System Administration Guide: IP Services

Neighbor Solicitation and Unreachability

Neighbor Discovery uses neighbor solicitation messages to determine if more than one node is assigned the same unicast address. Neighbor unreachability detection detects the failure of a neighbor or the failure of the forward path to the neighbor. This detection requires positive confirmation that packets that are sent to a neighbor are actually reaching that neighbor. Neighbor unreachability detection also determines that packets are being processed properly by the node's IP layer.

Neighbor unreachability detection uses confirmation from two sources: upper-layer protocols and neighbor solicitation messages. When possible, upper-layer protocols provide a positive confirmation that a connection is making forward progress. For example, when new TCP acknowledgments are received, it is confirmed that previously sent data has been delivered correctly.

When a node does not get positive confirmation from upper-layer protocols, the node sends unicast neighbor solicitation messages. These messages solicit neighbor advertisements as reachability confirmation from the next hop. To reduce unnecessary network traffic, probe messages are sent only to neighbors to which the node is actively sending packets.