In packet switching networks, routing directs forwarding, the transit of logically addressed packets from their source toward their ultimate destination through intermediate nodes; typically hardware devices called routers, bridges, gateways, firewalls, or switches. Ordinary computers with multiple network cards can also forward packets and perform routing, though they are not specialized hardware and may suffer from limited performance. The routing process usually directs forwarding on the basis of routing tables which maintain a record of the routes to various network destinations. Thus constructing routing tables, which are held in the routers' memory, becomes very important for efficient routing. Most routing algorithms use only one network path at a time, but multipath routing techniques enable the use of multiple alternative paths.
4.1.1 Distance vector algorithms
Distance vector algorithms use the Bellman-Ford algorithm. This approach assigns a number, the cost, to each of the links between each node in the network. Nodes will send information from point A to point B via the path that results in the lowest total cost (i.e. the sum of the costs of the links between the nodes used).
The algorithm operates in a very simple manner. When a node first starts, it only knows of its immediate neighbors, and the direct cost involved in reaching them. (This information, the list of destinations, the total cost to each, and the next hop to send data to get there, makes up the routing table, or distance table.) Each node, on a regular basis, sends to each neighbor its own current idea of the total cost to get to all the destinations it knows of. The neighboring node(s) examine this information, and compare it to what they already 'know'; anything which represents an improvement on what they already have, they insert in their own routing table(s). Over time, all the nodes in the network will discover the best next hop for all destinations, and the best total cost.
When one of the nodes involved goes down, those nodes which used it as their next hop for certain destinations discard those entries, and create new routing-table information. They then pass this information to all adjacent nodes, which then repeat the process. Eventually all the nodes in the network receive the updated information, and will then discover new paths to all the destinations which they can still "reach".
4.1.2 Link-state algorithms
When applying link-state algorithms, each node uses as its fundamental data a map of the network in the form of a graph. To produce this, each node floods the entire network with information about what other nodes it can connect to, and each node then independently assembles this information into a map. Using this map, each router then independently determines the least-cost path from itself to every other node using a standard shortest paths algorithm such as Dijkstra's algorithm. The result is a tree rooted at the current node such that the path through the tree from the root to any other node is the least-cost path to that node. This tree then serves to construct the routing table, which specifies the best next hop to get from the current node to any other node.
4.1.3 Path vector protocol
Distance vector and link state routing are both intra-domain routing protocols. They are used inside an autonomous system, but not between autonomous systems. Both of these routing protocols become intractable in large networks and cannot be used in Inter-domain routing. Distance vector routing is subject to instability if there are more than a few hops in the domain. Link state routing needs huge amount of resources to calculate routing tables. It also creates heavy traffic because of flooding.
Path vector routing is used for inter-domain routing. It is similar to Distance vector routing. In path vector routing we assume there is one node (there can be many) in each autonomous system which acts on behalf of the entire autonomous system. This node is called the speaker node. The speaker node creates a routing table and advertises it to neighboring speaker nodes in neighboring autonomous systems. The idea is the same as Distance vector routing except that only speaker nodes in each autonomous system can communicate with each other. The speaker node advertises the path, not the metric of the nodes, in its autonomous system or other autonomous systems. Path vector routing is discussed in RFC 1322; the path vector routing algorithm is somewhat similar to the distance vector algorithm in the sense that each border router advertises the destinations it can reach to its neighboring router. However, instead of advertising networks in terms of a destination and the distance to that destination, networks are advertised as destination addresses and path descriptions to reach those destinations. A route is defined as a pairing between a destination and the attributes of the path to that destination, thus the name, path vector routing, where the routers receive a vector that contains paths to a set of destinations. The path, expressed in terms of the domains (or confederations) traversed so far, is carried in a special path attribute that records the sequence of routing domains through which the reachability information has passed. The path represented by the smallest number of domains becomes the preferred path to reach the destination.
4.1.4 Comparison of routing algorithms
Distance-vector routing protocols are simple and efficient in small networks, and require little, if any management. However, naive distance-vector algorithms do not scale well (due to the count-to-infinity problem), and have poor convergence properties.
This has led to the development of more complex but more scalable algorithms for use in large networks. Interior routing mostly uses link-state routing protocols such as OSPF and IS-IS.
A more recent development is that of loop-free distance-vector protocols (e.g. EIGRP). Loop-free distance-vector protocols are as robust and manageable as distance-vector protocols, while avoiding counting to infinity and hence having good worst-case convergence times.