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Versions: 00 01 RFC 2861

Internet Engineering Task Force                             Mark Handley
INTERNET DRAFT                                           Jitendra Padhye
draft-handley-tcp-cwv-01.txt                                 Sally Floyd
                                                                   ACIRI
                                                           December 1999
                                                     Expires:  June 2000





                    TCP Congestion Window Validation

                          Status of this Memo


   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
   other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-
   Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet- Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/ietf/1id-abstracts.txt

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/shadow.html.

Abstract

   TCP's congestion window controls the number of packets a TCP flow may
   have in the network at any time.  However, long periods when the
   sender is idle or application-limited can lead to the invalidation of
   the congestion window, in that the congestion window no longer
   reflects current information about the state of the network.  This
   document describes a simple modification to TCP's congestion control
   algorithms to decay the congestion window cwnd after the transition
   from a sufficiently-long application-limited period, while using the
   slow-start threshold ssthresh to save information about the previous
   value of the congestion window.




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   An invalid congestion window also results when the congestion window
   is increased (i.e., in TCP's slow-start or congestion avoidance
   phases) during application-limited periods, when the previous value
   of the congestion window might never have been fully utilized.  We
   propose that the TCP sender should not increase the congestion window
   when the TCP sender has been application-limited (and therefore has
   not fully used the current congestion window).  We have explored
   these algorithms both with simulations and with experiments from an
   implementation in FreeBSD.

1.  Conventions and Acronyms

   The keywords MUST, MUST NOT, REQUIRED, SHALL, SHALL NOT, SHOULD,
   SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
   document, are to be interpreted as described in [B97].

2. Introduction

   TCP's congestion window controls the number of packets a TCP flow may
   have in the network at any time.  The congestion window is set using
   an Additive-Increase, Multiplicative-Decrease (AIMD) mechanism that
   probes for available bandwidth, dynamically adapting to changing
   network conditions.  This AIMD mechanism works well when the sender
   continually has data to send, as is typically the case for TCP used
   for bulk-data transfer.  In contrast, for TCP used with telnet
   applications, the data sender often has little or no data to send,
   and the sending rate is often determined by the rate at which data is
   generated by the user.  With the advent of the web, including
   developments such as TCP senders with dynamically-created data and
   HTTP 1.1 with persistent-connection TCP, the interaction between
   application-limited periods (when the sender sends less than is
   allowed by the congestion or receiver windows) and network-limited
   periods (when the sender is limited by the TCP window) becomes
   increasingly important.  More precisely, we define a network-limited
   period as any period when the sender is sending a full window of
   data.

   Long periods when the sender is application-limited can lead to the
   invalidation of the congestion window.  During periods when the TCP
   sender is network-limited, the value of the congestion window is
   repeatedly ``revalidated'' by the successful transmission of a window
   of data without loss.  When the TCP sender is network-limited, there
   is an incoming stream of acknowledgements that ``clocks out" new
   data, giving concrete evidence of recent available bandwidth in the
   network.  In contrast, during periods when the TCP sender is
   application-limited, the estimate of available capacity represented
   by the congestion window may become steadily less accurate over time.
   In particular, capacity that had once been used by the network-



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   limited connection might now be used by other traffic.

   Current TCP implementations have a range of behaviors for starting up
   after an idle period.  Some current TCP implementations slow-start
   after an idle period longer than the RTO estimate, as suggested in
   [RFC2581] and in the appendix of [VJ88], while other implementations
   don't reduce their congestion window after an idle period.  RFC 2581
   [RFC2581] recommends the following: ``a TCP SHOULD set cwnd to no
   more than RW [the initial window] before beginning transmission if
   the TCP has not sent data in an interval exceeding the retransmission
   timeout.''  A proposal for TCP's slow-start after idle has also been
   discussed in [HTH98].  The issue of validation of congestion
   information during idle periods has also been addressed in contexts
   other than TCP and IP, for example in ``Use-it or Lose-it''
   mechanisms for ATM networks [J96,J95].

