faqs.org - Internet FAQ Archives

RFC 6703 - Reporting IP Network Performance Metrics: Different P

Or Display the document by number

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                         A. Morton
Request for Comments: 6703                               G. Ramachandran
Category: Informational                                      G. Maguluri
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                AT&T Labs
                                                             August 2012

   Reporting IP Network Performance Metrics: Different Points of View


   Consumers of IP network performance metrics have many different uses
   in mind.  This memo provides "long-term" reporting considerations
   (e.g., hours, days, weeks, or months, as opposed to 10 seconds),
   based on analysis of the points of view of two key audiences.  It
   describes how these audience categories affect the selection of
   metric parameters and options when seeking information that serves
   their needs.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   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

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2012 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

   This document may contain material from IETF Documents or IETF
   Contributions published or made publicly available before November
   10, 2008.  The person(s) controlling the copyright in some of this
   material may not have granted the IETF Trust the right to allow
   modifications of such material outside the IETF Standards Process.
   Without obtaining an adequate license from the person(s) controlling
   the copyright in such materials, this document may not be modified
   outside the IETF Standards Process, and derivative works of it may
   not be created outside the IETF Standards Process, except to format
   it for publication as an RFC or to translate it into languages other
   than English.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................4
   2. Purpose and Scope ...............................................4
   3. Reporting Results ...............................................5
      3.1. Overview of Metric Statistics ..............................5
      3.2. Long-Term Reporting Considerations .........................6
   4. Effect of POV on the Loss Metric ................................8
      4.1. Loss Threshold .............................................8
           4.1.1. Network Characterization ............................8
           4.1.2. Application Performance ............................11
      4.2. Errored Packet Designation ................................11
      4.3. Causes of Lost Packets ....................................11
      4.4. Summary for Loss ..........................................12
   5. Effect of POV on the Delay Metric ..............................12
      5.1. Treatment of Lost Packets .................................12
           5.1.1. Application Performance ............................13
           5.1.2. Network Characterization ...........................13
           5.1.3. Delay Variation ....................................14
           5.1.4. Reordering .........................................15
      5.2. Preferred Statistics ......................................15
      5.3. Summary for Delay .........................................16
   6. Reporting Raw Capacity Metrics .................................16
      6.1. Type-P Parameter ..........................................17
      6.2. A priori Factors ..........................................17
      6.3. IP-Layer Capacity .........................................17
      6.4. IP-Layer Utilization ......................................18
      6.5. IP-Layer Available Capacity ...............................18
      6.6. Variability in Utilization and Available Capacity .........19
           6.6.1. General Summary of Variability .....................19
   7. Reporting Restricted Capacity Metrics ..........................20
      7.1. Type-P Parameter and Type-C Parameter .....................21
      7.2. A Priori Factors ..........................................21
      7.3. Measurement Interval ......................................22
      7.4. Bulk Transfer Capacity Reporting ..........................22
      7.5. Variability in Bulk Transfer Capacity .....................23
   8. Reporting on Test Streams and Sample Size ......................23
      8.1. Test Stream Characteristics ...............................23
      8.2. Sample Size ...............................................24
   9. Security Considerations ........................................25
   10. Acknowledgements ..............................................25
   11. References ....................................................25
      11.1. Normative References .....................................25
      11.2. Informative References ...................................26

1.  Introduction

   When designing measurements of IP networks and presenting a result,
   knowledge of the audience is a key consideration.  To present a
   useful and relevant portrait of network conditions, one must answer
   the following question:

   "How will the results be used?"

   There are two main audience categories for the report of results:

   1.  Network Characterization - describes conditions in an IP network
       for quality assurance, troubleshooting, modeling, Service Level
       Agreements (SLAs), etc.  This point of view (POV) looks inward
       toward the network where the report consumer intends their

   2.  Application Performance Estimation - describes the network
       conditions in a way that facilitates determining effects on user
       applications, and ultimately the users themselves.  This POV
       looks outward, toward the user(s), accepting the network as is.
       This report consumer intends to estimate a network-dependent
       aspect of performance or design some aspect of an application's
       accommodation of the network.  (These are *not* application
       metrics; they are defined at the IP layer.)

   This memo considers how these different POVs affect both the
   measurement design (parameters and options of the metrics) and
   statistics reported when serving the report consumer's needs.

   The IP Performance Metrics (IPPM) Framework [RFC2330] and other RFCs
   describing IPPM provide a background for this memo.

2.  Purpose and Scope

   The purpose of this memo is to clearly delineate two POVs for using
   measurements and describe their effects on the test design, including
   the selection of metric parameters and reporting the results.

   The scope of this memo primarily covers the test design and reporting
   of the loss and delay metrics [RFC2680] [RFC2679].  It will also
   discuss the delay variation [RFC3393] and reordering metrics
   [RFC4737] where applicable.

