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Versions: (draft-ietf-tsvwg-tcp-frto) 00 01 02 RFC 4138

Internet Engineering Task Force                             P. Sarolahti
INTERNET DRAFT                                     Nokia Research Center
File: draft-ietf-tcpm-frto-02.txt                                M. Kojo
                                                  University of Helsinki
                                                          November, 2004
                                                      Expires: May, 2005

        Forward RTO-Recovery (F-RTO): An Algorithm for Detecting
           Spurious Retransmission Timeouts with TCP and SCTP

Status of this Memo

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, we certify that any applicable
   patent or other IPR claims of which we are aware have been disclosed,
   and any of which we become aware will be disclosed, in accordance
   with RFC 3668.

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, we accept the provisions of
   Section 3 of RFC 3667 (BCP 78).

   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 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

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  All Rights Reserved.


   Spurious retransmission timeouts cause suboptimal TCP performance,
   because they often result in unnecessary retransmission of the last
   window of data. This document describes the F-RTO detection algorithm
   for detecting spurious TCP retransmission timeouts. F-RTO is a TCP

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   sender-only algorithm that does not require any TCP options to
   operate. After retransmitting the first unacknowledged segment
   triggered by a timeout, the F-RTO algorithm at a TCP sender monitors
   the incoming acknowledgments to determine whether the timeout was
   spurious and to decide whether to send new segments or retransmit
   unacknowledged segments. The algorithm effectively helps to avoid
   additional unnecessary retransmissions and thereby improves TCP
   performance in case of a spurious timeout. The F-RTO algorithm can
   also be applied to SCTP.


   SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
   document, are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  F-RTO Algorithm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
        2.1  The Algorithm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
        2.2  Discussion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  SACK-enhanced version of the F-RTO algorithm  . . . . . . . .   8
   4.  Taking Actions after Detecting Spurious RTO . . . . . . . . .  10
   5.  SCTP Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   Appendix A: Scenarios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   Appendix B: SACK-enhanced F-RTO and Fast Recovery . . . . . . . .  19
   Appendix C: Discussion on Window Limited Cases  . . . . . . . . .  20

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1.  Introduction

   The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) [Pos81] has two methods for
   triggering retransmissions.  First, the TCP sender relies on incoming
   duplicate ACKs, which indicate that the receiver is missing some of
   the data. After a required number of successive duplicate ACKs have
   arrived at the sender, it retransmits the first unacknowledged
   segment [APS99] and continues with a loss recovery algorithm such as
   NewReno [FHG04] or SACK-based loss recovery [BAFW03]. Second, the TCP
   sender maintains a retransmission timer which triggers retransmission
   of segments, if they have not been acknowledged before the
   retransmission timeout (RTO) expires. When the retransmission timeout
   occurs, the TCP sender enters the RTO recovery where the congestion
   window is initialized to one segment and unacknowledged segments are
   retransmitted using the slow-start algorithm. The retransmission
   timer is adjusted dynamically based on the measured round-trip times

   It has been pointed out that the retransmission timer can expire
   spuriously and cause unnecessary retransmissions when no segments
   have been lost [LK00, GL02, LM03]. After a spurious retransmission
   timeout the late acknowledgments of the original segments arrive at
   the sender, usually triggering unnecessary retransmissions of a whole
   window of segments during the RTO recovery.  Furthermore, after a
   spurious retransmission timeout a conventional TCP sender increases
   the congestion window on each late acknowledgment in slow start,
   injecting a large number of data segments to the network within one
   round-trip time, thus violating the packet conservation principle

   There are a number of potential reasons for spurious retransmission
   timeouts. First, some mobile networking technologies involve sudden
   delay spikes on transmission because of actions taken during a
   hand-off.  Second, arrival of competing traffic, possibly with higher
   priority, on a low-bandwidth link or some other change in available
   bandwidth can cause a sudden increase of round-trip time which may
   trigger a spurious retransmission timeout. A persistently reliable
   link layer can also cause a sudden delay when a data frame and
   several retransmissions of it are lost for some reason. This document
   does not distinguish between the different causes of such a delay
   spike, but discusses the spurious retransmission timeouts caused by a
   delay spike in general.

   This document describes the F-RTO detection algorithm. It is based on
   the detection mechanism of the "Forward RTO-Recovery" (F-RTO)
   algorithm [SKR03] that is used for detecting spurious retransmission
   timeouts and thus avoiding unnecessary retransmissions following the
   retransmission timeout. When the timeout is not spurious, the F-RTO

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   algorithm reverts back to the conventional RTO recovery algorithm and
   therefore has similar behavior and performance.  In contrast to
   alternative algorithms proposed for detecting unnecessary
   retransmissions (Eifel [LK00], [LM03] and DSACK-based algorithms
   [BA04]), F-RTO does not require any TCP options for its operation,
   and it can be implemented by modifying only the TCP sender.  The
   Eifel algorithm uses TCP timestamps [BBJ92] for detecting a spurious
   timeout upon arrival of the first acknowledgment after the
   retransmission. The DSACK-based algorithms require that the TCP
   Selective Acknowledgment Option [MMFR96] with the DSACK extension
   [FMMP00] is in use. With DSACK, the TCP receiver can report if it has
   received a duplicate segment, making it possible for the sender to
   detect afterwards whether it has retransmitted segments
   unnecessarily. The F-RTO algorithm only attempts to detect and avoid
   unnecessary retransmissions after an RTO. Eifel and DSACK can also be
   used for detecting unnecessary retransmissions caused by other
   events, for example packet reordering.

