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Prefix Allocation

This document describes Terragraph's algorithms for allocating prefixes to nodes. Network prefix validation and allocation is handled by either CentralizedPrefixAllocator or DeterministicPrefixAllocator.


Terragraph networks are given an IPv6 "seed prefix" (e.g. face:b00c:cafe:ba00::/56) from which subnet prefixes are allocated to all DNs and CNs. There are three different methods for allocating node prefixes with Open/R, described briefly below. For more details, refer to the Open/R documentation for openr::PrefixAllocator.

  • Distributed - Distributed prefix allocation is completely handled within Open/R. Under this scheme, nodes pick random prefixes from the allowed range and advertise them to the network. The algorithm attempts to resolve any collisions, but is not always successful in practice; this can result in duplicated prefixes or unreachable nodes.
  • Centralized (default) - Centralized prefix allocation is handled by the E2E controller. The controller performs all prefix allocations, which prevents collisions and enables more sophisticated allocation algorithms.
  • Deterministic - Deterministic prefix allocation is also handled by the E2E controller. The controller assigns prefixes to nodes based on the network topology to allow POP nodes to take advantage of route summarization and help load balance ingress traffic.

Both centralized and deterministic prefix allocation require initial parameters to be provided through the thrift::PrefixAllocParams structure in the controller config file:

struct PrefixAllocParams {
1: string seedPrefix;
2: i32 allocPrefixLen;

seedPrefix, the prefix of the entire Terragraph network, is given in CIDR notation. allocPrefixLen specifies the bit-length of prefixes allocated to each node. If these parameters are not provided in the controller config, the controller will automatically revert to distributed prefix allocation.

Terragraph currently takes the centralized approach.

Centralized Prefix Allocation (CPA)


Given a valid thrift::PrefixAllocParams struct, the controller is able to allocate prefixes for all the nodes in the network automatically. However, individual prefixes can also be manually defined through the prefix field in each thrift::Node entry.

The allocation steps are as follows:

  • On controller startup:
    • If the topology file specifies any node prefixes, mark them as taken.
    • For all nodes without prefixes, allocate one.
  • When adding a node:
    • If the prefix is unspecified, allocate one.

Allocation is performed by iterating sequentially through all possible prefixes and assigning the first unallocated prefix. For example, if allocating /64 prefixes for nodes from the seed prefix face:b00c:cafe:ba00::/56, the controller would assign prefixes in the following order:


TopologyApp computes prefixes and periodically sends a SET_PREFIXES command to any reachable POP node's OpenrClientApp. If any prefixes changed, the minion injects the new prefixes into Open/R using the KvStore key e2e-network-allocations.



  • All prefixes (seed prefix and node prefixes) must be valid IPv6 prefixes in CIDR notation.
  • Node prefixes must be contained within the subnet of the seed prefix.
  • Node prefixes must be of the specified bit-length (allocPrefixLen).


  • Node prefixes must be unique within the network topology.

Deterministic Prefix Allocation (DPA)

The CPA allocation is somewhat arbitrary. That is, no subnetting of the seed prefix occurs and each POP node is only able to advertise the entire seed prefix to BGP peers, rather than a more specific subnet. This makes it possible for ingress traffic to enter the network through a suboptimal POP node.

Deterministic Prefix Allocation (DPA) assigns prefixes to nodes based on a given topology to allow POP nodes to take advantage of route summarization and help load balance ingress traffic. DPA attempts to segment a TG network so that each POP site can advertise its own specific BGP routes. Ingress traffic will then automatically flow through the optimal POP, instead of tromboning between POPs.


  • Prefix zone - A group of nodes to their closest POP site (using wireless hop count as the distance metric).
  • Prefix space - The number of prefixes with length allocPrefixLen within a prefix. For example, face:b00c:cafe:ba00::/56 has a prefix space of 256 (there are 256 unique /64s in a /56). Prefix spaces are always powers of 2 and there is a direct translation from prefix length to prefix space:
    prefix_space = 2^(allocPrefixLen - prefix_length)
  • Zone prefix - A prefix assigned to a prefix zone. Zone prefixes are used to allocate node prefixes.
  • Node prefix - A prefix with length allocPrefixLen that can be assigned to a node.

Segmentation Into Prefix Zones

DPA begins by segmenting the network into prefix zones (one per POP site). This is accomplished by running a BFS algorithm starting from POP sites to find the closest POP site, in terms of hop count, to each node. Nodes closest to a specific POP site form a prefix zone.

Allocate Prefix Spaces

Each prefix zone is allocated a number of prefixes so that the sum of their prefix spaces is at least as large as the number of nodes in the zone.

The recursive algorithm in pseudocode (Python) is as follows:

def allocate_prefix_spaces(zones, network_prefix_space):
unsatisfied_zones = zones.get_unsatisfied_zones()
prefix_space_needed = 0
for zone in zones:
prefix_space_needed += zone.get_unsatisfied_node_count()

# Not enough network prefix space, so no solution.
if network_prefix_space < prefix_space_needed:
return False

# Used up all of the network_prefix_space, if no more prefix space is
# needed, then a valid solution was found, otherwise no solution.
if network_prefix_space == 0:
return prefix_space_needed == network_prefix_space

prefix_space_divisor = next_power_of_2(num_unsatisfied_zones)
while True:
remaining = network_prefix_space
prefix_space = remaining / prefix_space_divisor

# For each unsatisfied zone, add a prefix_space to it.
for zone in unsatisfied_zones:
remaining -= prefix_space

# Recurse with the remaining prefix space, if this results in a valid
# solution, return. Otherwise, double the divisor and repeat.
if allocate_prefix_spaces(zones, remaining):
return True

prefix_space_divisor *= 2

The recursive algorithm is best explained with an example. Assume the following set up (based off of TowerG data):

  • 3 prefix zones
    • Prefix zone A with 100 nodes
    • Prefix zone B with 68 nodes
    • Prefix zone C with 20 nodes
  • seedPrefix: face:b00c:cafe:ba00::/56
  • allocPrefixLen: 64
  • Network prefix space: 256

Since the seedPrefix is a /56, the seedPrefix has a prefix space of 256. In other words, this network can support up to 256 nodes, since each requires a /64.

