Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) C. Raiciu
Request for Comments: 6356 Univ. Politehnica of Bucharest
Category: Experimental M. Handly
ISSN: 20701721 D. Wischik
Univ. College London
October 2011
Coupled Congestion Control for Multipath Transport Protocols
Abstract
Often endpoints are connected by multiple paths, but communications
are usually restricted to a single path per connection. Resource
usage within the network would be more efficient were it possible for
these multiple paths to be used concurrently. Multipath TCP is a
proposal to achieve multipath transport in TCP.
New congestion control algorithms are needed for multipath transport
protocols such as Multipath TCP, as single path algorithms have a
series of issues in the multipath context. One of the prominent
problems is that running existing algorithms such as standard TCP
independently on each path would give the multipath flow more than
its fair share at a bottleneck link traversed by more than one of its
subflows. Further, it is desirable that a source with multiple paths
available will transfer more traffic using the least congested of the
paths, achieving a property called "resource pooling" where a bundle
of links effectively behaves like one shared link with bigger
capacity. This would increase the overall efficiency of the network
and also its robustness to failure.
This document presents a congestion control algorithm that couples
the congestion control algorithms running on different subflows by
linking their increase functions, and dynamically controls the
overall aggressiveness of the multipath flow. The result is a
practical algorithm that is fair to TCP at bottlenecks while moving
traffic away from congested links.
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for examination, experimental implementation, and
evaluation.
This document defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
community. This document is a product of the Internet Engineering
Task Force (IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF
community. It has received public review and has been approved for
publication by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Not
all documents approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of
Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
http://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc6356.
Copyright Notice
Copyright (c) 2011 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction ....................................................3
2. Requirements Language ...........................................5
3. Coupled Congestion Control Algorithm ............................5
4. Implementation Considerations ...................................7
4.1. Computing "alpha" in Practice ..............................7
4.2. Implementation Considerations when CWND is
Expressed in Packets .......................................8
5. Discussion ......................................................9
6. Security Considerations ........................................10
7. Acknowledgements ...............................................11
8. References .....................................................11
8.1. Normative References ......................................11
8.2. Informative References ....................................11
1. Introduction
Multipath TCP (MPTCP, [MPTCPMULTIADDRESSED]) is a set of extensions
to regular TCP [RFC0793] that allows one TCP connection to be spread
across multiple paths. MPTCP distributes load through the creation
of separate "subflows" across potentially disjoint paths.
How should congestion control be performed for multipath TCP? First,
each subflow must have its own congestion control state (i.e., cwnd)
so that capacity on that path is matched by offered load. The
simplest way to achieve this goal is to simply run standard TCP
congestion control on each subflow. However, this solution is
unsatisfactory as it gives the multipath flow an unfair share when
the paths taken by its different subflows share a common bottleneck.
Bottleneck fairness is just one requirement multipath congestion
control should meet. The following three goals capture the desirable
properties of a practical multipath congestion control algorithm:
o Goal 1 (Improve Throughput) A multipath flow should perform at
least as well as a single path flow would on the best of the paths
available to it.
o Goal 2 (Do no harm) A multipath flow should not take up more
capacity from any of the resources shared by its different paths
than if it were a single flow using only one of these paths. This
guarantees it will not unduly harm other flows.
o Goal 3 (Balance congestion) A multipath flow should move as much
traffic as possible off its most congested paths, subject to
meeting the first two goals.
Goals 1 and 2 together ensure fairness at the bottleneck. Goal 3
captures the concept of resource pooling [WISCHIK]: if each multipath
flow sends more data through its least congested path, the traffic in
the network will move away from congested areas. This improves
robustness and overall throughput, among other things. The way to
achieve resource pooling is to effectively "couple" the congestion
control loops for the different subflows.
We propose an algorithm that couples the additive increase function
of the subflows, and uses unmodified TCP behavior in case of a drop.
The algorithm relies on the traditional TCP mechanisms to detect
drops, to retransmit data, etc.
