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Versions: (draft-ietf-tsvwg-ecnsyn) 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 RFC 5562

Internet Engineering Task Force                            A. Kuzmanovic
INTERNET-DRAFT                                                 A. Mondal
Intended status: Proposed Standard               Northwestern University
Expires: 18 May 2008                                            S. Floyd
                                                                    ICIR
                                                       K.K. Ramakrishnan
                                                                    AT&T
                                                        18 November 2007



        Adding Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) Capability
                        to TCP's SYN/ACK Packets
                     draft-ietf-tcpm-ecnsyn-03.txt


Status of this Memo

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, each author represents that any
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on December 2007.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).




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Abstract

   This draft specifies a modification to RFC 3168 to allow TCP SYN/ACK
   packets to be ECN-Capable.  For TCP, RFC 3168 only specifies setting
   an ECN-Capable codepoint on data packets, and not on SYN and SYN/ACK
   packets.  However, because of the high cost to the TCP transfer of
   having a SYN/ACK packet dropped, with the resulting retransmit
   timeout, this document specifies the use of ECN for the SYN/ACK
   packet itself, when sent in response to a SYN packet with the two ECN
   flags set in the TCP header, indicating a willingness to use ECN.
   Setting TCP SYN/ACK packets as ECN-Capable can be of great benefit to
   the TCP connection, avoiding the severe penalty of a retransmit
   timeout for a connection that has not yet started placing a load on
   the network.  The sender of the SYN/ACK packet must respond to a
   report of an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet by reducing its initial
   congestion window from two, three, or four segments to one segment,
   thereby reducing the subsequent load from that connection on the
   network.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................4
   2. Conventions .....................................................5
   3. Proposal ........................................................6
   4. Discussion ......................................................9
   5. Related Work ...................................................12
   6. Performance Evaluation .........................................13
      6.1. The Costs and Benefit of Adding ECN-Capability ............13
      6.2. An Evaluation of Different Responses to ECN-Marked SYN/ACK
      Packets ........................................................14
   7. Security Considerations ........................................15
   8. Conclusions ....................................................16
   9. Acknowledgements ...............................................17
   A. Report on Simulations ..........................................17
      A.1. Simulations with RED in Packet Mode .......................18
      A.2. Simulations with RED in Byte Mode .........................19
   Normative References ..............................................20
   Informative References ............................................20
   IANA Considerations ...............................................22
   Full Copyright Statement ..........................................22
   Intellectual Property .............................................23


   NOTE TO RFC EDITOR: PLEASE DELETE THIS NOTE UPON PUBLICATION.

   Changes from draft-ietf-tcpm-ecnsyn-02:

   * Added to the discussion in the Security section of whether



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     ECN-Capable TCP SYN packets have problems with firewalls,
     over and above the known problems of TCP data packets
     (e.g., as in the Microsoft report).  From a question raised
     at the TCPM meeting at the July 2007 IETF.

   * Added a sentence to the discussion of routers or middleboxes that
     *might* drop TCP SYN packets on the basis of IP header fields.
     Feedback from Remi Denis-Courmont.

   * General editing.  Feedback from Alfred Henes.

   Changes from draft-ietf-tcpm-ecnsyn-01:

   * Changes in response to feedback from Anil Agarwal.

   * Added a look at the costs of adding ECN-Capability to
     SYN/ACKs in a highly-congested scenario.
     From feedback from Mark Allman and Janardhan Iyengar.

   * Added a comparative evaluation of two possible responses
     to an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet.  From Mark Allman.

   Changes from draft-ietf-tcpm-ecnsyn-00:

   * Only updating the revision number.

   Changes from draft-ietf-twvsg-ecnsyn-00:

   * Changed name of draft to draft-ietf-tcpm-ecnsyn.

   * Added a discussion in Section 3 of "Response to
     ECN-marking of SYN/ACK packets".  Based on
     suggestions from Mark Allman.

   * Added a discussion to the Conclusions about adding
     ECN-capability to relevant set-up packets in other
     protocols.  From a suggestion from Wesley Eddy.

   * Added a description of SYN exchanges with SYN cookies.
     From a suggestion from Wesley Eddy.

   * Added a discussion of one-way data transfers, where the
     host sending the SYN/ACK packet sends no data packets.

   * Minor editing, from feedback from Mark Allman and Janardhan
     Iyengar.

   * Future work: a look at the costs of adding



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     ECN-Capability in a worst-case scenario.
     From feedback from Mark Allman and Janardhan Iyengar.

   * Future work: a comparative evaluation of two
     possible responses to an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet.

   Changes from draft-kuzmanovic-ecn-syn-00.txt:

   * Changed name of draft to draft-ietf-twvsg-ecnsyn.

   END OF NOTE TO RFC EDITOR.

1.  Introduction

   TCP's congestion control mechanism has primarily used packet loss as
   the congestion indication, with packets dropped when buffers
   overflow.  With such tail-drop mechanisms, the packet delay can be
   high, as the queue at bottleneck routers can be fairly large.
   Dropping packets only when the queue overflows, and having TCP react
   only to such losses, results in:
   1) significantly higher packet delay;
   2) unnecessarily many packet losses; and
   3) unfairness due to synchronization effects.

   The adoption of Active Queue Management (AQM) mechanisms allows
   better control of bottleneck queues [RFC2309].  This use of AQM has
   the following potential benefits:
   1) better control of the queue, with reduced queueing delay;
   2) fewer packet drops; and
   3) better fairness because of fewer synchronization effects.

