EIGRP is a Cisco proprietary routing protocol loosely based on their original IGRP (Interior Routing Protocol). EIGRP is an advanced distance-vector routing protocol, it can only use it in an all-Cisco network, but EIGRP more than makes up for this deficiency by being easy to configure, fast, and reliable.
Like RIP, EIGRP is based on a distance vector algorithm that determines the best path to a destination. But EIGRP uses a more complex metric than RIP’s simple hop count. The EIGRP metric is based on the minimum bandwidth and net delay along each possible path, which means that EIGRP can accommodate larger networks than RIP.
Cisco included so many useful features such as automatic two-way redistribution that make the migration from IGRP to EIGRP relatively straightforward.
EIGRP operates very efficiently over large networks. It achieves this efficiency in part by sending non-periodic updates. This means that, unlike RIP, EIGRP only distributes information about routes that have changed, and only when there is a change to report. The rest of the time, routers only exchange small “Hello” packets to verify that routing peers are still available. So, in a relatively stable network, EIGRP uses very little bandwidth. This is especially useful in WAN configurations.
It is also extremely efficient over LAN portions of a network. On each network segment, routers exchange routing information using multicast packets, which helps to limit bandwidth usage on segments that hold many routers.
Every router in an EIGRP network includes a topology table, which is a central feature of the DUAL algorithm. Every time a router receives a new piece of routing information from one of its neighbors, it updates the topology table. This helps to give it a reliable and up-to-date image of all of the connections in the network that are currently in use. Every destination subnet known to EIGRP appears in the topology table.
EIGRP includes many of the features such as Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) and Variable Length Subnet Masks (VLSM) that are needed in larger networks.
Features of EIGRP
EIGRP is an advanced distance vector or hybrid routing protocol that includes the following features:
Rapid convergence: EIGRP uses the Diffusing Update Algorithm (DUAL) to achieve rapid convergence. A router that uses EIGRP stores all available backup routes for destinations so that it can quickly adapt to alternate routes. If no appropriate route or backup route exists in the local routing table, EIGRP queries its neighbors to discover an alternate route.
Reduced bandwidth usage: EIGRP does not make periodic updates. Instead, it sends partial
updates when the path or the metric changes for that route. When path information changes,
DUAL sends an update about only that link rather than about the entire table.
Classless routing: Because EIGRP is a classless routing protocol, it advertises a routing
mask for each destination network. The routing mask feature enables EIGRP to support
discontiguous subnetworks and variable-length subnet masks (VLSM).
Multiple network layer support: EIGRP supports AppleTalk, IP version 4 (IPv4), IP version
6 (IPv6), and Novell Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX), which use protocol-dependent
modules (PDM). PDMs are responsible for protocol requirements that are specific to the
Less overhead: EIGRP uses multicast and unicast rather than broadcast. As a result, end
stations are unaffected by routing updates and requests for topology information.
Load balancing: EIGRP supports unequal metric load balancing, which allows
administrators to better distribute traffic flow in their networks.
Easy summarization: EIGRP enables administrators to create summary routes anywhere
within the network rather than rely on the traditional distance vector approach of performing
classful route summarization only at major network boundaries.