Detecting shared bottlenecks reliably is quite difficult, but is just
one part of a bigger question. This bigger question is how much
bandwidth a multipath user should use in total, even if there is no
shared bottleneck.
The congestion controller aims to set the multipath flow's aggregate
bandwidth to be the same as that of a regular TCP flow would get on
the best path available to the multipath flow. To estimate the
bandwidth of a regular TCP flow, the multipath flow estimates loss
rates and roundtrip times (RTTs) and computes the target rate.
Then, it adjusts the overall aggressiveness (parameter alpha) to
achieve the desired rate.
While the mechanism above applies always, its effect depends on
whether the multipath TCP flow influences or does not influence the
link loss rates (low versus high statistical multiplexing). If MPTCP
does not influence link loss rates, MPTCP will get the same
throughput as TCP on the best path. In cases with low statistical
multiplexing, where the multipath flow influences the loss rates on
the path, the multipath throughput will be strictly higher than that
a single TCP would get on any of the paths. In particular, if using
two idle paths, multipath throughput will be sum of the two paths'
throughput.
This algorithm ensures bottleneck fairness and fairness in the
broader, network sense. We acknowledge that current TCP fairness
criteria are far from ideal, but a multipath TCP needs to be
deployable in the current Internet. If needed, new fairness criteria
can be implemented by the same algorithm we propose by appropriately
scaling the overall aggressiveness.
It is intended that the algorithm presented here can be applied to
other multipath transport protocols, such as alternative multipath
extensions to TCP, or indeed any other congestionaware transport
protocols. However, for the purposes of example, this document will,
where appropriate, refer to the MPTCP.
The design decisions and evaluation of the congestion control
algorithm are published in [NSDI].
The algorithm presented here only extends standard TCP congestion
control for multipath operation. It is foreseeable that other
congestion controllers will be implemented for multipath transport to
achieve the bandwidthscaling properties of the newer congestion
control algorithms for regular TCP (such as Compound TCP and Cubic).
2. Requirements Language
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119] .
3. Coupled Congestion Control Algorithm
The algorithm we present only applies to the increase phase of the
congestion avoidance state specifying how the window inflates upon
receiving an ACK. The slow start, fast retransmit, and fast recovery
algorithms, as well as the multiplicative decrease of the congestion
avoidance state are the same as in standard TCP [RFC5681].
Let cwnd_i be the congestion window on the subflow i. Let cwnd_total
be the sum of the congestion windows of all subflows in the
connection. Let p_i, rtt_i, and MSS_i be the loss rate, roundtrip
time (i.e., smoothed roundtrip time estimate used by TCP), and
maximum segment size on subflow i.
We assume throughout this document that the congestion window is
maintained in bytes, unless otherwise specified. We briefly describe
the algorithm for packetbased implementations of cwnd in section
Section 4.2.
Our proposed "Linked Increases" algorithm MUST:
o For each ACK received on subflow i, increase cwnd_i by
alpha * bytes_acked * MSS_i bytes_acked * MSS_i
min (  ,  ) (1)
cwnd_total cwnd_i
The increase formula (1) takes the minimum between the computed
increase for the multipath subflow (first argument to min), and the
increase TCP would get in the same scenario (the second argument).
In this way, we ensure that any multipath subflow cannot be more
aggressive than a TCP flow in the same circumstances, hence achieving
Goal 2 (do no harm).
"alpha" is a parameter of the algorithm that describes the
aggressiveness of the multipath flow. To meet Goal 1 (improve
throughput), the value of alpha is chosen such that the aggregate
throughput of the multipath flow is equal to the throughput a TCP
flow would get if it ran on the best path.
To get an idea of what the algorithm is trying to do, let's take the
case where all the subflows have the same roundtrip time and Maximum
Segment Size (MSS). In this case, the algorithm will grow the total
window by approximately alpha*MSS per RTT. This increase is
distributed to the individual flows according to their instantaneous
window size. Subflow i will increase by alpha*cwnd_i/cwnd_total
segments per RTT.