   With the adoption of ECN, performance may be further improved.  When
   the router detects congestion before buffer overflow, the router can
   provide a congestion indication either by dropping a packet, or by
   setting the Congestion Experienced (CE) codepoint in the  Explicit
   Congestion Notification (ECN) field in the IP header [RFC3168].  The
   IETF has standardized the use of the Congestion Experienced (CE)
   codepoint in the IP header for routers to indicate congestion.  For
   incremental deployment and backwards compatibility, the RFC on ECN
   [RFC3168] specifies that routers may mark ECN-capable packets that
   would otherwise have been dropped, using the Congestion Experienced
   codepoint in the ECN field.  The use of ECN allows TCP to react to
   congestion while avoiding unnecessary retransmissions and, in some
   cases, unnecessary retransmit timeouts.  Thus, using ECN has several
   benefits:

   1) For short transfers, a TCP connection's congestion window may be
   small.  For example, if the current window contains only one packet,



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   and that packet is dropped, TCP will have to wait for a retransmit
   timeout to recover, reducing its overall throughput.  Similarly, if
   the current window contains only a few packets and one of those
   packets is dropped, there might not be enough duplicate
   acknowledgements for a fast retransmission, and the sender might have
   to wait for a delay of several round-trip times using Limited
   Transmit [RFC3042].  With the use of ECN, short flows are less likely
   to have packets dropped, sometimes avoiding unnecessary delays or
   costly retransit timeouts.

   2) While longer flows may not see substantially improved throughput
   with the use of ECN, they experience lower loss. This may benefit TCP
   applications that are latency- and loss-sensitive, because of the
   avoidance of retransmissions.

   RFC 3168 only specifies marking the Congestion Experienced codepoint
   on TCP's data packets, and not on SYN and SYN/ACK packets.  RFC 3168
   specifies the negotiation of the use of ECN between the two TCP end-
   points in the TCP SYN and SYN-ACK exchange, using flags in the TCP
   header.  Erring on the side of being conservative, RFC 3168 does not
   specify the use of ECN for the SYN/ACK packet itself.  However,
   because of the high cost to the TCP transfer of having a SYN/ACK
   packet dropped, with the resulting retransmit timeout, this document
   specifies the use of ECN for the SYN/ACK packet itself.  This can be
   of great benefit to the TCP connection, avoiding the severe penalty
   of a retransmit timeout for a connection that has not yet started
   placing a load on the network.  The sender of the SYN/ACK packet must
   respond to a report of an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet by reducing its
   initial congestion window from two, three, or four segments to one
   segment, reducing the subsequent load from that connection on the
   network.

   The use of ECN for SYN/ACK packets has the following potential
   benefits:
   1) Avoidance of a retransmit timeout;
   2) Improvement in the throughput of short connections.

   This draft specifies ECN+, a modification to RFC 3168 to allow TCP
   SYN/ACK packets to be ECN-Capable.  Section 3 contains the
   specification of the change, while Section 4 discusses some of the
   issues, and Section 5 discusses related work.  Section 6 contains an
   evaluation of the proposed change.

2.  Conventions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC 2119].



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3.  Proposal

   This section specifies the modification to RFC 3168 to allow TCP
   SYN/ACK packets to be ECN-Capable.  We use the following terminology
   from RFC 3168:

   The ECN field in the IP header:
   o  CE: the Congestion Experienced codepoint; and
   o  ECT: either one of the two ECN-Capable Transport codepoints.

   The ECN flags in the TCP header:
   o  CWR: the Congestion Window Reduced flag; and
   o  ECE: the ECN-Echo flag.

   ECN-setup packets:
   o  ECN-setup SYN packet: a SYN packet with the ECE and CWR flags;
   o  ECN-setup SYN-ACK packet: a SYN-ACK packet with ECE but not CWR.

   RFC 3168 in Section 6.1.1. states that "A host MUST NOT set ECT on
   SYN or SYN-ACK packets." In this section, we specify that a TCP node
   MAY respond to an ECN-setup SYN packet by setting ECT in the
   responding ECN-setup SYN/ACK packet, indicating to routers that the
   SYN/ACK packet is ECN-Capable.  This allows a congested router along
   the path to mark the packet instead of dropping the packet as an
   indication of congestion.

   Assume that TCP node A transmits to TCP node B an ECN-setup SYN
   packet, indicating willingness to use ECN for this connection.  As
   specified by RFC 3168, if TCP node B is willing to use ECN, node B
   responds with an ECN-setup SYN-ACK packet.

   Figure 1 shows an interchange with the SYN/ACK packet dropped by a
   congested router.  Node B waits for a retransmit timeout, and then
   retransmits the SYN/ACK packet.

















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        ---------------------------------------------------------------
           TCP Node A             Router                  TCP Node B
           ----------             ------                  ----------

           ECN-setup SYN packet --->
                                            ECN-setup SYN packet --->

                                 <--- ECN-setup SYN/ACK, possibly ECT
                                                   3-second timer set
                               SYN/ACK dropped               .
                                                             .
                                                             .
                                               3-second timer expires
                                      <--- ECN-setup SYN/ACK, not ECT
           <--- ECN-setup SYN/ACK
           Data/ACK --->
                                                        Data/ACK --->
                                     <--- Data (one to four segments)
        ---------------------------------------------------------------

           Figure 1: SYN exchange with the SYN/ACK packet dropped.