   To address the revalidation of the congestion window after a
   application-limited period, we propose a simple modification to TCP's
   congestion control algorithms to decay the congestion window cwnd
   after the transition from a sufficiently-long application-limited
   period (i.e., at least one roundtrip time) to a network-limited
   period.

   When the congestion window is reduced, the slow-start threshold
   ssthresh remains as ``memory" of the recent congestion window.
   Specifically, ssthresh is never decreased when cwnd is reduced after
   an application-limited period; before cwnd is reduced, ssthresh is
   set to the maximum of its current value, and half-way between the old
   and the new values of cwnd.  This use of ssthresh allows a TCP sender
   increasing its sending rate after an application-limited period to
   quickly slow-start to recover most of the previous value of the
   congestion window.

   To be more precise, if ssthresh is less than 3/4 cwnd when the
   congestion window is reduced after an application-limited period,
   then ssthresh is increased to 3/4 cwnd before the reduction of the
   congestion window.  The justification for this value of ``3/4 cwnd''
   is that 3/4 cwnd is a conservative estimate of the recent average
   value of the congestion window, and the TCP should safely be able to
   slow-start at least up to this point.  For a TCP in steady-state that
   has been reducing its congestion window each time the congestion
   window reached some maximum value `maxwin', the average congestion
   window has been 3/4 maxwin.  On average, when the connection becomes
   application-limited, cwnd will be 3/4 maxwin, and in this case cwnd
   itself represents the average value of the congestion window.
   However, if the connection happens to become application-limited when
   cwnd equals maxwin, then the average value of the congestion window
   is given by 3/4 cwnd.



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   An invalid congestion window also results when the congestion window
   is increased (i.e., in TCP's slow-start or congestion avoidance
   phases) during application-limited periods, when the previous value
   of the congestion window might never have been fully utilized.  As
   far as we know, all current TCP implementations increase the
   congestion window when an acknowledgement arrives, if allowed by the
   receiver's advertised window and the slow-start or congestion
   avoidance window increase algorithm, without checking to see if the
   previous value of the congestion window has in fact been used.  This
   draft proposes that the window increase algorithm not be invoked
   during application-limited periods [MSML99].  In particular, the TCP
   sender should not increase the congestion window when the TCP sender
   has been application-limited (and therefore has not fully used the
   current congestion window).  This restriction prevents the congestion
   window from growing arbitrarily large, in the absence of evidence
   that the congestion window can be supported by the network.  From
   [MSML99, Section 5.2]: ``This restriction assures that [cwnd] only
   grows as long as TCP actually succeeds in injecting enough data into
   the network to test the path.''

   A somewhat-orthogonal problem associated with maintaining a large
   congestion window after an application-limited period is that the
   sender, with a sudden large amount of data to send after a quiescent
   period, might immediately send a full congestion window of back-to-
   back packets.  This problem of sending large bursts of packets back-
   to-back can be effectively handled using rate-based pacing (RBP,
   [VH97]), or using a maximum burst size control [FF96].  We would
   contend that, even with mechanisms for limiting the sending of back-
   to-back packets or pacing packets out over the period of a roundtrip
   time, an old congestion window that has not been fully used for some
   time can not be trusted as an indication of the bandwidth currently
   available for that flow.  We would contend that the mechanisms to
   pace out packets allowed by the congestion window are largely
   orthogonal to the algorithms used to determine the appropriate size
   of the congestion window.

3. Description

   When a TCP sender has sufficient data available to fill the available
   network capacity for that flow, cwnd and ssthresh get set to
   appropriate values for the network conditions.  When a TCP sender
   stops sending, the flow stops sampling the network conditions, and so
   the value of the congestion window may become inaccurate.  We believe
   the correct conservative behavior under these circumstances is to
   decay the congestion window by half for every RTT that the flow
   remains inactive.  The value of half is a very conservative figure
   based on how quickly multiplicative decrease would have decayed the
   window in the presence of loss.