Note that, as in standard TCP, when cwnd_total is large the increase
may be 0. In this case, the increase MUST be set to 1. We discuss
how to implement this formula in practice in the next section.
We assume implementations use an approach similar to appropriate byte
counting (ABC, [RFC3465]), where the bytes_acked variable records the
number of bytes newly acknowledged. If this is not the case,
bytes_acked SHOULD be set to MSS_i.
To compute cwnd_total, it is an easy mistake to sum up cwnd_i across
all subflows: when a flow is in fast retransmit, its cwnd is
typically inflated and no longer represents the real congestion
window. The correct behavior is to use the ssthresh (slow start
threshold) value for flows in fast retransmit when computing
cwnd_total. To cater to connections that are app limited, the
computation should consider the minimum between flight_size_i and
cwnd_i, and flight_size_i and ssthresh_i, where appropriate.
The total throughput of a multipath flow depends on the value of
alpha and the loss rates, maximum segment sizes, and roundtrip times
of its paths. Since we require that the total throughput is no worse
than the throughput a single TCP would get on the best path, it is
impossible to choose, a priori, a single value of alpha that achieves
the desired throughput in every occasion. Hence, alpha must be
computed based on the observed properties of the paths.
The formula to compute alpha is:
MAX (cwnd_i/rtt_i^2)
alpha = cwnd_total *  (2)
(SUM (cwnd_i/rtt_i))^2
Note:
MAX (x_i) means the maximum value for any possible value of i.
SUM (x_i) means the summation for all possible values of i.
The formula (2) is derived by equalizing the rate of the multipath
flow with the rate of a TCP running on the best path, and solving for
alpha.
4. Implementation Considerations
Equation (2) implies that alpha is a floating point value. This
would require performing costly floating point operations whenever an
ACK is received. Further, in many kernels, floating point operations
are disabled. There is an easy way to approximate the above
calculations using integer arithmetic.
4.1. Computing "alpha" in Practice
Let alpha_scale be an integer. When computing alpha, use alpha_scale
* cwnd_total instead of cwnd_total and do all the operations in
integer arithmetic.
Then, scale down the increase per ACK by alpha_scale. The resulting
algorithm is a simple change from Equation (1):
o For each ACK received on subflow i, increase cwnd_i by:
alpha * bytes_acked * MSS_i bytes_acked * MSS_i
min (  ,  ) (3)
alpha_scale * cwnd_total cwnd_i
The alpha_scale parameter denotes the precision we want for computing
alpha. Observe that the errors in computing the numerator or the
denominator in the formula for alpha are quite small, as the cwnd in
bytes is typically much larger than the RTT (measured in ms).
With these changes, all the operations can be done using integer
arithmetic. We propose alpha_scale be a small power of two, to allow
using faster shift operations instead of multiplication and division.
Our experiments show that using alpha_scale=512 works well in a wide
range of scenarios. Increasing alpha_scale increases precision, but
also increases the risk of overflow when computing alpha. Using 64
bit operations would solve this issue. Another option is to
dynamically adjust alpha_scale when computing alpha; in this way, we
avoid overflow and obtain maximum precision.
It is possible to implement the algorithm by calculating cwnd_total
on each ack; however, this would be costly especially when the number
of subflows is large. To avoid this overhead, the implementation MAY
choose to maintain a new perconnection state variable called
"cwnd_total". If it does so, the implementation will update the
cwnd_total value whenever the individual subflow's windows are
updated. Updating only requires one more addition or subtraction
operation compared to the regular, persubflow congestion control
code, so its performance impact should be minimal.
Computing alpha per ACK is also costly. We propose alpha be a per
connection variable, computed whenever there is a drop and once per
RTT otherwise. More specifically, let cwnd_new be the new value of
the congestion window after it is inflated or after a drop. Update
alpha only if the quotient of cwnd_i/MSS_i differs from the quotient
of cwnd_new_i/MSS_i.