   If the SYN/ACK packet is dropped in the network, the TCP host (node
   B) responds by waiting three seconds for the retransmit timer to
   expire [RFC2988].  If a SYN/ACK packet with the ECT codepoint is
   dropped, the TCP node SHOULD resend the SYN/ACK packet without the
   ECN-Capable codepoint.  (Although we are not aware of any middleboxes
   that drop SYN/ACK packets that contain an ECN-Capable codepoint in
   the IP header, we have learned to design our protocols defensively in
   this regard [RFC3360].)

   We note that if syn-cookies were used by Node B in the exchange in
   Figure 1, TCP Node B wouldn't set a timer upon transmission of the
   SYN/ACK packet [SYN-COOK].  In this case, if the SYN/ACK packet was
   lost, the initiator (Node A) would have to timeout and retransmit the
   SYN packet in order to trigger another SYN-ACK.

   Figure 2 shows an interchange with the SYN/ACK packet sent as ECN-
   Capable, and ECN-marked instead of dropped at the congested router.











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        ---------------------------------------------------------------
           TCP Node A             Router                  TCP Node B
           ----------             ------                  ----------

           ECN-setup SYN packet --->
                                           ECN-setup SYN packet --->

                                         <--- ECN-setup SYN/ACK, ECT
                              <--- Sets CE on SYN/ACK
           <--- ECN-setup SYN/ACK, CE

           Data/ACK, ECN-Echo --->
                                             Data/ACK, ECN-Echo --->
                                      Window reduced to one segment.
                                   <--- Data, CWR (one segment only)
        ---------------------------------------------------------------

           Figure 2: SYN exchange with the SYN/ACK packet marked.


   If the receiving node (node A) receives a SYN/ACK packet that has
   been marked by the congested router, with the CE codepoint set, the
   receiving node MUST respond by setting the ECN-Echo flag in the TCP
   header of the responding ACK packet.  As specified in RFC 3168, the
   receiving node continues to set the ECN-Echo flag in packets until it
   receives a packet with the CWR flag set.

   When the sending node (node B) receives the ECN-Echo packet reporting
   the Congestion Experienced indication in the SYN/ACK packet, the node
   MUST set the initial congestion window to one segment, instead of two
   segments as allowed by [RFC2581], or three or four segments allowed
   by [RFC3390].  If the sending node (node B) was going to use an
   initial window of one segment, and receives an ECN-Echo packet
   informing it of a Congestion Experienced indication on its SYN/ACK
   packet, the sending node MAY continue to send with an initial window
   of one segment, without waiting for a retransmit timeout.  We note
   that this updates RFC 3168, which specifies that "the sending TCP
   MUST reset the retransmit timer on receiving the ECN-Echo packet when
   the congestion window is one."  As specified by RFC 3168, the sending
   node (node B) also sets the CWR flag in the TCP header of the next
   data packet sent, to acknowledge its receipt of and reaction to the
   ECN-Echo flag.

   If the data transfer in Figure 2 is entirely from Node A to Node B,
   then data packets from Node A continue to set the ECN-Echo flag in
   data packets, waiting for the CWR flag from Node B acknowledging a
   response to the ECN-Echo flag.




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4.  Discussion

   Motivation:
   The rationale for the proposed change is the following.  When node B
   receives a TCP SYN packet with ECN-Echo bit set in the TCP header,
   this indicates that node A is ECN-capable. If node B is also ECN-
   capable, there are no obstacles to immediately setting one of the
   ECN-Capable codepoints in the IP header in the responding TCP SYN/ACK
   packet.

   There can be a great benefit in setting an ECN-capable codepoint in
   SYN/ACK packets, as is discussed further in [ECN+], and reported
   briefly in Section 5 below.  Congestion is most likely to occur in
   the server-to-client direction.  As a result, setting an ECN-capable
   codepoint in SYN/ACK packets can reduce the occurrence of three-
   second retransmit timeouts resulting from the drop of SYN/ACK
   packets.

   Flooding attacks:
   Setting an ECN-Capable codepoint in the responding TCP SYN/ACK
   packets does not raise any novel security vulnerabilities.  For
   example, provoking servers or hosts to send SYN/ACK packets to a
   third party in order to perform a "SYN/ACK flood" attack would be
   highly inefficient.  Third parties would immediately drop such
   packets, since they would know that they didn't generate the TCP SYN
   packets in the first place.  Moreover, such SYN/ACK attacks would
   have the same signatures as the existing TCP SYN attacks. Provoking
   servers or hosts to reply with SYN/ACK packets in order to congest a
   certain link would also be highly inefficient because SYN/ACK packets
   are small in size.

   However, the addition of ECN-Capability to SYN/ACK packets could
   allow SYN/ACK packets to persist for more hops along a network path
   before being dropped, thus adding somewhat to the ability of a
   SYN/ACK attack to flood a network link.

   The TCP SYN packet:
   There are several reasons why an ECN-Capable codepoint MUST NOT be
   set in the IP header of the initiating TCP SYN packet.  First, when
   the TCP SYN packet is sent, there are no guarantees that the other
   TCP endpoint (node B in Figure 2) is ECN-capable, or that it would be
   able to understand and react if the ECN CE codepoint was set by a
   congested router.

   Second, the ECN-Capable codepoint in TCP SYN packets could be misused
   by malicious clients to `improve' the well-known TCP SYN attack. By
   setting an ECN-Capable codepoint in TCP SYN packets, a malicious host
   might be able to inject a large number of TCP SYN packets through a



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   potentially congested ECN-enabled router, congesting it even further.