   When an RTO expires, the F-RTO sender retransmits the first
   unacknowledged segment as usual [APS99]. Deviating from the normal
   operation after a timeout, it then tries to transmit new, previously
   unsent data, for the first acknowledgment that arrives after the
   timeout given that the acknowledgment advances the window. If the
   second acknowledgment that arrives after the timeout also advances
   the window, i.e., acknowledges data that was not retransmitted, the
   F-RTO sender declares the timeout spurious and exits the RTO
   recovery. However, if either of these two acknowledgments is a
   duplicate ACK, there is no sufficient evidence of a spurious timeout;
   therefore the F-RTO sender retransmits the unacknowledged segments in
   slow start similarly to the traditional algorithm. With a
   SACK-enhanced version of the F-RTO algorithm, spurious timeouts may
   be detected even if duplicate ACKs arrive after an RTO

   The F-RTO algorithm can also be applied to the Stream Control
   Transmission Protocol (SCTP) [Ste00], because SCTP has similar
   acknowledgment and packet retransmission concepts as TCP. For
   convenience, this document mostly refers to TCP, but the algorithms
   and other discussion are valid for SCTP as well.

   This document is organized as follows. Section 2 describes the basic
   F-RTO algorithm. Section 3 outlines an optional enhancement to the
   F-RTO algorithm that takes advantage of the TCP SACK option.  Section
   4 discusses the possible actions to be taken after detecting a
   spurious RTO. Section 5 gives considerations on applying F-RTO with
   SCTP, and Section 6 discusses the security considerations.

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2.  F-RTO Algorithm

   A timeout is considered spurious if it would have been avoided had
   the sender waited longer for an acknowledgment to arrive [LM03].
   F-RTO affects the TCP sender behavior only after a retransmission
   timeout, otherwise the TCP behavior remains the same.  When the RTO
   expires the F-RTO algorithm monitors incoming acknowledgments and
   declares a timeout spurious, if the TCP sender gets an acknowledgment
   for a segment that was not retransmitted due to timeout. The actions
   taken in response to a spurious timeout are not specified in this
   document, but we discuss some alternatives in Section 4. This section
   introduces the algorithm and then discusses the different steps of
   the algorithm in more detail.

   Following the practice used with the Eifel Detection algorithm
   [LM03], we use the "SpuriousRecovery" variable to indicate whether
   the retransmission is declared spurious by the sender. This variable
   can be used as an input for a corresponding response algorithm. With
   F-RTO, the value of SpuriousRecovery can be either SPUR_TO,
   indicating a spurious retransmission timeout, or FALSE, when the
   timeout is not declared spurious, and the TCP sender should follow
   the conventional RTO recovery algorithm.

2.1.  The Algorithm

   A TCP sender MAY implement the basic F-RTO algorithm, and if it
   chooses to apply the algorithm, the following steps MUST be taken
   after the retransmission timer expires. If the sender implements some
   loss recovery algorithm other than Reno or NewReno [FHG04], F-RTO
   algorithm SHOULD NOT be entered when earlier fast recovery is

   1) When RTO expires, retransmit the first unacknowledged segment and
      set SpuriousRecovery to FALSE.  Also, store the highest sequence
      number transmitted so far in variable "recover".

   2) When the first acknowledgment after the RTO retransmission arrives
      at the sender, the sender chooses the following actions depending
      on whether the ACK advances the window or whether it is a
      duplicate ACK.

      a) If the acknowledgment is a duplicate ACK OR it acknowledges a
         sequence number equal to the value of "recover" OR it does not
         acknowledge all of the data that was retransmitted in step 1,
         revert to the conventional RTO recovery and continue by
         retransmitting unacknowledged data in slow start. Do not enter
         step 3 of this algorithm. The SpuriousRecovery variable remains

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         as FALSE.

      b) Else, if the acknowledgment advances the window AND it is below
         the value of "recover", transmit up to two new (previously
         unsent) segments and enter step 3 of this algorithm. If the TCP
         sender does not have enough unsent data, it can send only one
         segment. In addition, the TCP sender MAY override the Nagle
         algorithm [Nag84] and immediately send a segment if needed.
         Note that sending two segments in this step is allowed by TCP
         congestion control requirements [APS99]: An F-RTO TCP sender
         simply chooses different segments to transmit.

         If the TCP sender does not have any new data to send, or the
         advertised window prohibits new transmissions, the recommended
         action is to skip step 3 of this algorithm and continue with
         slow start retransmissions following the conventional RTO
         recovery algorithm. However, alternative ways of handling the
         window limited cases that could result in better performance
         are discussed in Appendix C.