The algorithm first tries to equally divide the network prefix space to each prefix zone. Since prefix spaces are always powers of 2, divide the the network prefix space by 4 (since we have 3 prefix zones). This results in 4 prefix spaces of size 64 which are assigned to the three prefix zones and with a 64 left over.

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)Remaining

Prefix zone C is satisfied since it has only 20 nodes. Since prefix zones A and C are not yet satisfied, recurse using the remaining prefix space of 64. Split the the network prefix space (64) equally (divide by 2) and assign the prefix spaces (32) to each zone:

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)Remaining

Now, prefix zone B is satisfied, but prefix zone A is not and there is no more remaining prefix space. The algorithm reaches a dead end, so it backtracks to the previous state:

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)Remaining

This time, instead of dividing by 2, the divisor is multiplied by 2 and we divide the remaining (64) by 4. Then, assign a prefix space (16) to each of the two unsatisfied zones:

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)Remaining

Now, prefix zone A is the only unsatisfied zone and it can use the rest of the remaining prefix space.

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)Remaining

All prefix zones are satisfied and the entire network prefix space has successfully been divvied up.

Prefix spaces to prefix lengths

Next, the prefix spaces need to be converted to prefix lengths.

The prefix space to prefix length conversion is trivial:

prefix_length = allocPrefixLen - log_2 (prefix_space)

The log_2 will work nicely since prefix spaces are restricted to powers of 2. The prefix spaces from the previous example turn into:

Prefix zone A (100)Prefix zone B (68)Prefix zone C (20)

Zone prefixes from prefix lengths

Converting a set of prefix lengths into actual prefixes involves traversing a binary prefix tree from shortest to longest prefix.

The prefix tree looks like the following:

Create a mapping from prefix length to prefix zone:

prefix_length_to_zone = {
58: [A, B, C],
59: [A],
60: [A, B]

For each prefix length (from shortest to longest) and for each prefix zone that requires a prefix of said length, allocate a prefix from the prefix tree.

The tree allows tracking of previously allocated prefixes. Traverse the tree from the root, taking the left branch at each node. If an allocated prefix is encountered, backtrack and take the right branch. Note that this only works when prefix lengths are considered from shortest to longest.

The prefix tree concept can be replaced by a recursive function and a set containing previously allocated prefixes. See DeterministicPrefixAllocator::allocateZonePrefixesHelper().

Node Prefixes

After zone prefixes are allocated, node prefixes are allocated by iterating linearly through all the zone prefixes for that node's zone. This is the same as the currently used centralized prefix algorithm.


During the prefix space allocation phase, multiple prefix spaces of the same size may be allocated to the same prefix zone. These prefix spaces can be merged into one larger space and is an implementation detail in PrefixZone::addToPrefixSpace(). This also makes the entire algorithm run significantly faster.

Currently, there is no convenient way to redistribute zone prefixes to allow for additional nodes to be added. To mitigate this, there is PrefixZone::allocationSizeOverride_ which overrides the initial zone size used for prefix space allocation. This override is configured with the controller flag dpa_zone_prefix_space_buffer. It defaults to 7, so 7 additional nodes can be added to a prefix zone before it runs out of prefix space. Additionally, there is an API endpoint /api/allocatePrefixes (or the ZMQ message type ALLOCATE_PREFIXES) that will redo the entire algorithm.



  • All prefixes (seed prefix, zone prefixes and node prefixes) must be valid IPv6 prefixes in CIDR notation.
  • Node prefixes must be contained within a subnet of one of their zone's prefixes.
  • Node prefixes must be of the specified bit-length (allocPrefixLen).
  • Zone prefixes must be in the subnet of the seed prefix.


  • Node prefixes must be unique within the network topology.
  • Zone prefixes have enough prefix space to allocate node prefixes for all of the prefix zone's nodes.

Changing Network Prefix

When using either centralized or deterministic prefix allocation, changing the network prefix becomes a multi-step process since the controller can lose reachability to the network when there is a mismatch between the allocated node prefixes and the network prefix advertised in BGP.

This can be solved by advertising both the old and new network prefixes in BGP during the transition. This can be done manually using the bgpParams.specificNetworkPrefixes node config field on any POP node.

Additionally, the controller tries to automate some of these steps. The following are the recommended steps to change the network prefix when either centralized or deterministic prefix allocation is enabled:

  1. Change the seedPrefix in controller_config.json to the new prefix.
  2. Wait until the static node prefixes are updated in KvStore by running breeze kvstore alloc-list on a node in the network. Alternatively, the new prefix will be reflected in the nodes' IP addresses in NMS.
  3. Change the e2e-network-prefix to the new prefix in kvstoreParams on the POP nodes.