   For both these reasons, we continue the restriction that the TCP SYN
   packet MUST NOT have the ECN-Capable codepoint in the IP header set.

   Backwards compatibility:
   In order for TCP node B to send a SYN/ACK packet as ECN-Capable, node
   B must have received an ECN-setup SYN packet from node A.  However,
   it is possible that node A supports ECN, but either ignores the CE
   codepoint on received SYN/ACK packets, or ignores SYN/ACK packets
   with the ECT or CE codepoint set.  If the TCP sender ignores the CE
   codepoint on received SYN/ACK packets, this would mean that the TCP
   connection would not respond to this congestion indication.  However,
   this seems to us an acceptable cost to pay in the incremental
   deployment of ECN-Capability for TCP's SYN/ACK packets.  It would
   mean that the sender of the SYN/ACK packet would not reduce the
   initial congestion window from two, three, or four segments down to
   one segment, as it should.  However, the TCP sender would still
   respond correctly to any subsequent CE indications on data packets
   later on in the connection.  Thus, to be explicit, when a TCP
   connection includes a sender that supports ECN but *does not* support
   ECN-Capability for SYN/ACK packets, in combination with a receiver
   that *does* support ECN-Capabililty for SYN/ACK packets, it is quite
   possible that the ECN-Capable SYN/ACK packets will be marked rather
   than dropped in the network, and that the sender will not respond to
   the ECN mark on the SYN/ACK packet.

   It is also possible that in some older TCP implementation, the TCP
   sender would ignore arriving SYN/ACK packets that had the ECT or CE
   codepoint set.  This would result in a delay in connection set-up for
   that TCP connection, with the TCP sender re-sending the SYN packet
   after a retransmit timeout.  We are not aware of any TCP
   implementations with this behavior.

   SYN/ACK packets and packet size:
   There are a number of router buffer architectures that have smaller
   dropping rates for small (SYN) packets than for large (data) packets.
   For example, for a Drop Tail queue in units of packets, where each
   packet takes a single slot in the buffer regardless of packet size,
   small and large packets are equally likely to be dropped.  However,
   for a Drop Tail queue in units of bytes, small packets are less
   likely to be dropped than are large ones.  Similarly, for RED in
   packet mode, small and large packets are equally likely to be dropped
   or marked, while for RED in byte mode, a packet's chance of being
   dropped or marked is proportional to the packet size in bytes.

   For a congested router with an AQM mechanism in byte mode, where a
   packet's chance of being dropped or marked is proportional to the



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   packet size in bytes, the drop or marking rate for TCP SYN/ACK
   packets should generally be low.  In this case, the benefit of making
   SYN/ACK packets ECN-Capable should be similarly moderate.  However,
   for a congested router with a Drop Tail queue in units of packets or
   with an AQM mechanism in packet mode, and with no priority queueing
   for smaller packets, small and large packets should have the same
   probability of being dropped or marked.  In such a case, making
   SYN/ACK packets ECN-Capable should be of significant benefit.

   We believe that there are a wide range of behaviors in the real world
   in terms of the drop or mark behavior at routers as a function of
   packet size [Tools] (Section 10).  We note that all of these
   alternatives listed above are available in the NS simulator (Drop
   Tail queues are by default in units of packets, while the default for
   RED queue management has been changed from packet mode to byte mode).

   Response to ECN-marking of SYN/ACK packets:
   One question is why TCP SYN/ACK packets should be treated differently
   from other packets in terms of the packet sender's response to an
   ECN-marked packet.  Section 5 of RFC 3168 specifies the following:

   "Upon the receipt by an ECN-Capable transport of a single CE packet,
   the congestion control algorithms followed at the end-systems MUST be
   essentially the same as the congestion control response to a *single*
   dropped packet.  For example, for ECN-Capable TCP the source TCP is
   required to halve its congestion window for any window of data
   containing either a packet drop or an ECN indication."

   In particular, Section 6.1.2 of RFC 3168 specifies that when the TCP
   congestion window consists of a single packet and that packet is ECN-
   marked in the network, then the sender must reduce the sending rate
   below one packet per round-trip time, by waiting for one RTO before
   sending another packet.  If the RTO was set to the average round-trip
   time, this would result in halving the sending rate; because the RTO
   is in fact larger than the average round-trip time, the sending rate
   is reduced to less than half of its previous value.

   TCP's congestion control response to the *dropping* of a SYN/ACK
   packet is to wait a default time before sending another packet.  This
   document argues that ECN gives end-systems a wider range of possible
   responses to the *marking* of a SYN/ACK packet, and that waiting a
   default time before sending a data packet is not the desired
   response.

   On the conservative end, one could assume an effective congestion
   window of one packet for the SYN/ACK packet, and respond to an ECN-
   marked SYN/ACK packet by reducing the sending rate to one packet
   every two round-trip times.  As an approximation, the TCP end-node



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   could measure the round-trip time T between the sending of the
   SYN/ACK packet and the receipt of the acknowledgement, and reply to
   the acknowledgement of the ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet by waiting T
   seconds before sending a data packet.

   However, we note that for an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet, halving the
   *congestion window* is not the same as halving the *sending rate*;
   there is no `sending rate' associated with an ECN-Capable SYN/ACK
   packet, as such packets are only sent as the first packet in a
   connection from that host.  Further, a router's marking of a SYN/ACK
   packet is not affected by any past history of that connection.