   3) When the second acknowledgment after the RTO retransmission
      arrives at the sender, the TCP sender either declares the timeout
      spurious, or starts retransmitting the unacknowledged segments.

      a) If the acknowledgment is a duplicate ACK, set the congestion
         window to no more than 3 * MSS, and continue with the slow
         start algorithm retransmitting unacknowledged segments.
         Congestion window can be set to 3 * MSS, because two round-trip
         times have elapsed since the RTO, and a conventional TCP sender
         would have increased cwnd to 3 during the same time. Leave
         SpuriousRecovery set to FALSE.

      b) If the acknowledgment advances the window, i.e. it acknowledges
         data that was not retransmitted after the timeout, declare the
         timeout spurious, set SpuriousRecovery to SPUR_TO and set the
         value of "recover" variable to SND.UNA, the oldest
         unacknowledged sequence number [Pos81].

2.2.  Discussion

   The F-RTO sender takes cautious actions when it receives duplicate
   acknowledgments after a retransmission timeout. Since duplicate ACKs
   may indicate that segments have been lost, reliably detecting a
   spurious timeout is difficult due to the lack of additional
   information. Therefore, it is prudent to follow the conventional TCP
   recovery in those cases.

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   If the first acknowledgment after the RTO retransmission covers the
   "recover" point at algorithm step (2a), there is not enough evidence
   that a non-retransmitted segment has arrived at the receiver after
   the timeout.  This is a common case when a fast retransmission is
   lost and it has been retransmitted again after an RTO, while the rest
   of the unacknowledged segments have successfully been delivered to
   the TCP receiver before the retransmission timeout. Therefore the
   timeout cannot be declared spurious in this case.

   If the first acknowledgment after the RTO retransmission does not
   acknowledge all of the data that was retransmitted in step 1, the TCP
   sender reverts to the conventional RTO recovery. Otherwise, a
   malicious receiver acknowledging partial segments could cause the
   sender to declare the timeout spurious in a case where data was lost.

   The TCP sender is allowed to send two new segments in algorithm
   branch (2b), because the conventional TCP sender would transmit two
   segments when the first new ACK arrives after the RTO retransmission.
   If sending new data is not possible in algorithm branch (2b), or the
   receiver window limits the transmission, the TCP sender has to send
   something in order to prevent the TCP transfer from stalling. If no
   segments were sent, the pipe between sender and receiver might run
   out of segments, and no further acknowledgments would arrive.
   Therefore, in the window limited case the recommendation is to revert
   to the conventional RTO recovery with slow start retransmissions.
   Appendix C discusses some alternative solutions for window limited

   If the retransmission timeout is declared spurious, the TCP sender
   sets the value of the "recover" variable to SND.UNA in order to allow
   fast retransmit [FHG04]. The "recover" variable was proposed for
   avoiding unnecessary multiple fast retransmits when RTO expires
   during fast recovery with NewReno TCP. As the sender does not
   retransmit other segments but the one that triggered the timeout, the
   problem of unnecessary multiple fast retransmits [FHG04] cannot
   occur. Therefore, if there are three duplicate ACKs arriving at the
   sender after the timeout, they are likely to indicate a packet loss,
   hence fast retransmit should be used to allow efficient recovery. If
   there are not enough duplicate ACKs arriving at the sender after a
   packet loss, the retransmission timer expires another time and the
   sender enters step 1 of this algorithm.

   When the timeout is declared spurious, the TCP sender cannot detect
   whether the unnecessary RTO retransmission was lost. In principle the
   loss of the RTO retransmission should be taken as a congestion
   signal, and thus there is a small possibility that the F-RTO sender
   violates the congestion control rules, if it chooses to fully revert
   congestion control parameters after detecting a spurious timeout. The

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   Eifel detection algorithm has a similar property, while the DSACK
   option can be used to detect whether the retransmitted segment was
   successfully delivered to the receiver.

   The F-RTO algorithm has a side-effect on the TCP round-trip time
   measurement. Because the TCP sender can avoid most of the unnecessary
   retransmissions after detecting a spurious timeout, the sender is
   able to take round-trip time samples on the delayed segments. If the
   regular RTO recovery was used without TCP timestamps, this would not
   be possible due to the retransmission ambiguity. As a result, the RTO
   is likely to have more accurate and larger values with F-RTO than
   with the regular TCP after a spurious timeout that was triggered due
   to delayed segments. We believe this is an advantage in the networks
   that are prone to delay spikes.

   It is possible that the F-RTO algorithm does not always avoid
   unnecessary retransmissions after a spurious timeout. If packet
   reordering or packet duplication occurs on the segment that triggered
   the spurious timeout, the F-RTO algorithm may not detect the spurious
   timeout due to incoming duplicate ACKs. Additionally, if a spurious
   timeout occurs during fast recovery, the F-RTO algorithm often cannot
   detect the spurious timeout, because the segments transmitted before
   the fast recovery trigger duplicate ACKs.  However, we consider these
   cases relatively rare, and note that in cases where F-RTO fails to
   detect the spurious timeout, it retransmits the unacknowledged
   segments in slow start and thus performs similarly to the regular RTO

3.  SACK-enhanced version of the F-RTO algorithm

   This section describes an alternative version of the F-RTO algorithm,
   that makes use of the TCP Selective Acknowledgment Option [MMFR96].
   By using the SACK option the TCP sender can detect spurious timeouts
   in most of the cases when packet reordering or packet duplication is
   present. The difference to the basic F-RTO algorithm is that the
   sender may declare timeout spurious even when duplicate ACKs follow
   the RTO, if the SACK blocks acknowledge new data that was not
   transmitted after the RTO retransmission.