   With capacity metrics growing in relevance to the industry, the memo
   also covers POV and reporting considerations for metrics resulting
   from the Bulk Transfer Capacity Framework [RFC3148] and Network
   Capacity Definitions [RFC5136].  These memos effectively describe two
   different categories of metrics:

   o  Restricted [RFC3148]: includes restrictions of congestion control
      and the notion of unique data bits delivered, and

   o  Raw [RFC5136]: uses a definition of raw capacity without the
      restrictions of data uniqueness or congestion awareness.

   It might seem, at first glance, that each of these metrics has an
   obvious audience (raw = network characterization, restricted =
   application performance), but reality is more complex and consistent
   with the overall topic of capacity measurement and reporting.  For
   example, TCP is usually used in restricted capacity measurement
   methods, while UDP appears in raw capacity measurement.  The raw and
   restricted capacity metrics will be treated in separate sections,
   although they share one common reporting issue: representing
   variability in capacity metric results as part of a long-term report.

   Sampling, or the design of the active packet stream that is the basis
   for the measurements, is also discussed.

3.  Reporting Results

   This section gives an overview of recommendations, followed by
   additional considerations for reporting results in the "long term",
   based on the discussion and conclusions of the major sections that

3.1.  Overview of Metric Statistics

   This section gives an overview of reporting recommendations for all
   the metrics considered in this memo.

   The minimal report on measurements must include both loss and delay

   For packet loss, the loss ratio defined in [RFC2680] is a sufficient
   starting point -- especially the existing guidance for setting the
   loss threshold waiting time.  In Section 4.1.1, we have calculated a
   waiting time -- 51 seconds -- that should be sufficient to
   differentiate between packets that are truly lost or have long finite
   delays under general measurement circumstances.  Knowledge of

   specific conditions can help to reduce this threshold, and a waiting
   time of approximately 50 seconds is considered to be manageable in

   We note that a loss ratio calculated according to [Y.1540] would
   exclude errored packets from the numerator.  In practice, the
   difference between these two loss metrics is small, if any, depending
   on whether the last link prior to the Destination contributes errored

   For packet delay, we recommend providing both the mean delay and the
   median delay with lost packets designated as undefined (as permitted
   by [RFC2679]).  Both statistics are based on a conditional
   distribution, and the condition is packet arrival prior to a waiting
   time dT, where dT has been set to take maximum packet lifetimes into
   account, as discussed above for loss.  Using a long dT helps to
   ensure that delay distributions are not truncated.

   For Packet Delay Variation (PDV), the minimum delay of the
   conditional distribution should be used as the reference delay for
   computing PDV according to [Y.1540] or [RFC5481] and [RFC3393].  A
   useful value to report is a "pseudo" range of delay variation based
   on calculating the difference between a high percentile of delay and
   the minimum delay.  For example, the 99.9th percentile minus the
   minimum will give a value that can be compared with objectives in

   For both raw capacity and restricted capacity, reporting the
   variability in a useful way is identified as the main challenge.  The
   min, max, and range statistics are suggested along with a ratio of
   max to min and moving averages.  In the end, a simple plot of the
   singleton results over time may succeed where summary metrics fail or
   may serve to confirm that the summaries are valid.

3.2.  Long-Term Reporting Considerations

   [IPPM-RPT] describes methods to conduct measurements and report the
   results on a near-immediate time scale (10 seconds, which we consider
   to be "short-term").

   Measurement intervals and reporting intervals need not be the same
   length.  Sometimes, the user is only concerned with the performance
   levels achieved over a relatively long interval of time (e.g., days,
   weeks, or months, as opposed to 10 seconds).  However, there can be
   risks involved with running a measurement continuously over a long
   period without recording intermediate results:

   o  Temporary power failure may cause loss of all results to date.

   o  Measurement system timing synchronization signals may experience a
      temporary outage, causing subsets of measurements to be in error
      or invalid.

   o  Maintenance on the measurement system or on its connectivity to
      the network under test may be necessary.

   For these and other reasons, such as

   o  the constraint to collect measurements on intervals similar to
      user session length,

   o  the dual use of measurements in monitoring activities where
      results are needed on a period of a few minutes, or

   o  the ability to inspect results of a single measurement interval
      for deeper analysis,

   there is value in conducting measurements on intervals that are much
   shorter than the reporting interval.

   There are several approaches for aggregating a series of measurement
   results over time in order to make a statement about the longer
   reporting interval.  One approach requires the storage of all metric
   singletons collected throughout the reporting interval, even though
   the measurement interval stops and starts many times.

   Another approach is described in [RFC5835] as "temporal aggregation".
   This approach would estimate the results for the reporting interval
   based on combining many individual short-term measurement interval
   statistics to yield a long-term result.  The result would ideally
   appear in the same form as though a continuous measurement had been
   conducted.  A memo addressing the details of temporal aggregation is
   yet to be prepared.