   Adding ECN-Capability to SYN/ACK packets allows the simple response
   of setting the initial congestion window to one packet, instead of
   its allowed default value of two, three, or four packets, with the
   host proceeding with a cautious sending rate of one packet per round-
   trip time.  If that packet is ECN-marked or dropped, then the sender
   will wait an RTO before sending another packet.  This document argues
   that this approach is useful to users, with no dangers of congestion
   collapse or of starvation of competing traffic.  This is discussed in
   more detail below in Section 6.2.

   We note that if the data transfer is entirely from Node A to Node B,
   then there is no effective difference between the two possible
   responses to an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet outlined above.  In either
   case, Node B sends no data packets, only sending acknowledgement
   packets in response to received data packets.

5.  Related Work

   The addition of ECN-capability to TCP's SYN/ACK packets was proposed
   in [ECN+].  The paper includes an extensive set of simulation and
   testbed experiments to evaluate the effects of the proposal, using
   several Active Queue Management (AQM) mechanisms, including Random
   Early Detection (RED) [RED], Random Exponential Marking (REM) [REM],
   and Proportional Integrator (PI) [PI].  The performance measures were
   the end-to-end response times for each request/response pair, and the
   aggregate throughput on the bottleneck link.  The end-to-end response
   time was computed as the time from the moment when the request for
   the file is sent to the server, until that file is successfully
   downloaded by the client.

   The measurements from [ECN+] show that setting an ECN-Capable
   codepoint in the IP packet header in TCP SYN/ACK packets
   systematically improves performance with all evaluated AQM schemes.
   When SYN/ACK packets at a congested router are ECN-marked instead of
   dropped, this can avoid a long initial retransmit timeout, improving
   the response time for the affected flow dramatically.



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   [ECN+] shows that the impact on aggregate throughput can also be
   quite significant, because marking SYN ACK packets can prevent larger
   flows from suffering long timeouts before being "admitted" into the
   network.  In addition, the testbed measurements from [ECN+] show that
   web servers setting the ECN-Capable codepoint in TCP SYN/ACK packets
   could serve more requests.

   As a final step, [ECN+] explores the co-existence of flows that do
   and don't set the ECN-capable codepoint in TCP SYN/ACK packets.  The
   results in [ECN+] show that both types of flows can coexist, with
   some performance degradation for flows that don't use ECN+.  Flows
   that do use ECN+ improve their end-to-end performance.  At the same
   time, the performance degradation for flows that don't use ECN+, as a
   result of the flows that do use ECN+, increases as a greater fraction
   of flows use ECN+.

6.  Performance Evaluation

6.1.  The Costs and Benefit of Adding ECN-Capability

   [ECN+] explores the costs and benefits of adding ECN-Capability to
   SYN/ACK packets with both simulations and experiments.  The addition
   of ECN-capability to SYN/ACK packets could be of significant benefit
   for those ECN connections that would have had the SYN/ACK packet
   dropped in the network, and for which the ECN-Capability would allow
   the SYN/ACK to be marked rather than dropped.

   The percent of SYN/ACK packets on a link can be quite high. In
   particular, measurements on links dominated by web traffic indicate
   that 15-20% of the packets can be SYN/ACK packets [SCJO01].

   The benefit of adding ECN-capability to SYN/ACK packets depends in
   part on the size of the data transfer.  The drop of a SYN/ACK packet
   can increase the download time of a short file by an order of
   magnitude, by requiring a three-second retransmit timeout.  For
   longer-lived flows, the effect of a dropped SYN/ACK packet on file
   download time is less dramatic.  However, even for longer-lived
   flows, the addition of ECN-capability to SYN/ACK packets can improve
   the fairness among long-lived flows, as newly-arriving flows would be
   less likely to have to wait for retransmit timeouts.

   One question that arises is what fraction of connections would see
   the benefit from making SYN/ACK packets ECN-capable, in a particular
   scenario.  Specifically:

   (1) What fraction of arriving SYN/ACK packets are dropped at the
   congested router when the SYN/ACK packets are not ECN-capable?




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   (2) Of those SYN/ACK packets that are dropped, what fraction would
   have been ECN-marked instead of dropped if the SYN/ACK packets had
   been ECN-capable?

   To answer (1), it is necessary to consider not only the level of
   congestion but also the queue architecture at the congested link.  As
   described in Section 4 above, for some queue architectures small
   packets are less likely to be dropped than large ones.  In such an
   environment, SYN/ACK packets would have lower packet drop rates;
   question (1) could not necessarily be inferred from the overall
   packet drop rate, but could be answered by measuring the drop rate
   for SYN/ACK packets directly.  In such an environment, adding ECN-
   capability to SYN/ACK packets would be of less dramatic benefit than
   in environments where all packets are equally likely to be dropped
   regardless of packet size.

   As question (2) implies, even if all of the SYN/ACK packets were ECN-
   capable, there could still be some SYN/ACK packets dropped instead of
   marked at the congested link; the full answer to question (2) depends
   on the details of the queue management mechanism at the router.  If
   congestion is sufficiently bad, and the queue management mechanism
   cannot prevent the buffer from overflowing, then SYN/ACK packets will
   be dropped rather than marked upon buffer overflow whether or not
   they are ECN-capable.