   Given that the TCP Selective Acknowledgment Option [MMFR96] is
   enabled for a TCP connection, a TCP sender MAY implement the
   SACK-enhanced F-RTO algorithm. If the sender applies the
   SACK-enhanced F-RTO algorithm, it MUST follow the steps below.  This
   algorithm SHOULD NOT be applied, if the TCP sender is already in SACK
   loss recovery when retransmission timeout occurs.  However, it should
   be possible to apply the principle of F-RTO within certain
   limitations also when retransmission timeout occurs during existing

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   loss recovery. While this is a topic of further research, Appendix B
   briefly discusses the related issues.

   1) When the RTO expires, retransmit the first unacknowledged segment
      and set SpuriousRecovery to FALSE. Set variable "recover" to
      indicate the highest segment transmitted so far. Following the
      recommendation in SACK specification [MMFR96], reset the SACK

   2) Wait until the acknowledgment for the data retransmitted due to
      the timeout arrives at the sender. If duplicate ACKs arrive before
      the cumulative acknowledgment for retransmitted data, adjust the
      scoreboard according to the incoming SACK information but stay in
      step 2 waiting for the next new acknowledgment. If RTO expires
      again, go to step 1 of the algorithm.

      a) if a cumulative ACK acknowledges a sequence number equal to
         "recover", revert to the conventional RTO recovery and set
         congestion window to no more than 2 * MSS, like a regular TCP
         would do. Do not enter step 3 of this algorithm.

      b) else, if a cumulative ACK acknowledges a sequence number
         smaller than "recover" but larger than SND.UNA, transmit up to
         two new (previously unsent) segments and proceed to step 3. If
         the TCP sender is not able to transmit any previously unsent
         data due to receiver window limitation or because it does not
         have any new data to send, the recommended action is to not
         enter step 3 of this algorithm but continue with slow start
         retransmissions following the conventional RTO recovery

         It is also possible to apply some of the alternatives for
         handling window limited cases discussed in Appendix C. In this
         case, the TCP sender should also follow the recommendations
         concerning acknowledgments of retransmitted segments given in
         Appendix B.

   3) The next acknowledgment arrives at the sender. Either duplicate
      ACK or a new cumulative ACK advancing the window applies in this

      a) if the ACK acknowledges sequence number above "recover", either
         in SACK blocks or as a cumulative ACK, set congestion window to
         no more than 3 * MSS and proceed with the conventional RTO
         recovery, retransmitting unacknowledged segments. Take this
         branch also when the acknowledgment is a duplicate ACK and it
         does not acknowledge any new, previously unacknowledged data
         below "recover" in the SACK blocks. Leave SpuriousRecovery set

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         to FALSE.

      b) if the ACK does not acknowledge sequence numbers above
         "recover" AND it acknowledges data that was not acknowledged
         earlier either with cumulative acknowledgment or using SACK
         blocks, declare the timeout spurious and set SpuriousRecovery
         to SPUR_TO. The retransmission timeout can be declared
         spurious, because the segment acknowledged with this ACK was
         transmitted before the timeout.

   If there are unacknowledged holes between the received SACK blocks,
   those segments are retransmitted similarly to the conventional SACK
   recovery algorithm [BAFW03].  If the algorithm exits with
   SpuriousRecovery set to SPUR_TO, "recover" is set to SND.UNA, thus
   allowing fast recovery on incoming duplicate acknowledgments.

4.  Taking Actions after Detecting Spurious RTO

   Upon retransmission timeout, a conventional TCP sender assumes that
   outstanding segments are lost and starts retransmitting the
   unacknowledged segments. When the retransmission timeout is detected
   to be spurious, the TCP sender should not continue retransmitting
   based on the timeout. For example, if the sender was in congestion
   avoidance phase transmitting new previously unsent segments, it
   should continue transmitting previously unsent segments after
   detecting a spurious RTO. This document does not describe the
   response to spurious timeout, but a response algorithm is described
   in another IETF document [LG04].

   Additionally, different response variants to spurious retransmission
   timeout have been discussed in various research papers [SKR03, GL03,
   Sar03] and Internet-Drafts [SL03]. The different response
   alternatives vary in whether the spurious retransmission timeout
   should be taken as a congestion signal, thus causing the congestion
   window or slow start threshold to be reduced at the sender, or
   whether the congestion control state should be fully reverted to the
   state valid prior to the retransmission timeout.

5.  SCTP Considerations

   SCTP has similar retransmission algorithms and congestion control to
   TCP. The SCTP T3-rtx timer for one destination address is maintained
   in the same way than the TCP retransmission timer, and after a T3-rtx
   expires, an SCTP sender retransmits unacknowledged data chunks in
   slow start like TCP does.  Therefore, SCTP is vulnerable to the
   negative effects of the spurious retransmission timeouts similarly to

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   TCP. Due to similar RTO recovery algorithms, F-RTO algorithm logic
   can be applied also to SCTP. Since SCTP uses selective
   acknowledgments, the SACK-based variant of the algorithm is
   recommended, although the basic version can also be applied to SCTP.
   However, SCTP contains features that are not present with TCP that
   need to be discussed when applying the F-RTO algorithm.