In certain cases with small RTTs, computing alpha can still be
expensive. We observe that if RTTs were constant, it is sufficient
to compute alpha once per drop, as alpha does not change between
drops (the insight here is that cwnd_i/cwnd_j = constant as long as
both windows increase). Experimental results show that even if
roundtrip times are not constant, using average roundtrip time per
sawtooth instead of instantaneous roundtrip time (i.e., TCP's
smoothed RTT estimator) gives good precision for computing alpha.
Hence, it is possible to compute alpha only once per drop using a
modified version of equation (2) where rtt_i is replaced with
rtt_avg_i.
If using average roundtrip time, rtt_avg_i will be computed by
sampling the rtt_i whenever the window can accommodate one more
packet, i.e., when cwnd / MSS < (cwnd+increase)/MSS. The samples are
averaged once per sawtooth into rtt_avg_i. This sampling ensures
that there is no sampling bias for larger windows.
Given cwnd_total and alpha, the congestion control algorithm is run
for each subflow independently, with similar complexity to the
standard TCP increase code [RFC5681].
4.2. Implementation Considerations when CWND is Expressed in Packets
When the congestion control algorithm maintains cwnd in packets
rather than bytes, the algorithms above must change to take into
account path MSS.
To compute the increase when an ACK is received, the implementation
for multipath congestion control is a simple extension of the
standard TCP code. In standard, TCP cwnd_cnt is an additional state
variable that tracks the number of segments acked since the last cwnd
increment; cwnd is incremented only when cwnd_cnt > cwnd; then,
cwnd_cnt is set to 0.
In the multipath case, cwnd_cnt_i is maintained for each subflow as
above, and cwnd_i is increased by 1 when cwnd_cnt_i > max(alpha_scale
* cwnd_total / alpha, cwnd_i).
When computing alpha for packetbased stacks, the errors in computing
the terms in the denominator are larger (this is because cwnd is much
smaller and rtt may be comparatively large). Let max be the index of
the subflow used in the numerator. To reduce errors, it is easiest
to move rtt_max (once calculated) from the numerator to the
denominator, changing equation (2) to obtain the equivalent formula
below.
(4)
cwnd_max
alpha = alpha_scale * cwnd_total * 
(SUM ((rtt_max * cwnd_i) / rtt_i))^2
Note that the calculation of alpha does not take into account path
MSS and is the same for stacks that keep cwnd in bytes or packets.
With this formula, the algorithm for computing alpha will match the
rate of TCP on the best path in B/s for byteoriented stacks, and in
packets/s in packetbased stacks. In practice, MSS rarely changes
between paths so this shouldn't be a problem.
However, it is simple to derive formulae allowing packetbased stacks
to achieve byte rate fairness (and vice versa) if needed. In
particular, for packetbased stacks wanting byterate fairness,
equation (4) above changes as follows: cwnd_max is replaced by
cwnd_max * MSS_max * MSS_max, while cwnd_i is replaced with cwnd_i *
MSS_i.
5. Discussion
The algorithm we've presented fully achieves Goals 1 and 2, but does
not achieve full resource pooling (Goal 3). Resource pooling
requires that no traffic should be transferred on links with higher
loss rates. To achieve perfect resource pooling, one must couple
both increase and decrease of congestion windows across subflows, as
in [KELLY].
There are a few problems with such a fully coupled controller.
First, it will insufficiently probe paths with high loss rates and
will fail to detect free capacity when it becomes available. Second,
such controllers tend to exhibit "flappiness": when the paths have
similar levels of congestion, the congestion controller will tend to
allocate all the window to one random subflow and allocate zero
window to the other subflows. The controller will perform random
flips between these stable points. This doesn't seem desirable in
general, and is particularly bad when the achieved rates depend on
the RTT (as in the current Internet): in such a case, the resulting
rate with fluctuate unpredictably depending on which state the
controller is in, hence violating Goal 1.