   For some AQM mechanisms, ECN-capable packets are marked instead of
   dropped any time this is possible, that is, any time the buffer is
   not yet full.  For other AQM mechanisms however, such as the RED
   mechanism as recommended in [RED], packets are dropped rather than
   marked when the packet drop/mark rate exceeds a certain threshold,
   e.g., 10%, even if the packets are ECN-capable.  For a router with
   such an AQM mechanism, when congestion is sufficiently severe to
   cause a high drop/mark rate, some SYN/ACK packets would be dropped
   instead of marked whether or not they were ECN-capable.

   Thus, the degree of benefit of adding ECN-Capability to SYN/ACK
   packets depends not only on the overall packet drop rate in the
   network, but also on the queue management architecture at the
   congested link.


6.2.  An Evaluation of Different Responses to ECN-Marked SYN/ACK Packets

   This document specifies that the end-node responds to the report of
   an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet by setting the initial congestion window
   to one segment, instead of its possible default value of two to four
   segments.  We call this ECN+ with NoWaiting.  However, in Section 4
   discussed another possible response to an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet,



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   of the end-node waiting an RTT before sending a data packet.  We call
   this approach ECN+ with Waiting.

   Simulations comparing the performance with Standard ECN (without ECN-
   marked SYN/ACK packets), ECN+ with NoWaiting, and ECN+ with Waiting
   show little difference, in terms of aggregate congestion, between
   ECN+ with NoWaiting and ECN+ with Waiting.  The details are given in
   Appendix A below.  Our conclusions are that ECN+ with NoWaiting is
   perfectly safe, and there are no congestion-related reasons for
   preferring ECN+ with Waiting over ECN+ with NoWaiting.  That is,
   there is no need for the TCP end-node to wait a round-trip time
   before sending a data packet after receiving an acknowledgement of an
   ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet.


7.  Security Considerations

   TCP packets carrying the ECT codepoint in IP headers can be marked
   rather than dropped by ECN-capable routers. This raises several
   security concerns that we discuss below.

   "Bad" routers or middleboxes:
   There are a number of known deployment problems from using ECN with
   TCP traffic in the Internet.  The first reported problem, dating back
   to 2000, is of a small but decreasing number of routers or
   middleboxes that reset a TCP connection in response to TCP SYN
   packets using flags in the TCP header to negotiate ECN-capability
   [Kelson00] [RFC3360] [MAF05].  Dave Thaler reported at the March 2007
   IETF of new two problems encountered by TCP connections using ECN;
   the first of the two problems concerns routers that crash when a TCP
   data packet arrives with the ECN field in the IP header with the
   codepoint ECT(0) or ECT(1), indicating that an ECN-Capable connection
   has been established [SBT07].

   While there is no evidence that any routers or middleboxes drop
   SYN/ACK packets that contain an ECN-Capable or CE codepoint in the IP
   header, such behavior cannot be excluded.  (There seems to be a
   number of routers or middleboxes that drop TCP SYN packets that
   contain known or unknown IP options [MAF05] (Figure 1).)  Thus, as
   specified in Section 3, if a SYN/ACK packet with the ECT or CE
   codepoint is dropped, the TCP node SHOULD resend the SYN/ACK packet
   without the ECN-Capable codepoint.  There is also no evidence that
   any routers or middleboxes crash when a SYN/ACK arrives with an ECN-
   Capable or CE codepoint in the IP header (over and above the routers
   already known to crash when a data packet arrives with either ECT(0)
   or ECT(1)), but we have not conducted any measurement studies of this
   [F07].




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   Congestion collapse:
   Because TCP SYN/ACK packets carrying an ECT codepoint could be ECN-
   marked instead of dropped at an ECN-capable router, the concern is
   whether this can either invoke congestion, or worsen performance in
   highly congested scenarios.  However, after learning that a SYN/ACK
   packet was ECN-marked, the sender of that packet will only send one
   data packet; if this data packet is ECN-marked, the sender will then
   wait for a retransmission timeout.  In addition, routers are free to
   drop rather than mark arriving packets in times of high congestion,
   regardless of whether the packets are ECN-capable.  When congestion
   is very high and a router's buffer is full, the router has no choice
   but to drop rather than to mark an arriving packet.

   The simulations reported in Appendix A show that even with demanding
   traffic mixes dominated by short flows and high levels of congestion,
   the aggregate packet dropping rates are not significantly different
   with Standard ECN, ECN+ with NoWaiting, or ECN+ with Waiting.  In
   particular, the simulations show that in periods of very high
   congestion the packet-marking rate is low with or without ECN+, and
   the use of ECN+ does not significantly increase the number of dropped
   or marked packets.

   The simulations show that ECN+ is most effective in times of moderate
   congestion.  In these moderate-congested scenarios, the use of ECN+
   increases the number of ECN-marked packets, because ECN+ allows
   SYN/ACK packets to be ECN-marked.  At the same time, in these times
   of moderate congestion, the use of ECN+ instead of Standard ECN does
   not significantly affect the overall levels of congestion.

   The simulations show that the use of ECN+ is less effective in times
   of high congestion;  the simulations show that in times of high
   congestion more packets are dropped instead of marked, both with
   Standard ECN and with ECN+.  In times of high congestion, the buffer
   can overflow, even with Active Queue Management and ECN; when the
   buffer is full arriving packets are dropped rather than marked,
   whether the packets are ECN-capable or not.  Thus while ECN+ is less
   effective in times of high congestion, it still doesn't result in a
   significant increase in the level of congestion.  More details are
   given in the appendix.

