RFC 
 2140 
 TOC 
Network Working GroupJ. Touch
Request for Comments: 2140University of Southern
Category: InformationalCalifornia/Information Sciences
 Institute
 April 1997


TCP Control Block Interdependence

Status of this Memo

This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright © The Internet Society (1997). All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

This memo makes the case for interdependent TCP control blocks, where part of the TCP state is shared among similar concurrent connections, or across similar connection instances. TCP state includes a combination of parameters, such as connection state, current round- trip time estimates, congestion control information, and process information. This state is currently maintained on a per-connection basis in the TCP control block, but should be shared across connections to the same host. The goal is to improve transient transport performance, while maintaining backward-compatibility with existing implementations.

This document is a product of the LSAM project at ISI.


 RFC 
 2140 
 TOC 

Table of Contents

1.  An Example of Temporal Sharing
2.  An Example of Ensemble Sharing
3.  Compatibility Issues
4.  Performance Considerations
5.  Implications
6.  Security Considerations
7.  Acknowledgements
8.  References
§  Author's Address
§  Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements




 TOC 

1.  An Example of Temporal Sharing

Temporal sharing of cached TCB data has been implemented in the SunOS 4.1.3 T/TCP extensions [_XREF_4] (Braden, B., “T/TCP -- Transaction TCP: Source Changes for Sun OS 4.1.3, ", Release 1.0, USC/ISI,” September 1994.) and the FreeBSD port of same [_XREF_7] (, “FreeBSD source code, Release 2.10, <http://www.freebsd.org,” .). As mentioned before, only the MSS and RTT parameters are cached, as originally specified in [_XREF_2] (Braden, R., “Transaction TCP -- Concepts," RFC-1379, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” September 1992.). Later discussion of T/TCP suggested including congestion control parameters in this cache [_XREF_3] (Braden, R., “T/TCP -- TCP Extensions for Transactions Functional Specification," RFC-1644, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” July 1994.).

The cache is accessed in two ways: it is read to initialize new TCBs, and written when more current per-host state is available. New TCBs are initialized as follows; snd_cwnd reuse is not yet implemented, although discussed in the T/TCP concepts [_XREF_2] (Braden, R., “Transaction TCP -- Concepts," RFC-1379, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” September 1992.):

               TEMPORAL SHARING - TCB Initialization

             Cached TCB           New TCB
             ----------------------------------------
             old-MSS              old-MSS

             old-RTT              old-RTT

             old-RTTvar           old-RTTvar

             old-snd_cwnd         old-snd_cwnd    (not yet impl.)

Most cached TCB values are updated when a connection closes. An exception is MSS, which is updated whenever the MSS option is received in a TCP header.

                 TEMPORAL SHARING - Cache Updates

    Cached TCB   Current TCB     when?   New Cached TCB
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    old-MSS      curr-MSS        MSSopt  curr-MSS

    old-RTT      curr-RTT        CLOSE   old += (curr - old) >> 2

    old-RTTvar   curr-RTTvar     CLOSE   old += (curr - old) >> 2

    old-snd_cwnd curr-snd_cwnd   CLOSE   curr-snd_cwnd   (not yet impl.)

MSS caching is trivial; reported values are cached, and the most recent value is used. The cache is updated when the MSS option is received, so the cache always has the most recent MSS value from any connection. The cache is consulted only at connection establishment, and not otherwise updated, which means that MSS options do not affect current connections. The default MSS is never saved; only reported MSS values update the cache, so an explicit override is required to reduce the MSS.

RTT values are updated by a more complicated mechanism [_XREF_3] (Braden, R., “T/TCP -- TCP Extensions for Transactions Functional Specification," RFC-1644, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” July 1994.), [_XREF_8] (Jacobson, V., “mail to public list "tcp-ip", no archive found,” 1986.). Dynamic RTT estimation requires a sequence of RTT measurements, even though a single T/TCP transaction may not accumulate enough samples. As a result, the cached RTT (and its variance) is an average of its previous value with the contents of the currently active TCB for that host, when a TCB is closed. RTT values are updated only when a connection is closed. Further, the method for averaging the RTT values is not the same as the method for computing the RTT values within a connection, so that the cached value may not be appropriate. For temporal sharing, the cache requires updating only when a connection closes, because the cached values will not yet be used to initialize a new TCB. For the ensemble sharing, this is not the case, as discussed below.

