collection of points, not a process or entity) is 
supposed to generate IPFIX messages, since it is supposed to include a 
Domain ID in the messages it generates.  This definition for an 
Observation Domain needs to be reworked, to avoid confusing the Domain 
with the Measurement Process which is running in / for / on the Domain.

The Metering Process generates flow records which the Exporting Process 
makes into IPFIX messages.

This whole section is lifted directly from RFC5101, as stated right at 
the top of section 2:

    The terminology used in this document is fully aligned with the
    terminology specified in [RFC5101] which is reproduced here for

3) The use of capital "MUST" in section 3.1 is almost certainly wrong. 
Firstly, what I think that section is saying is that being able to 
correctly perform the basic tests is a precondition for being able to 
perform further test successfully.  Thats a precondition, not a "MUST".

These are basic connectivity tests. If they don't pass then there's no 
point in proceeding with the later tests, since you don't even have a 
basic connection.

So yes, these initial tests are a precondition for the later ones. In 
effect they MUST pass before proceeding.

Of lesser significance, this document does not provide any description 
of what it means by "MUST".

Right above the TOC, as ever:

    Conventions used in this document

    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
    document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

We are usually careful about how such 
language is used in informational RFCs.  I think the meaning would be 
clearer if the real intent were stated.  I suspect that some readers of 
this review may find my concern here pedantic.  But the continual use of 
MUST in the document really, really bothers me. (I hope the next comment 
helps explain why it bothers me so much.)

4) Then, the test descriptions go on to keep using this language.  This 
is a test suite description document.  Simply state how to run the test. 
 There is no need for "MUST".  Section 3 should indicate that the test 
descriptions describe the preconditions and steps that the tester goes 
through.  So section 3.1 would begin "The tester creates one Exporting 
Process and one collection process, configures the Exporting Process to 

The -00 version of this draft didn't use any RFC 2119 language. eg, 
section 3.1 began:

    Set up one Exporting and one Collecting Process.  Configure the
    Exporting Process to send to the Collecting Process.

However, we received feedback that RFC 2119 language should be used so a 
tester could clearly see what needed done, and could tick off compliance 
with each point as he worked through.

Reworking the document like this is not an insignificant task.

5) It is not clear what test steps like ~The tester ensures that an SCTP 
association is established.~ (Or worse, the actual text which reads "the 
test MUST ensure that an SCTP association is established." are supposed 
to do.  Is this an instruction to the tester to use network management 
tools or CLI to verify a connection on both devices?  Is it an 
instruction to perform additional configuration?  How does the tester 

That would very much depend on the implementation, don't you think?

A test suite should tell a tester what steps to undertake, 
and what observations to perform.  "Ensure" is not either one of those.

Testing and verifying SCTP are quite beyond the scope of this draft. 
However, ability to bring up an SCTP association is a necessary 
prerequisite for the following tests.

5a) To elaborate on this issue, in the middle of the test step about 
ensuring that Data Records are actually exported, we finally get a 
testable instruction, to whit, use a packet sniffer and check that the 
packets are coming by.

Sadly, that was only a suggestion of how the tester might perform this task.

6) I believe I understand how a tester would create templates, for the 
template test.  But how is the tester to create data sets.  Particularly 
data sets with specific properties, such as the padding in section 3.2.3 
and 3.2.4?

Again, that would very much depend upon the implementation being tested. 
Some implementations may add padding by default, or may have a switch to 
allow padding to be optional. It certainly wasn't an issue at our IPFIX 

The best conclusion I can come to is that this is a 
collector test, and that it assumes a packet generator which can 
generate IPFIX packets.

That's a good option for testing the Collecting Process - though it 
wouldn't verify the Exporting Process. Another possiblity would be for 
the tester to inject known data into the Metering Process, either 
directly or by passing known traffic through the Observation Point(s).

Having such a device in a test setup makes 
sense.  But the test description does not say "configure a packet 
generator to generate an IPFIX packet with ..."  (There are other ways 
to say this, but there needs to be some description of how testers are 
expected to create data sets.)

Again, this seems to be quite implementation dependent. I expect what 
you'd do for a PC based implementation would be quite different from 
what you'd for for a router based implementation.

6a) Related to this, I find reading this document rather odd.  I have 
read many test suites for protocols and implementations of protocols. 
They generally focus on a Device (or implementation, or entity) Under 
Test, and the framing around that Device.  This suite appears to be 
trying to test two interacting devices simultaneously.  That is 
extremely difficult, and extremely confusing.

The IPFIX protocol connects an Exporting Process (source) to a 
Collecting Process (destination). One is needed in order to test the 
other - or at the very least, something that does a good job of 
pretending to be an Exporter or Collector.

eg, an Exporting Process won't export anything until it's able to bring 
up an SCTP association. So if you're going to inject packets (rather 
than have an Exporting Process) then you'll first need to do some SCTP 
negotiation. All in, it's most straightforward to connect an Exporter to 
a Collector.

It is particularly hard 
because then the tester doesn't have enough points of control to perform 
the tests and observe the results meaningfully.  It is possible that 
this combined suite is right for this problem.  But if so, a lot of 
explanation of why it is done that way and how the tester is to 
accomplish his goals is needed.

7) The abstract is worded as if one could not perform interoperability 
testing without first running the tests in this document.  While having 
run the tests in this document will presumably increase the chances of a 
successful interoperability test, they are not an inherent requirement 
for such testing.

We had three IPFIX interops, with this document being drafted after the 
first. I believe the pre-requisite for the second and third interops was 
that these basic tests had been run, so as to ensure a common baseline 
and rule out basic issues which had already been covered in previous 

8) I would probably be inclined to lighten up the Motivation section a 
bit.  Or even remove it.  I don't think we need to explain why test 
suites are useful.  If we really need a motivation section, then it 
should explain something about why it is particularly complex to test 
IPFIX implementations (if it is) and thus why the IETF feels it is 
particularly useful to publish a test suite ourselves in this case.


9) The definition of Transport Session is actually the definition of 
various kinds of transport sessions, and how they are identified.  Could 
the definition start with an actual definition please. (I.e. the 
communication over time used to carry X between Y and Z?  Or something.)

Again, the definition is copied directly from RFC 5101.

10) As an editorial matter, most testers I have worked with strongly 
prefer if every step in a test is explicitly separate and named / 
numbered.  That way, they can check off each step as it goes.  So the 
beginning of 3.1.1 would be
i) Create One Exporting Process
ii) Create One Collection  Process
iii) Configure the Exporting Process ...

In effect, each of our MUSTs is such a check. At least, that was the 

11) It is particularly odd to see a set of Stress/Load tests that 
simultaneously claim to be measuring conformance and to not specify the 
level of Stress / Load.  Having a description of how to perform load 
tests is useful.  But its relationship to the other tests is confusing. 
 (This obviously is helped once we no longer claim that this is a 
conformance test.)

These tests verify what IPFIX devices do when overloaded, rather than 
testing that they're able to handle a certain load level. It's clearly 
impossible for us to state specific traffic levels since a) the overload 
level may vary enormously from device to device, and b) we're not 
interested in the specific level, but in the device's ability to handle 
extremes gracefully.

Paul Aitken
Cisco Systems Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland.
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