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   Another possibility is that the sender may not stop sending, but may
   become application-limited rather than network-limited, and offer
   less data to the network than the congestion window allows to be
   sent.  In this case the TCP flow is still sampling network
   conditions, but is not offering sufficient traffic to be sure that
   there is still sufficient capacity in the network for that flow to
   send a full congestion window.  Under these circumstances we believe
   the correct conservative behavior is for the sender to keep track of
   the maximum amount of the congestion window used during each RTT, and
   to decay the congestion window each RTT to midway between the current
   cwnd value and the maximum value used.

   Before the congestion window is reduced, ssthresh is set to the
   maximum of its current value and 3/4 cwnd.  If the sender then has
   more data to send than the decayed cwnd allows, the TCP will slow-
   start (perform exponential increase) at least half-way back up to the
   old value of cwnd.

   An alternate possibility would be to set ssthresh to the maximum of
   the current value of ssthresh, and the old value of cwnd, allowing
   TCP to slow-start all of the way back up to the old value of cwnd.
   Further experimentation can be used to evaluate these two options for
   setting ssthresh.

   For the separate issue of the increase of the congestion window in
   response to an acknowledgement, we believe the correct behavior is
   for the sender to increase the congestion window only if the window
   was full when the acknowledgment arrived.

   We term this set of modifications to TCP Congestion Window Validation
   (CWV) because they are related to ensuring the congestion window is
   always a valid reflection of the current network state as probed by
   the connection.

3.1. The basic algorithm for reducing the congestion window

   A key issue in the CWV algorithm is to determine how to apply the
   guideline of reducing the congestion window once for every roundtrip
   time that the flow is application-limited.  We use TCP's
   retransmission timer (RTO) as a reasonable upper bound on the
   roundtrip time, and reduce the congestion window once per RTO.

   This basic algorithm could be implemented in TCP as follows:  After
   TCP sends a packet, it checks to see if that packet filled the
   congestion window.  If so, the sender is network-limited, and sets
   the variable T_prev to the current TCP clock time, and a variable
   W_used to zero.  T_prev will be used to determine the elapsed time
   since the sender last was network-limited.  When the sender is



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   application-limited, W_used holds the maximum congestion window
   actually used since the sender was last network-limited.

   If the transmitted packet did not fill the congestion window and the
   TCP send queue is empty, then the sender is application-limited.  The
   sender checks to see if the amount of unacknowledged data is greater
   than W_used; if so, W_used is set to the amount of unacknowledged
   data.  In addition TCP checks to see if the elapsed time since T_prev
   is greater than RTO.  If so, then the TCP has been application-
   limited rather than network-limited for an entire RTO interval.  In
   this case, TCP sets ssthresh to the maximum of 3/4 cwnd and the
   current value of ssthresh, and reduces its congestion window to
   (cwnd+W_used)/2.  W_used is then set to zero, T_prev is set to the
   current time, so a further reduction will not take place until
   another RTO period has elapsed.

   After TCP sends a packet, it also sets the variable T_{last} to the
   current time.  When TCP sends a new packet it also checks to see if
   more than RTO seconds have elapsed since the previous packet was
   sent.  If RTO has elapsed, ssthresh is set to the maximum of 3/4 cwnd
   and the current value of ssthresh, and then the congestion window is
   halved for every RTO that elapsed since the previous packet was sent.
   In addition, T_prev is set to the current time, and W_used is reset
   to zero.  This last mechanism could also be implemented by using a
   timer that expires every RTO after the last packet was sent instead
   of a check per packet - efficiency constraints on different operating
   systems may dictate which is more efficient to implement.