Other TCB variables may also be cached between sequential instances, such as the congestion control window information. Old cache values can be overwritten with the current TCB estimates, or a MAX or MIN function can be used to merge the results, depending on the optimism or pessimism of the reused values. For example, the congestion window can be reused if there are no concurrent connections.



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2.  An Example of Ensemble Sharing

Sharing cached TCB data across concurrent connections requires attention to the aggregate nature of some of the shared state. Although MSS and RTT values can be shared by copying, it may not be appropriate to copy congestion window information. At this point, we present only the MSS and RTT rules:

               ENSEMBLE SHARING - TCB Initialization

               Cached TCB           New TCB
               ----------------------------------
               old-MSS              old-MSS

               old-RTT              old-RTT

               old-RTTvar           old-RTTvar

                    ENSEMBLE SHARING - Cache Updates

      Cached TCB   Current TCB     when?   New Cached TCB
      -----------------------------------------------------------
      old-MSS      curr-MSS        MSSopt  curr-MSS

      old-RTT      curr-RTT        update  rtt_update(old,curr)

      old-RTTvar   curr-RTTvar     update  rtt_update(old,curr)

For ensemble sharing, TCB information should be cached as early as possible, sometimes before a connection is closed. Otherwise, opening multiple concurrent connections may not result in TCB data sharing if no connection closes before others open. An optimistic solution would be to update cached data as early as possible, rather than only when a connection is closing. Some T/TCP implementations do this for MSS when the TCP MSS header option is received [_XREF_4] (Braden, B., “T/TCP -- Transaction TCP: Source Changes for Sun OS 4.1.3, ", Release 1.0, USC/ISI,” September 1994.), although it is not addressed specifically in the concepts or functional specification [_XREF_2] (Braden, R., “Transaction TCP -- Concepts," RFC-1379, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” September 1992.)[_XREF_3] (Braden, R., “T/TCP -- TCP Extensions for Transactions Functional Specification," RFC-1644, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” July 1994.).

In current T/TCP, RTT values are updated only after a CLOSE, which does not benefit concurrent sessions. As mentioned in the temporal case, averaging values between concurrent connections requires incorporating new RTT measurements. The amount of work involved in updating the aggregate average should be minimized, but the resulting value should be equivalent to having all values measured within a single connection. The function "rtt_update" in the ensemble sharing table indicates this operation, which occurs whenever the RTT would have been updated in the individual TCP connection. As a result, the cache contains the shared RTT variables, which no longer need to reside in the TCB [_XREF_8] (Jacobson, V., “mail to public list "tcp-ip", no archive found,” 1986.).

Congestion window size aggregation is more complicated in the concurrent case. When there is an ensemble of connections, we need to decide how that ensemble would have shared the congestion window, in order to derive initial values for new TCBs. Because concurrent connections between two hosts share network paths (usually), they also share whatever capacity exists along that path. With regard to congestion, the set of connections might behave as if it were multiplexed prior to TCP, as if all data were part of a single connection. As a result, the current window sizes would maintain a constant sum, presuming sufficient offered load. This would go beyond caching to truly sharing state, as in the RTT case.

We pause to note that any assumption of this sharing can be incorrect, including this one. In current implementations, new congestion windows are set at an initial value of one segment, so that the sum of the current windows is increased for any new connection. This can have detrimental consequences where several connections share a highly congested link, such as in trans-Atlantic Web access.

There are several ways to initialize the congestion window in a new TCB among an ensemble of current connections to a host, as shown below. Current TCP implementations initialize it to one segment [_XREF_9] (, “Transmission Control Protocol," Network Working Group RFC-793/STD-7, ISI,” September 1981.), and T/TCP hinted that it should be initialized to the old window size [_XREF_3] (Braden, R., “T/TCP -- TCP Extensions for Transactions Functional Specification," RFC-1644, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” July 1994.). In the former, the assumption is that new connections should behave as conservatively as possible. In the latter, no accommodation is made to concurrent aggregate behavior.

In either case, the sum of window sizes can increase, rather than remain constant. Another solution is to give each pending connection its "fair share" of the available congestion window, and let the connections balance from there. The assumption we make here is that new connections are implicit requests for an equal share of available link bandwidth which should be granted at the expense of current connections. This may or may not be the appropriate function; we propose that it be examined further.