   SCTP associations can be multi-homed. The current retransmission
   policy states that retransmissions should go to alternative
   addresses. If the retransmission was due to spurious timeout caused
   by a delay spike, it is possible that the acknowledgment for the
   retransmission arrives back at the sender before the acknowledgments
   of the original transmissions arrive. If this happens, a possible
   loss of the original transmission of the data chunk that was
   retransmitted due to the spurious timeout may remain undetected when
   applying the F-RTO algorithm.  Because the timeout was caused by a
   delay spike, and it was spurious in that respect, a suitable response
   is to continue by sending new data. However, if the original
   transmission was lost, fully reverting the congestion control
   parameters is too aggressive. Therefore, taking conservative actions
   on congestion control is recommended, if the SCTP association is
   multi-homed and retransmissions go to alternative address. The
   information in duplicate TSNs can be then used for reverting
   congestion control, if desired [BA04].

   Note that the forward transmissions made in F-RTO algorithm step (2b)
   should be destined to the primary address, since they are not

   When making a retransmission, a SCTP sender can bundle a number of
   unacknowledged data chunks and include them in the same packet. This
   needs to be considered when implementing F-RTO for SCTP. The basic
   principle of F-RTO still holds: in order to declare the timeout
   spurious, the sender must get an acknowledgment for a data chunk that
   was not retransmitted after the retransmission timeout. In other
   words, acknowledgments of data chunks that were bundled in RTO
   retransmission must not be used for declaring the timeout spurious.

6.  Security Considerations

   The main security threat regarding F-RTO is the possibility of a
   receiver misleading the sender to set too large a congestion window
   after an RTO.  There are two possible ways a malicious receiver could
   trigger a wrong output from the F-RTO algorithm. First, the receiver
   can acknowledge data that it has not received. Second, it can delay
   acknowledgment of a segment it has received earlier, and acknowledge
   the segment after the TCP sender has been deluded to enter algorithm

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   step 3.

   If the receiver acknowledges a segment it has not really received,
   the sender can be led to declare spurious timeout in F-RTO algorithm
   step 3. However, since this causes the sender to have incorrect
   state, it cannot retransmit the segment that has never reached the
   receiver. Therefore, this attack is unlikely to be useful for the
   receiver to maliciously gain a larger congestion window.

   A common case for a retransmission timeout is that a fast
   retransmission of a segment is lost. If all other segments have been
   received, the RTO retransmission causes the whole window to be
   acknowledged at once. This case is recognized in F-RTO algorithm
   branch (2a). However, if the receiver only acknowledges one segment
   after receiving the RTO retransmission, and then the rest of the
   segments, it could cause the timeout to be declared spurious when it
   is not. Therefore, it is suggested that when an RTO expires during
   fast recovery phase, the sender would not fully revert the congestion
   window even if the timeout was declared spurious, but reduce the
   congestion window to 1.

   If there are more than one segments missing at the time when a
   retransmission timeout occurs, the receiver does not benefit from
   misleading the sender to declare a spurious timeout, because the
   sender would then have to go through another recovery period to
   retransmit the missing segments, usually after an RTO has elapsed.

7.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.

8.  Acknowledgments

   We are grateful to Reiner Ludwig, Andrei Gurtov, Josh Blanton, Mark
   Allman, Sally Floyd, Yogesh Swami, Mika Liljeberg, Ivan Arias
   Rodriguez, Sourabh Ladha, Martin Duke, Motoharu Miyake, Ted Faber,
   Samu Kontinen, and Kostas Pentikousis for the discussion and feedback
   contributed to this text.

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9.  References

Normative References

   [APS99]   M. Allman, V. Paxson, and W. Stevens. TCP Congestion
             Control. RFC 2581, April 1999.

   [BAFW03]  E. Blanton, M. Allman, K. Fall, and L. Wang. A Conservative
             Selective Acknowledgment (SACK)-based Loss Recovery
             Algorithm for TCP. RFC 3517, April 2003.

   [RFC2119] S. Bradner. Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
             Requirement Levels. RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [FHG04]   S. Floyd, T. Henderson, and A. Gurtov. The NewReno
             Modification to TCP's Fast Recovery Algorithm. RFC 3782,
             April 2004.

   [MMFR96]  M. Mathis, J. Mahdavi, S. Floyd, and A. Romanow. TCP
             Selective Acknowledgment Options. RFC 2018, October 1996.

   [PA00]    V. Paxson and M. Allman. Computing TCP's Retransmission
             Timer. RFC 2988, November 2000.

   [Pos81]   J. Postel. Transmission Control Protocol. RFC 793,
             September 1981.

   [Ste00]   R. Stewart, et. al. Stream Control Transmission Protocol.
             RFC 2960, October 2000.