3.2.  Pseudo-code for reducing the congestion window





















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   Initially:
       T_last = tcpnow, T_prev = tcpnow, W_used = 0

   After sending a data segment:
       If tcpnow - T_last >= RTO
           (The sender has been idle.)
           ssthresh =  max(ssthresh, 3*cwnd/4)
           For i=1  To (tcpnow - T_last)/RTO
               win =  min(cwnd, receiver's declared max window)
               cwnd =  max(win/2, MSS)
           T_prev = tcpnow
           W_used = 0

       T_last = tcpnow

       If window is full
           T_prev = tcpnow
           W_used = 0
       Else
           If no more data is available to send
               W_used =  max(W_used, amount of unacknowledged data)
               If tcpnow - T_prev >= RTO
                   (The sender has been application-limited.)
                   ssthresh =  max(ssthresh, 3*cwnd/4)
                   win =  min(cwnd, receiver's declared max window)
                   cwnd = (win + W_used)/2
                   T_prev = tcpnow
                   W_used = 0

4. Simulations

   The CWV proposal has been implemented as an option in the network
   simulator NS [NS].  The simulations in the validation test suite for
   CWV can be run with the command "./test-all-tcp" in the directory
   "tcl/test".  The simulations show the use of CWV to reduce the
   congestion window after a period when the TCP connection was
   application-limited, and to limit the increase in the congestion
   window when a transfer is application-limited.  As the simulations
   illustrate, the use of ssthresh to maintain connection history is a
   critical part of the Congestion Window Validation algorithm.  [HPF99]
   discusses these simulations in more detail.

5. Experiments


   We have implemented the CWV mechanism in the TCP implementation in
   FreeBSD 3.2.  [HPF99] discusses these experiments in more detail.




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   The first experiment examines the effects of the Congestion Window
   Validation mechanisms for limiting cwnd increases during application-
   limited periods.  The experiment used a real ssh connection through a
   modem link emulated using Dummynet[Dummynet].  The link speed is
   30Kb/s and the link has five packet buffers available.  Today most
   modem banks have more buffering available than this, but the more
   buffer-limited situation sometimes occurs with older modems.  In the
   first half of the transfer, the user is typing away over the
   connection.  About half way through the time, the user lists a
   moderately large file, which causes a large burst of traffic to be
   transmitted.

   For the unmodified TCP, every returning ACK during the first part of
   the transfer results in an increase in cwnd.  As a result, the large
   burst of data arriving from the application to the transport layer is
   sent as many back-to-back packets, most of which get lost and
   subsequently retransmitted.

   For the modified TCP with Congestion Window Validation, the
   congestion window is not increased when the window is not full, has
   been decreased during application-limited periods closer to what the
   user actually used.  The burst of traffic is now constrained by the
   congestion window, resulting in a better-behaved flow with minimal
   loss.  The end result is that the transfer happens approximately 30%
   faster than the transfer without CWV, due to avoiding retransmission
   timeouts.

   The second experiment uses a real ssh connection over a real dialup
   ppp connection, where the modem bank has much more buffering.  For
   the unmodified TCP, the initial burst from the large file does not
   cause loss, but does cause the RTT to increase to approximately 5
   seconds, where the connection becomes bounded by the receiver's
   window.

   For the modified TCP with Congestion Window Validation, the flow is
   much better behaved, and produces no large burst of traffic.  In this
   case the linear increase for cwnd results in a slow increase in the
   RTT as the buffer slowly fills.

   For the second experiment, both the modified and the unmodified TCP
   finish delivering the data at precisely the same time.  This is
   because the link has been fully utilized in both cases due to the
   modem buffer being larger than the receiver window.  Clearly a modem
   buffer of this size is undesirable due to its effect on the RTT of
   competing flows, but it is necessary with current TCP implementations
   that produce bursts similar to those shown in the top graph.





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6. Conclusions

   This document has presented several TCP algorithms for Congestion
   Window Validation, to be employed after an idle period or a period in
   which the sender was application-limited, and before an increase of
   the congestion window.  The goal of these algorithms is for TCP's
   congestion window to reflect recent knowledge of the TCP connection
   about the state of the network path, while at the same time keeping
   some memory (i.e., in ssthresh) about the earlier state of the path.
   We believe that these modifications will be of benefit to both the
   network and to the TCP flows themselves, by preventing unnecessary
   packet drops due to the TCP sender's failure to update its
   information (or lack of information) about current network
   conditions.  Future work will document and investigate the benefit
   provided by these algorithms, using both simulations and experiments.
   Additional future work will describe a more complex version of the
   CWV algorithm for TCP implementations where the sender does not have
   an accurate estimate of the TCP roundtrip time.

