                ENSEMBLE SHARING - TCB Initialization
                Some Options for Sharing Window-size

    Cached TCB                           New TCB
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    old-snd_cwnd         (current)       one segment

                         (T/TCP hint)    old-snd_cwnd

                         (proposed)      old-snd_cwnd/(N+1)
                                         subtract old-snd_cwnd/(N+1)/N
                                         from each concurrent

                 ENSEMBLE SHARING - Cache Updates

    Cached TCB   Current TCB     when?   New Cached TCB
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    old-snd_cwnd curr-snd_cwnd   update  (adjust sum as appropriate)


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3.  Compatibility Issues

Current TCP implementations do not use TCB caching, with the exception of T/TCP variants [_XREF_4] (Braden, B., “T/TCP -- Transaction TCP: Source Changes for Sun OS 4.1.3, ", Release 1.0, USC/ISI,” September 1994.)[_XREF_7] (, “FreeBSD source code, Release 2.10, <http://www.freebsd.org,” .). New connections use the default initial values of all non-instantiated TCB variables. As a result, each connection calculates its own RTT measurements, MSS value, and congestion information. Eventually these values are updated for each connection.

For the congestion and current window information, the initial values may not be consistent with the long-term aggregate behavior of a set of concurrent connections. If a single connection has a window of 4 segments, new connections assume initial windows of 1 segment (the minimum), although the current connection's window doesn't decrease to accommodate this additional load. As a result, connections can mutually interfere. One example of this has been seen on trans- Atlantic links, where concurrent connections supporting Web traffic can collide because their initial windows are too large, even when set at one segment.

Because this proposal attempts to anticipate the aggregate steady- state values of TCB state among a group or over time, it should avoid the transient effects of new connections. In addition, because it considers the ensemble and temporal properties of those aggregates, it should also prevent the transients of short-lived or multiple concurrent connections from adversely affecting the overall network performance. We are performing analysis and experiments to validate these assumptions.



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4.  Performance Considerations

Here we attempt to optimize transient behavior of TCP without modifying its long-term properties. The predominant expense is in maintaining the cached values, or in using per-host state rather than per-connection state. In cases where performance is affected, however, we note that the per-host information can be kept in per- connection copies (as done now), because with higher performance should come less interference between concurrent connections.

Sharing TCB state can occur only at connection establishment and close (to update the cache), to minimize overhead, optimize transient behavior, and minimize the effect on the steady-state. It is possible that sharing state during a connection, as in the RTT or window-size variables, may be of benefit, provided its implementation cost is not high.



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5.  Implications

There are several implications to incorporating TCB interdependence in TCP implementations. First, it may prevent the need for application-layer multiplexing for performance enhancement [_XREF_6] (Fielding, R., “Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1," Work in Progress,” .). Protocols like persistent-HTTP avoid connection reestablishment costs by serializing or multiplexing a set of per-host connections across a single TCP connection. This avoids TCP's per-connection OPEN handshake, and also avoids recomputing MSS, RTT, and congestion windows. By avoiding the so-called, "slow-start restart," performance can be optimized. Our proposal provides the MSS, RTT, and OPEN handshake avoidance of T/TCP, and the "slow-start restart avoidance" of multiplexing, without requiring a multiplexing mechanism at the application layer. This multiplexing will be complicated when quality-of-service mechanisms (e.g., "integrated services scheduling") are provided later.

Second, we are attempting to push some of the TCP implementation from the traditional transport layer (in the ISO model [10]), to the network layer. This acknowledges that some state currently maintained as per-connection is in fact per-path, which we simplify as per- host-pair. Transport protocols typically manage per-application-pair associations (per stream), and network protocols manage per-path associations (routing). Round-trip time, MSS, and congestion information is more appropriately handled in a network-layer fashion, aggregated among concurrent connections, and shared across connection instances.

An earlier version of RTT sharing suggested implementing RTT state at the IP layer, rather than at the TCP layer [_XREF_8] (Jacobson, V., “mail to public list "tcp-ip", no archive found,” 1986.). Our observations are for sharing state among TCP connections, which avoids some of the difficulties in an IP-layer solution. One such problem is determining the associated prior outgoing packet for an incoming packet, to infer RTT from the exchange. Because RTTs are still determined inside the TCP layer, this is simpler than at the IP layer. This is a case where information should be computed at the transport layer, but shared at the network layer.