Informative References

   [ABF01]   M. Allman, H. Balakrishnan, and S. Floyd. Enhancing TCP's
             Loss Recovery Using Limited Transmit. RFC 3042, January

   [BA04]    E. Blanton and M. Allman. Using TCP Duplicate Selective
             Acknowledgment (DSACKs) and Stream Control Transmission
             Protocol (SCTP) Duplicate Transmission Sequence Numbers
             (TSNs) to Detect Spurious Retransmissions. RFC 3708,
             February 2004.

   [BBJ92]   D. Borman, R. Braden, and V. Jacobson. TCP Extensions for
             High Performance. RFC 1323, May 1992.

   [FMMP00]  S. Floyd, J. Mahdavi, M. Mathis, and M. Podolsky. An
             Extension to the Selective Acknowledgment (SACK) Option to
             TCP. RFC 2883, July 2000.

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   [GL02]    A. Gurtov and R. Ludwig. Evaluating the Eifel Algorithm for
             TCP in a GPRS Network. In Proc. of European Wireless,
             Florence, Italy, February 2002.

   [GL03]    A. Gurtov and R. Ludwig, Responding to Spurious Timeouts in
             TCP. In Proceedings of IEEE INFOCOM 03, San Francisco, CA,
             USA, March 2003.

   [Jac88]   V. Jacobson. Congestion Avoidance and Control. In
             Proceedings of ACM SIGCOMM 88.

   [LG04]    R. Ludwig and A. Gurtov. The Eifel Response Algorithm for
             TCP. Internet draft
             "draft-ietf-tsvwg-tcp-eifel-response-05.txt".  March 2004.
             Work in progress.

   [LK00]    R. Ludwig and R.H. Katz. The Eifel Algorithm: Making TCP
             Robust Against Spurious Retransmissions. ACM SIGCOMM
             Computer Communication Review, 30(1), January 2000.

   [LM03]    R. Ludwig and M. Meyer. The Eifel Detection Algorithm for
             TCP. RFC 3522, April 2003.

   [Nag84]   J. Nagle. Congestion Control in IP/TCP Internetworks. RFC
             896, January 1984.

   [SKR03]   P. Sarolahti, M. Kojo, and K. Raatikainen. F-RTO: An
             Enhanced Recovery Algorithm for TCP Retransmission
             Timeouts. ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 33(2),
             April 2003.

   [Sar03]   P. Sarolahti. Congestion Control on Spurious TCP
             Retransmission Timeouts. In Proceedings of IEEE Globecom
             2003, San Francisco, CA, USA. December 2003.

   [SL03]    Y. Swami and K. Le. DCLOR: De-correlated Loss Recovery
             using SACK option for spurious timeouts. Internet draft
             "draft-swami-tsvwg-tcp-dclor-02.txt". September 2003. Work
             in progress.

Appendix A: Scenarios

   This section discusses different scenarios where RTOs occur and how
   the basic F-RTO algorithm performs in those scenarios. The
   interesting scenarios are a sudden delay triggering retransmission
   timeout, loss of a retransmitted packet during fast recovery, link
   outage causing the loss of several packets, and packet reordering. A

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   performance evaluation with a more thorough analysis on a real
   implementation of F-RTO is given in [SKR03].

A.1.  Sudden delay

   The main motivation behind the F-RTO algorithm is to improve TCP
   performance when a delay spike triggers a spurious retransmission
   timeout.  The example below illustrates the segments and
   acknowledgments transmitted by the TCP end hosts when a spurious
   timeout occurs, but no packets are lost. For simplicity, delayed
   acknowledgments are not used in the example. The example below
   applies the Eifel Response Algorithm [LG04] after detecting a
   spurious timeout.

          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         1.          <---------------------------- ACK 5
         2.  SEND 10 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         3.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         4.  SEND 11 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         5.                       |
             [F-RTO step (1)]
         6.  SEND 6  ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 6)
                     <earlier xmitted SEG 6>  --->
         7.          <---------------------------- ACK 7
             [F-RTO step (2b)]
         8.  SEND 12 ---------------------------->
         9.  SEND 13 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 7)
                     <earlier xmitted SEG 7>  --->
         10.         <---------------------------- ACK 8
             [F-RTO step (3b)]
             [SpuriousRecovery <- SPUR_TO]
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 6)
         11. SEND 14 ---------------------------->
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 7)
         12.         <---------------------------- ACK 9
         13. SEND 15 ---------------------------->
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 7)
         14.         <---------------------------- ACK 10
         15. SEND 16 ---------------------------->
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 7)

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   When a sudden delay long enough to trigger timeout occurs at step 5,
   the TCP sender retransmits the first unacknowledged segment (step 6).
   The next ACK covers the RTO retransmission because the originally
   transmitted segment 6 arrived at the receiver, and the TCP sender
   continues by sending two new data segments (steps 8, 9). Note that on
   F-RTO steps (1) and (2b) congestion window and FlightSize are not yet
   reset, because in case of possible spurious timeout the segments sent
   before the timeout are still in the network. However, the sender
   should still be equally aggressive to conventional TCP. Because the
   second acknowledgment arriving after the RTO retransmission
   acknowledges data that was not retransmitted due to timeout (step
   10), the TCP sender declares the timeout as spurious and continues by
   sending new data on next acknowledgments. Also the congestion control
   state is reversed, as required by the Eifel Response Algorithm.