8.  Conclusions

   This draft specifies a modification to RFC 3168 to allow TCP nodes to
   send SYN/ACK packets as being ECN-Capable.  Making the SYN/ACK packet
   ECN-Capable avoids the high cost to a TCP transfer when a SYN/ACK
   packet is dropped by a congested router, by avoiding the resulting
   retransmit timeout.  This improves the throughput of short
   connections.  The sender of the SYN/ACK packet responds to an ECN



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   mark by reducing its initial congestion window from two, three, or
   four segments to one segment, reducing the subsequent load from that
   connection on the network.  The addition of ECN-capability to SYN/ACK
   packets is particularly beneficial in the server-to-client direction,
   where congestion is more likely to occur.  In this case, the initial
   information provided by the ECN marking in the SYN/ACK packet enables
   the server to more appropriately adjust the initial load it places on
   the network.

   Future work will address the more general question of adding ECN-
   Capability to relevant handshake packets in other protocols that use
   retransmission-based reliability in their setup phase (e.g., SCTP,
   DCCP, HIP, and the like).

9.  Acknowledgements

   We thank Anil Agarwal, Mark Allman, Wesley Eddy, Janardhan Iyengar,
   and Pasi Sarolahti for feedback on earlier versions of this draft.

A.  Report on Simulations

   This section reports on simulations showing the costs of adding ECN+
   in highly-congested scenarios.  This section also reports on
   simulations for a comparative evaluation between ECN+ with NoWaiting
   and ECN+ with Waiting.

   The simulations are run with a range of file-size distributions.  As
   a baseline, they use the empirical heavy-tailed distribution reported
   in [SCJO01], with a mean file size of around 7 KBytes.  This flow-
   size distribution is manipulated by skewing the flow sizes towards
   lower and higher values to get distributions with mean file sizes of
   3 KBytes, 5 KBytes, 14 KBytes and 17 KBytes.  The congested link is
   100 Mbps.  RED is run in gentle mode, and arriving ECN-Capable
   packets are only dropped instead of marked if the buffer is full (and
   the router has no choice).

   We explore two alternatives for a TCP node's response to a report of
   an ECN-marked SYN/ACK packet.  With ECN+ with NoWaiting, the TCP node
   sends a data packet immediately (with an initial congestion window of
   one segment).  With the alternative ECN+ with Waiting, the TCP node
   waits a round-trip time before sending a data packet; the sender
   already has one measurement of the round-trip time when the
   acknowledgement for the SYN/ACK packet is received.

   In the tables below, ECN+ refers to ECN+ with NoWaiting, where the
   sender starts transmitting immediately, and ECN+/wait refers to ECN+
   with Waiting, where the sender waits a round-trip time before sending
   a data packet into the network.



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   The simulation scripts are available on [ECN-SYN], along with graphs
   showing the distribution of response times for the TCP connections.


A.1.  Simulations with RED in Packet Mode

   The simulations with RED in packet mode and with the queue in packets
   show that ECN+ is useful in times of moderate congestion, though it
   adds little benefit in times of high congestion.  The simulations
   show a minimal increase in levels of congestion with either ECN+ with
   Waiting or ECN+ with NoWaiting, either in terms of packet dropping or
   marking rates or in terms of the distribution of responses times.
   Thus, the simulations show no problems with ECN+ in times of high
   congestion, and no reason to use ECN+ with Waiting instead of ECN+
   with NoWaiting.

   Table 1 shows the congestion levels for simulations with RED in
   packet mode, with a queue in packets.  To explore a worst-case
   scenario, these simulations use a traffic mix with an unrealistically
   small flow size distribution, with a mean flow size of 3 Kbytes.  For
   each table showing a particular traffic load, the three rows show the
   number of packets dropped, the number of packets ECN-marked, and the
   aggregate packet drop rate, and the three columns show the
   simulations with Standard ECN, ECN+ (NoWaiting) and ECN+/wait.

   The usefulness of ECN+: The first thing to observe is that for the
   simulations with the somewhat moderate load of 95%, with packet drop
   rates of 5-6%, the use of ECN+ or ECN+/wait more than doubled the
   number of packets marked.  This indicates that with ECN+ or
   ECN+/wait, many SYN/ACK packets are marked instead of dropped.

   No increase in congestion: The second thing to observe is that in all
   of the simulations, the use of ECN+ or ECN+/wait does not
   significantly increase the aggregate packet drop rate.

   Comparing ECN+ and ECN+/wait: The third thing to observe is that
   there is little difference between ECN+ and ECN+/wait in terms of the
   aggregate packet drop rate.  Thus, there is no congestion-related
   reason to prefer ECN+/wait over ECN+.












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        Traffic Load = 95%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped     74,645      64,034      64,983
        Marked       7,639      17,681      16,914
        Loss rate    6.05%       5.26%       5.33%


        Traffic Load = 110%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped    161,644     163,620     165,196
        Marked       4,375       6,653       6,144
        Loss rate   10.38%      10.45%      10.53%


        Traffic Load = 125%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped    257,671     268,161     264,437
        Marked       2,885       3,712       3,359
        Loss rate   14.52%      15.00%      14.83%


        Traffic Load = 150%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Loss rate   24.36%      24.61%      24.46%


        Traffic Load = 200%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Loss rate   29.99%      30.22%      30.23%

   Table 1: Simulations with an average flow size of 3 Kbytes, RED in
   packet mode, queue in packets.

A.2.  Simulations with RED in Byte Mode

   Table 3 below shows simulations with RED in byte mode and the queue
   in bytes.  Like the simulations with RED in packet mode, there is no
   significant increase in aggregate congestion with the use of ECN+ or
   ECN+/wait, and no congestion-related reason to prefer ECN+/wait over
   ECN+.