By only coupling increases our proposal probes high loss paths,
detecting free capacity quicker. Our proposal does not suffer from
flappiness but also achieves less resource pooling. The algorithm
will allocate window to the subflows such that p_i * cwnd_i =
constant, for all i. Thus, when the loss rates of the subflows are
equal, each subflow will get an equal window, removing flappiness.
When the loss rates differ, progressively more windows will be
allocated to the flow with the lower loss rate. In contrast, perfect
resource pooling requires that all the window should be allocated on
the path with the lowest loss rate. Further details can be found in
[NSDI].
6. Security Considerations
One security concern relates to what we call the trafficshifting
attack: onpath attackers can drop packets belonging to a multipath
subflow, which, in turn, makes the path seem congested and will force
the sender's congestion controller to avoid that path and push more
data over alternate subflows.
The attacker's goal is to create congestion on the corresponding
alternative paths. This behavior is entirely feasible but will only
have minor effects: by design, the coupled congestion controller is
less (or similarly) aggressive on any of its paths than a single TCP
flow. Thus, the biggest effect this attack can have is to make a
multipath subflow be as aggressive as a single TCP flow.
Another effect of the trafficshifting attack is that the new path
can monitor all the traffic, whereas before it could only see a
subset of traffic. We believe that if privacy is needed, splitting
traffic across multiple paths with MPTCP is not the right solution in
the first place; endtoend encryption should be used instead.
Besides the trafficshifting attack mentioned above, the coupled
congestion control algorithm defined in this document adds no other
security considerations to those found in [MPTCPMULTIADDRESSED] and
[RFC6181]. Detailed security analysis for the Multipath TCP protocol
itself is included in [MPTCPMULTIADDRESSED] and [RFC6181].
7. Acknowledgements
We thank Christoph Paasch for his suggestions for computing alpha in
packetbased stacks. The authors are supported by Trilogy
(http://www.trilogyproject.org), a research project (ICT216372)
partially funded by the European Community under its Seventh
Framework Program. The views expressed here are those of the
author(s) only. The European Commission is not liable for any use
that may be made of the information in this document.
8. References
8.1. Normative References
[RFC0793] Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7,
RFC 793, September 1981.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC5681] Allman, M., Paxson, V., and E. Blanton, "TCP Congestion
Control", RFC 5681, September 2009.
8.2. Informative References
[KELLY] Kelly, F. and T. Voice, "Stability of endtoend
algorithms for joint routing and rate control", ACM
SIGCOMM CCR vol. 35 num. 2, pp. 512, 2005,
<http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1064415>.
[MPTCPMULTIADDRESSED]
Ford, A., Raiciu, C., Handley, M., and O. Bonaventure,
"TCP Extensions for Multipath Operation with Multiple
Addresses", Work in Progress, July 2011.
[NSDI] Wischik, D., Raiciu, C., Greenhalgh, A., and M. Handley,
"Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Congestion
Control for Multipath TCP", Usenix NSDI , March 2011, <htt
p://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/c.raiciu/files/mptcpnsdi.pdf>.
[RFC3465] Allman, M., "TCP Congestion Control with Appropriate Byte
Counting (ABC)", RFC 3465, February 2003.
[RFC6181] Bagnulo, M., "Threat Analysis for TCP Extensions for
Multipath Operation with Multiple Addresses", RFC 6181,
March 2011.
[WISCHIK] Wischik, D., Handley, M., and M. Bagnulo Braun, "The
Resource Pooling Principle", ACM SIGCOMM CCR vol. 38 num.
5, pp. 4752, October 2008,
<http://ccr.sigcomm.org/online/files/p47handleyA4.pdf>.
Authors' Addresses
Costin Raiciu
University Politehnica of Bucharest
Splaiul Independentei 313
Bucharest
Romania
EMail: costin.raiciu@cs.pub.ro
Mark Handley
University College London
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT
UK
EMail: m.handley@cs.ucl.ac.uk
Damon Wischik
University College London
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT
UK
EMail: d.wischik@cs.ucl.ac.uk