A.2.  Loss of a retransmission

   If a retransmitted segment is lost, the only way to retransmit it
   again is to wait for the timeout to trigger the retransmission. Once
   the segment is successfully received, the receiver usually
   acknowledges several segments at once, because other segments in the
   same window have been successfully delivered before the
   retransmission arrives at the receiver. The example below shows a
   scenario where retransmission (of segment 6) is lost, as well as a
   later segment (segment 9) in the same window. The limited transmit
   [ABF01] or SACK TCP [MMFR96] enhancements are not in use in this

          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
             <segment 6 lost>
             <segment 9 lost>
         1.          <---------------------------- ACK 5
         2.  SEND 10 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         3.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         4.  SEND 11 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         5.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         6.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         7.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         8.  SEND 6  --------------X
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 6)
             <segment 6 lost>
         9.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         10. SEND 12 ---------------------------->

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          (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 7)
         11.         <---------------------------- ACK 6
         12. SEND 13 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 8, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 8)
         13. SEND 6  ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 8, ssthresh = 2, FlightSize = 8)
         14.         <---------------------------- ACK 9
             [F-RTO step (2b)]
         15. SEND 14 ---------------------------->
         16. SEND 15 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 2, FlightSize = 7)
         17.         <---------------------------- ACK 9
             [F-RTO step (3a)]
             [SpuriousRecovery <- FALSE]
          (cwnd = 3, ssthresh = 2, FlightSize = 7)
         18. SEND 9  ---------------------------->
         19. SEND 10 ---------------------------->
         20. SEND 11 ---------------------------->

   In the example above, segment 6 is lost and the sender retransmits it
   after three duplicate ACKs in step 8. However, the retransmission is
   also lost, and the sender has to wait for the RTO to expire before
   retransmitting it again. Because the first ACK following the RTO
   retransmission acknowledges the RTO retransmission (step 14), the
   sender transmits two new segments. The second ACK in step 17 does not
   acknowledge any previously unacknowledged data. Therefore the F-RTO
   sender enters the slow start and sets cwnd to 3 * MSS. Congestion
   window can be set to three segments, because two round-trips have
   elapsed after the retransmission timeout. After this the receiver
   acknowledges all segments transmitted prior to entering recovery and
   the sender can continue transmitting new data in congestion

A.3.  Link outage

   The example below illustrates the F-RTO behavior when 4 consecutive
   packets are lost in the network causing the TCP sender to fall back
   to RTO recovery. Limited transmit and SACK are not used in this

          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
             <segments 6-9 lost>
         1.          <---------------------------- ACK 5
         2.  SEND 10 ---------------------------->

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          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         3.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         4.  SEND 11 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         5.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         6.  SEND 6  ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 6)
         7.          <---------------------------- ACK 7
             [F-RTO step (2b)]
         8.  SEND 12 ---------------------------->
         9.  SEND 13 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 7)
         10.         <---------------------------- ACK 7
             [F-RTO step (3a)]
             [SpuriousRecovery <- FALSE]
          (cwnd = 3, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 7)
         11. SEND 7  ---------------------------->
         12. SEND 8  ---------------------------->
         13. SEND 9  ---------------------------->

   Again, F-RTO sender transmits two new segments (steps 8 and 9) after
   the RTO retransmission is acknowledged. Because the next ACK does not
   acknowledge any data that was not retransmitted after the
   retransmission timeout (step 10), the F-RTO sender proceeds with
   conventional recovery and slow start retransmissions.

A.4.  Packet reordering

   Since F-RTO modifies the TCP sender behavior only after a
   retransmission timeout and it is intended to avoid unnecessary
   retransmissions only after spurious timeout, we limit the discussion
   on the effects of packet reordering in F-RTO behavior to the cases
   where packet reordering occurs immediately after the retransmission
   timeout.  When the TCP receiver gets an out-of-order segment, it
   generates a duplicate ACK. If the TCP sender implements the basic
   F-RTO algorithm, this may prevent the sender from detecting a
   spurious timeout.

   However, if the TCP sender applies the SACK-enhanced F-RTO, it is
   possible to detect a spurious timeout also when packet reordering
   occurs. We illustrate the behavior of SACK-enhanced F-RTO below when
   segment 8 arrives before segments 6 and 7, and segments starting from
   segment 6 are delayed in the network. In this example the TCP sender
   reduces the congestion window and slow start threshold in response to
   spurious timeout.

