Understanding Distance Vector Routing Protocols: A Deep Dive into RIP and EIGRP

Understanding Distance Vector Routing Protocols: A Deep Dive into RIP and EIGRP

Distance vector routing protocols have been a cornerstone of network communication, paving the way for more advanced protocols. Before the advent of link-state protocols, distance vector protocols like RIP (Routing Information Protocol) and EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol) were the standard bearers in networking. Let’s explore these protocols, their intricacies, and how they differ from link-state protocols.

What Are Distance Vector Routing Protocols?

Distance vector routing protocols operate on a simple yet effective principle: each router communicates its routing information to its immediate neighbors. This information includes the distance (or metric) to a destination and the direction (or vector) to reach that destination. The protocol is aptly named “distance vector” because routers only learn the distance to a destination and the direction to take to get there, without knowing the full path.

Key Concepts:

  • Routing by Rumor: Routers only know information about their direct neighbors and rely on these neighbors for routing information to other destinations.
  • Periodic Updates: Routers periodically send their entire routing table to neighboring routers.
  • Hop Count: The metric used is often the hop count, which is the number of routers a packet must pass through to reach its destination.

RIP (Routing Information Protocol)

RIP is one of the earliest distance vector routing protocols. It uses a hop count as its metric, with a maximum allowable hop count of 15. This limitation helps prevent routing loops but also restricts the size of networks that RIP can efficiently manage.

RIP Versions:

  • RIPv1: The original version of RIP, which only supports classful routing and does not include subnet information in its updates.
  • RIPv2: An enhancement over RIPv1, supporting classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) and including subnet information in routing updates.

How RIP Works:

  1. Initialization: Each router initializes its routing table with a route to itself (with a metric of 0) and routes to directly connected networks (with a metric of 1).
  2. Updates: Routers periodically broadcast their routing tables to their immediate neighbors.
  3. Route Calculation: Upon receiving an update, a router adds the metric to reach the sending router to the metric reported in the update to calculate the total cost to reach a destination.

EIGRP (Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol)

Developed by Cisco, EIGRP is a more advanced distance vector protocol, often referred to as a hybrid protocol because it incorporates features from both distance vector and link-state protocols.

Key Features:

  • DUAL Algorithm: EIGRP uses the Diffusing Update Algorithm (DUAL) to ensure loop-free and efficient routing.
  • Multiple Metrics: EIGRP considers multiple metrics such as bandwidth, delay, load, and reliability.
  • Rapid Convergence: Due to the use of the DUAL algorithm, EIGRP converges faster than traditional distance vector protocols.


  • IGRP (Interior Gateway Routing Protocol): The predecessor to EIGRP, IGRP was also developed by Cisco but used a simpler metric and lacked many of EIGRP’s advanced features.
  • EIGRP: An improvement over IGRP, offering better scalability, faster convergence, and more efficient routing.

Comparison with Link-State Protocols

Link-state protocols like OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) differ fundamentally from distance vector protocols. In link-state routing, each router has a complete map of the network topology, allowing for more precise and efficient routing decisions.

Key Differences:

  • Knowledge of Topology: Link-state routers know the entire network topology, while distance vector routers only know their neighbors and rely on their neighbors for further routing information.
  • Update Mechanism: Link-state protocols flood updates through the entire network, while distance vector protocols send updates only to immediate neighbors.
  • Convergence Speed: Link-state protocols generally converge faster and are more scalable for larger networks.

Practical Examples and Use Cases

RIP Example:

Consider a small office network with three routers:

  • Router A knows about Network 1 and Network 2.
  • Router B knows about Network 2 and Network 3.
  • Router C knows about Network 3 and Network 4.

Router A sends updates to Router B about Network 1 and Network 2. Router B then informs Router C about Network 1 and Network 2, adding its metric to the count.

EIGRP Example:

In a larger corporate network with multiple routers, EIGRP quickly adapts to changes in the network. If a link fails, EIGRP’s DUAL algorithm quickly recalculates the best path using alternate routes, ensuring minimal disruption.


Distance vector routing protocols like RIP and EIGRP have played a crucial role in the development of network routing technologies. While simpler and less efficient compared to link-state protocols, they offer valuable insights into the evolution of network protocols. Understanding these protocols is essential for both new and experienced network engineers, providing a foundation for grasping more advanced concepts in network routing.

By appreciating the strengths and limitations of distance vector protocols, network professionals can better design and manage efficient and resilient networks.

Share this post