We also note that per-host-pair associations are not the limit of these techniques. It is possible that TCBs could be similarly shared between hosts on a LAN, because the predominant path can be LAN-LAN, rather than host-host.

There may be other information that can be shared between concurrent connections. For example, knowing that another connection has just tried to expand its window size and failed, a connection may not attempt to do the same for some period. The idea is that existing TCP implementations infer the behavior of all competing connections, including those within the same host or LAN. One possible optimization is to make that implicit feedback explicit, via extended information in the per-host TCP area.



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6.  Security Considerations

These suggested implementation enhancements do not have additional ramifications for direct attacks. These enhancements may be susceptible to denial-of-service attacks if not otherwise secured. For example, an application can open a connection and set its window size to 0, denying service to any other subsequent connection between those hosts.

TCB sharing may be susceptible to denial-of-service attacks, wherever the TCB is shared, between connections in a single host, or between hosts if TCB sharing is implemented on the LAN (see Implications section). Some shared TCB parameters are used only to create new TCBs, others are shared among the TCBs of ongoing connections. New connections can join the ongoing set, e.g., to optimize send window size among a set of connections to the same host.

Attacks on parameters used only for initialization affect only the transient performance of a TCP connection. For short connections, the performance ramification can approach that of a denial-of-service attack. E.g., if an application changes its TCB to have a false and small window size, subsequent connections would experience performance degradation until their window grew appropriately.

The solution is to limit the effect of compromised TCB values. TCBs are compromised when they are modified directly by an application or transmitted between hosts via unauthenticated means (e.g., by using a dirty flag). TCBs that are not compromised by application modification do not have any unique security ramifications. Note that the proposed parameters for TCB sharing are not currently modifiable by an application.

All shared TCBs MUST be validated against default minimum parameters before used for new connections. This validation would not impact performance, because it occurs only at TCB initialization. This limits the effect of attacks on new connections, to reducing the benefit of TCB sharing, resulting in the current default TCP performance. For ongoing connections, the effect of incoming packets on shared information should be both limited and validated against constraints before use. This is a beneficial precaution for existing TCP implementations as well.

TCBs modified by an application SHOULD not be shared, unless the new connection sharing the compromised information has been given explicit permission to use such information by the connection API. No mechanism for that indication currently exists, but it could be supported by an augmented API. This sharing restriction SHOULD be implemented in both the host and the LAN. Sharing on a LAN SHOULD utilize authentication to prevent undetected tampering of shared TCB parameters. These restrictions limit the security impact of modified TCBs both for connection initialization and for ongoing connections.

Finally, shared values MUST be limited to performance factors only. Other information, such as TCP sequence numbers, when shared, are already known to compromise security.



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7.  Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the members of the High-Performance Computing and Communications Division at ISI, notably Bill Manning, Bob Braden, Jon Postel, Ted Faber, and Cliff Neuman for their assistance in the development of this memo.



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8. References

[_XREF_1] “Berners-Lee, T., et al., "The World-Wide Web," Communications of the ACM, V37, pp. 76-82,” August 1994.
[_XREF_2] Braden, R., “Transaction TCP -- Concepts," RFC-1379, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” September 1992.
[_XREF_3] Braden, R., “T/TCP -- TCP Extensions for Transactions Functional Specification," RFC-1644, USC/Information Sciences Institute,” July 1994.
[_XREF_4] Braden, B., “T/TCP -- Transaction TCP: Source Changes for Sun OS 4.1.3, ", Release 1.0, USC/ISI,” September 1994.
[_XREF_5] Comer, D., “and Stevens, D., Internetworking with TCP/IP, V2, Prentice-Hall, NJ,” 1991.
[_XREF_6] Fielding, R., “Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1," Work in Progress.”
[_XREF_7] FreeBSD source code, Release 2.10, <http://www.freebsd.org.”
[_XREF_8] Jacobson, V., “mail to public list "tcp-ip", no archive found,” 1986.
[_XREF_9] “Transmission Control Protocol," Network Working Group RFC-793/STD-7, ISI,” September 1981.


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Author's Address

  Joe Touch
  University of Southern California/Information Sciences Institute
  4676 Admiralty Way
  Marina del Rey
  CA 90292-6695
  USA
Phone:  +1 310-822-1511 x151
Fax:  +1 310-823-6714
Email:  touch@isi.edu
URI:  http://www.isi.edu/~touch


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Full Copyright Statement

Intellectual Property