   However, unlike the simulations with RED in packet mode, the
   simulations with RED in byte mode show little benefit from the use of



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   ECN+ or ECN+/wait, in that the packet marking rate with ECN+ or
   ECN+/wait is not much different than the packet marking rate with
   Standard ECN.  This is because with RED in byte mode, small packets
   like SYN/ACK packets are rarely dropped or marked - that is, there is
   no drawback from the use of ECN+ in these scenarios, but not much
   need for ECN+ either, in a scenario where small packets are unlikely
   to be dropped or marked.


        Traffic Load = 95%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped     13,044      13,323      14,855
        Marked      18,880      19,175      19,049
        Loss rate    1.13%       1.16%       1.29%


        Traffic Load = 110%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped     84,809      83,013      83,564
        Marked       4,086       4,644       4,826
        Loss rate    5.90%       5.78%       5.81%


        Traffic Load = 125%:
                      ECN        ECN+     ECN+/wait
                   -------     -------     -------
        Dropped    157,305     157,435     158,368
        Marked       2,183       2,363       2,663
        Loss rate    9.89%       9.87%       9.93%

   Table 3: Simulations with an average flow size of 3 Kbytes, RED in
   byte mode, queue in bytes.

Normative References

   [RFC 2119] S. Bradner, Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
   Requirement Levels, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [RFC3168] K.K. Ramakrishnan, S. Floyd, and D. Black, The Addition of
   Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP, RFC 3168, Proposed
   Standard, September 2001.

Informative References

   [ECN+] A. Kuzmanovic, The Power of Explicit Congestion Notification,
   SIGCOMM 2005.



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   [ECN-SYN] ECN-SYN web page with simulation scripts, URL to be added.

   [F07] S. Floyd, "[BEHAVE] Response of firewalls and middleboxes to
   TCP SYN packets that are ECN-Capable?", August 2, 2007, email sent to
   the BEHAVE mailing list, URL "http://www1.ietf.org/mail-
   archive/web/behave/current/msg02644.html".`

   [Kelson00] Dax Kelson, note sent to the Linux kernel mailing list,
   September 10, 2000.

   [MAF05] A. Medina, M. Allman, and S. Floyd.  Measuring the Evolution
   of Transport Protocols in the Internet, ACM CCR, April 2005.

   [PI] C. Hollot, V. Misra, W. Gong, and D. Towsley, On Designing
   Improved Controllers for AQM Routers Supporting TCP Flows, April
   1998.

   [RED] Floyd, S., and Jacobson, V.  Random Early Detection gateways
   for Congestion Avoidance .  IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, V.1
   N.4, August 1993.

   [REM] S. Athuraliya, V. H. Li, S. H. Low and Q. Yin, REM: Active
   Queue Management, IEEE Network, May 2001.

   [RFC2309] B. Braden et al., Recommendations on Queue Management and
   Congestion Avoidance in the Internet, RFC 2309, April 1998.

   [RFC2581] M. Allman, V. Paxson, and W. Stevens, TCP Congestion
   Control, RFC 2581, April 1999.

   [RFC2988] V. Paxson and M. Allman, Computing TCP's Retransmission
   Timer, RFC 2988, November 2000.

   [RFC3042] M. Allman, H. Balakrishnan, and S. Floyd, Enhancing TCP's
   Loss Recovery Using Limited Transmit, RFC 3042, Proposed Standard,
   January 2001.

   [RFC3360] S. Floyd, Inappropriate TCP Resets Considered Harmful, RFC
   3360, August 2002.

   [RFC3390] M. Allman, S. Floyd, and C. Partridge, Increasing TCP's
   Initial Window, RFC 3390, October 2002.

   [SCJO01] F. Smith, F. Campos, K. Jeffay, D. Ott, What {TCP/IP}
   Protocol Headers Can Tell us about the Web, SIGMETRICS, June 2001.

   [SYN-COOK]   Dan J. Bernstein, SYN cookies, 1997, see also
   <http://cr.yp.to/syncookies.html>



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   [SBT07] M. Sridharan, D. Bansal, and D. Thaler, Implementation Report
   on Experiences with Various TCP RFCs, Presentation in the TSVAREA,
   IETF 68, March 2007.  URL
   "http://www3.ietf.org/proceedings/07mar/slides/tsvarea-3/sld6.htm".

   [Tools] S. Floyd and E. Kohler, Tools for the Evaluation of
   Simulation and Testbed Scenarios, Internet-draft draft-irtf-tmrg-
   tools-04, work in progress, July 2007.

IANA Considerations

   There are no IANA considerations regarding this document.


Authors' Addresses

   Aleksandar Kuzmanovic
   Phone: +1 (847) 467-5519
   Northwestern University
   Email: akuzma at northwestern.edu
   URL: http://cs.northwestern.edu/~a

   Amit Mondal
   Northwestern University
   Email: a-mondal at northwestern.edu

   Sally Floyd
   Phone: +1 (510) 666-2989
   ICIR (ICSI Center for Internet Research)
   Email: floyd@icir.org
   URL: http://www.icir.org/floyd/

   K. K. Ramakrishnan
   Phone: +1 (973) 360-8764
   AT&T Labs Research
   Email: kkrama at research.att.com
   URL: http://www.research.att.com/info/kkrama


Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
   retain all their rights.





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   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an
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