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          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         1.          <---------------------------- ACK 5
         2.  SEND 10 ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh < 6, FlightSize = 6)
         3.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
         4.  SEND 11 ---------------------------->
         5.                       |
         6.  SEND 6  ---------------------------->
          (cwnd = 6, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 6)
                     <earlier xmitted SEG 8>  --->
         7.          <---------------------------- ACK 6
                                                   [SACK 8]
             [SACK F-RTO stays in step 2]
         8.          <earlier xmitted SEG 6>  --->
         9.          <---------------------------- ACK 7
                                                   [SACK 8]
             [SACK F-RTO step (2b)]
         10. SEND 12 ---------------------------->
         11. SEND 13 ---------------------------->
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 3, FlightSize = 7)
         12.         <earlier xmitted SEG 7>  --->
         13.         <---------------------------- ACK 9
             [SACK F-RTO step (3b)]
             [SpuriousRecovery <- SPUR_TO]
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 6)
         14. SEND 14 ---------------------------->
           (cwnd = 7, ssthresh = 6, FlightSize = 7)
         15.         <---------------------------- ACK 10
         16. SEND 15 ---------------------------->

   After RTO expires and the sender retransmits segment 6 (step 6), the
   receiver gets segment 8 and generates duplicate ACK with SACK for
   segment 8. In response to the acknowledgment the TCP sender does not
   send anything but stays in F-RTO step 2. Because the next
   acknowledgment advances the cumulative ACK point (step 9), the sender
   can transmit two new segments according to SACK-enhanced F-RTO. The
   next segment acknowledges new data between 7 and 11 that was not
   acknowledged earlier (segment 7), so the F-RTO sender declares the
   timeout spurious.

Appendix B: SACK-enhanced F-RTO and Fast Recovery

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   We believe that slightly modified SACK-enhanced F-RTO algorithm can
   be used to detect spurious timeouts also when RTO expires while an
   earlier loss recovery is underway. However, there are issues that
   need to be considered if F-RTO is applied in this case.

   The original SACK-based F-RTO requires in algorithm step 3 that an
   ACK acknowledges previously unacknowledged non-retransmitted data
   between SND.UNA and send_high. If RTO expires during earlier
   (SACK-based) loss recovery, the F-RTO sender must only use
   acknowledgments for non-retransmitted segments transmitted before the
   SACK-based loss recovery started. This means that in order to declare
   timeout spurious the TCP sender must receive an acknowledgment for
   non-retransmitted segment between SND.UNA and RecoveryPoint in
   algorithm step 3. RecoveryPoint is defined in conservative
   SACK-recovery algorithm [BAFW03], and it is set to indicate the
   highest segment transmitted so far when SACK-based loss recovery
   begins. In other words, if the TCP sender receives acknowledgment for
   segment that was transmitted more than one RTO ago, it can declare
   the timeout spurious. Defining an efficient algorithm for checking
   these conditions remains as a future work item.

   When spurious timeout is detected according to the rules given above,
   it may be possible that the response algorithm needs to consider this
   case separately, for example in terms of what segments to retransmit
   after RTO expires, and whether it is safe to revert the congestion
   control parameters in this case. This is considered as a topic of
   future research.

Appendix C: Discussion on Window Limited Cases

   When the advertised window limits the transmission of two new
   previously unsent segments, or there are no new data to send, it was
   recommended in F-RTO algorithm step (2b) that the TCP sender would
   continue with conventional RTO recovery algorithm. The disadvantage
   of doing this is that the sender may continue unnecessary
   retransmissions due to possible spurious timeout. This section
   briefly discusses the options that can potentially result in better
   performance when transmitting previously unsent data is not possible.

   - The TCP sender could reserve an unused space of a size of one or
     two segments in the advertised window to ensure the use of
     algorithms such as F-RTO or Limited Transmit [ABF01] in window
     limited situations. On the other hand, while doing this, the TCP
     sender should ensure that the window of outstanding segments is
     large enough to have a proper utilization of the available pipe.

   - Use additional information if available, e.g. TCP timestamps with
     the Eifel Detection algorithm, for detecting a spurious timeout.

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     However, Eifel detection may yield different results from F-RTO
     when ACK losses and a RTO occur within the same round-trip time

   - Retransmit data from the tail of the retransmission queue and
     continue with step 3 of the F-RTO algorithm. It is possible that
     the retransmission is unnecessarily made, hence this option is not
     encouraged, except for hosts that are known to operate in an
     environment that is highly likely to have spurious timeouts. On the
     other hand, with this method it is possible to avoid several
     unnecessary retransmissions due to spurious timeout by doing only
     one retransmission that may be unnecessary.

   - Send a zero-sized segment below SND.UNA similar to TCP Keep-Alive
     probe and continue with step 3 of the F-RTO algorithm. Since the
     receiver replies with a duplicate ACK, the sender is able to detect
     from the incoming acknowledgment whether the timeout was spurious.
     While this method does not send data unnecessarily, it delays the
     recovery by one round-trip time in cases where the timeout was not
     spurious, and therefore is not encouraged.

   - In receiver-limited cases, send one octet of new data regardless of
     the advertised window limit, and continue with step 3 of the F-RTO
     algorithm. It is possible that the receiver has free buffer space
     to receive the data by the time the segment has propagated through
     the network, in which case no harm is done. If the receiver is not
     capable of receiving the segment, it rejects the segment and sends
     a duplicate ACK.

Authors' Addresses

   Pasi Sarolahti
   Nokia Research Center
   P.O. Box 407

   Phone: +358 50 4876607
   EMail: pasi.sarolahti@nokia.com

   Markku Kojo
   University of Helsinki
   Department of Computer Science
   P.O. Box 26

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   Phone: +358 9 1914 4179
   EMail: markku.kojo@cs.helsinki.fi

Full Copyright Statement

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   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

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