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8. References

   [FF96] Fall, K., and Floyd, S., Simulation-based Comparisons of
   Tahoe, Reno, and SACK TCP, Computer Communication Review, V. 26 N. 3,
   July 1996, pp. 5-21.  URL `http://www.aciri.org/floyd/papers.html'.

   [HPF99] Mark Handley, Jitendra Padhye, Sally Floyd, TCP Congestion
   Window Validation, UMass CMPSCI Technical Report 99-77, September
   1999.  URL ``ftp://www-net.cs.umass.edu/pub/Handley99-tcpq-
   tr-99-77.ps.gz''.

   [HTH98] Amy Hughes, Joe Touch, John Heidemann,  Issues in TCP Slow-
   Start Restart After Idle Work-in-progress. April 1998.  URL
   ``ftp://ftp.isi.edu/internet-drafts/draft-ietf-tcpimpl-
   restart-00.txt".

   [J88] Jacobson, V., Congestion Avoidance and Control, Originally from
   Proceedings of SIGCOMM '88 (Palo Alto, CA, Aug. 1988), and revised in
   1992.  URL ``http://www-nrg.ee.lbl.gov/nrg-papers.html".

   [JKBFL96] Raj Jain, Shiv Kalyanaraman, Rohit Goyal, Sonia Fahmy, and
   Fang Lu, Comments on "Use-it or Lose-it", ATM Forum Document Number:
   ATM Forum/96-0178, URL `http://www.netlab.ohio-
   state.edu/~jain/atmf/af_rl5b2.htm'.

   [JKGFL95] R. Jain, S. Kalyanaraman, R. Goyal, S. Fahmy, and F. Lu, A
   Fix for Source End System Rule 5, AF-TM 95-1660, December 1995, URL
   `http://www.netlab.ohio-state.edu/~jain/atmf/af_rl52.htm'.

   [MSML99] Matt Mathis, Jeff Semke, Jamshid Mahdavi, and Kevin Lahey,
   The Rate-Halving Algorithm for TCP Congestion Control, June 1999.
   URL ``http://www.psc.edu/networking/ftp/papers/draft-
   ratehalving.txt''.

   [NS] NS, the UCB/LBNL/VINT Network Simulator.  URL ``http://www-
   mash.cs.berkeley.edu/ns/''.

   [RFC2581] M. Allman, V. Paxson, and W. Stevens, TCP Congestion
   Control, RFC 2581, Proposed Standard, April 1999.  URL
   ``ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/rfc2581.txt''.

   [VH97] Vikram Visweswaraiah and John Heidemann. Improving Restart of
   Idle TCP Connections, Technical Report 97-661, University of Southern
   California, November, 1997.

   [Dummynet] Luigi Rizzo, "Dummynet and Forward Error Correction",
   Freenix 98, June 1998, New Orleans.  URL
   ``http://info.iet.unipi.it/~luigi/ip_dummynet/''.



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AUTHORS' ADDRESSES


   Mark Handley
   AT&T Center for Internet Research at ICSI (ACIRI)
   Phone: +1 510 642 4274 x 146
   EMail: mjh@aciri.org
   URL: http://www.aciri.org/mjh/

   Jitendra Padhye
   University of Massachusetts at Amherst
   Phone: (413) 545 2447
   EMail: jitu@cs.umass.edu
   URL: http://www-net.cs.umass.edu/~jitu/

   Sally Floyd
   AT&T Center for Internet Research at ICSI (ACIRI)
   Phone: +1 510-642-4274 x189
   EMail: floyd@aciri.org
   URL:  http://www.aciri.org/floyd/

   This draft was created in December 1999.
   It expires June 2000.


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