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
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
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",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
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
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
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
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
Cisco Systems Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland.
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