   Yet another approach requires a numerical objective for the metric,
   and the results of each measurement interval are compared with the
   objective.  Every measurement interval where the results meet the
   objective contribute to the fraction of time with performance as
   specified.  When the reporting interval contains many measurement
   intervals, it is possible to present the results as "metric A was
   less than or equal to objective X during Y% of time".

      NOTE that numerical thresholds of acceptability are not set in
      IETF performance work and are therefore excluded from the scope of
      this memo.

   In all measurements, it is important to avoid unintended
   synchronization with network events.  This topic is treated in
   [RFC2330] for Poisson-distributed inter-packet time streams and in
   [RFC3432] for Periodic streams.  Both avoid synchronization by using
   random start times.

   There are network conditions where it is simply more useful to report
   the connectivity status of the Source-Destination path, and to
   distinguish time intervals where connectivity can be demonstrated
   from other time intervals (where connectivity does not appear to
   exist).  [RFC2678] specifies a number of one-way and two-way
   connectivity metrics of increasing complexity.  In this memo, we
   recommend that long-term reporting of loss, delay, and other metrics
   be limited to time intervals where connectivity can be demonstrated,
   and that other intervals be summarized as the percent of time where
   connectivity does not appear to exist.  We note that this same
   approach has been adopted in ITU-T Recommendation [Y.1540] where
   performance parameters are only valid during periods of service
   "availability" (evaluated according to a function based on packet
   loss, and sustained periods of loss ratio greater than a threshold
   are declared "unavailable").

4.  Effect of POV on the Loss Metric

   This section describes the ways in which the loss metric can be tuned
   to reflect the preferences of the two audience categories, or
   different POVs.  The waiting time before declaring that a packet is
   lost -- the loss threshold -- is one area where there would appear to
   be a difference, but the ability to post-process the results may
   resolve it.

4.1.  Loss Threshold

   RFC 2680 [RFC2680] defines the concept of a waiting time for packets
   to arrive, beyond which they are declared lost.  The text of the RFC
   declines to recommend a value, instead saying that "good engineering,
   including an understanding of packet lifetimes, will be needed in
   practice".  Later, in the methodology, they give reasons for waiting
   "a reasonable period of time" and leave the definition of
   "reasonable" intentionally vague.  Below, we estimate a practical
   bound on waiting time.

4.1.1.  Network Characterization

   Practical measurement experience has shown that unusual network
   circumstances can cause long delays.  One such circumstance is when
   routing loops form during IGP re-convergence following a failure or
   drastic link cost change.  Packets will loop between two routers

   until new routes are installed or until the IPv4 Time-to-Live (TTL)
   field (or the IPv6 Hop Limit) decrements to zero.  Very long delays
   on the order of several seconds have been measured [Casner] [Cia03].

   Therefore, network characterization activities prefer a long waiting
   time in order to distinguish these events from other causes of loss
   (such as packet discard at a full queue, or tail drop).  This way,
   the metric design helps to distinguish more reliably between packets
   that might yet arrive and those that are no longer traversing the

   It is possible to calculate a worst-case waiting time, assuming that
   a routing loop is the cause.  We model the path between Source and
   Destination as a series of delays in links (t) and queues (q), as
   these are the dominant contributors to delay (in active measurement,
   the Source and Destination hosts contribute minimal delay).  The
   normal path delay, D, across n queues (where TTL is decremented at a
   node with a queue) and n+1 links without encountering a loop, is

        Path model with n=5
          Source --- q1 --- q2 --- q3 --- q4 --- q5 --- Destination
                 t0     t1     t2     t3     t4     t5

                        D = t  +   >  (t  +  q)
                             0    /     i     i
                                 i = 1

                        Figure 1: Normal Path Delay

   and the time spent in the loop with L queues is

            Path model with n=5 and L=3
            Time in one loop = (qx+tx + qy+ty + qz+tz)

                                   qy -- qz
                                    |  ?/exit?
              Src --- q1 --- q2 ---/    q3 --- q4 --- q5 --- Dst
                  t0     t1     t2         t3     t4     t5

                       j + L-1
                        \                          (TTL - n)
                 R = C   >  (t  +  q)  where C   = ---------
                        /     i     i         max      L

                Figure 2: Delay Due to Rotations in a Loop

   where n is the total number of queues in the non-loop path (with n+1
   links), j is the queue number where the loop begins, C is the number
   of times a packet circles the loop, and TTL is the packet's initial
   Time-to-Live value at the Source (or Hop Count in IPv6).

   If we take the delays of all links and queues as 100 ms each, the
   TTL=255, the number of queues n=5, and the queues in the loop L=4,
   then using C_max:

      D = 1.1 seconds and R ~= 50 seconds, and D + R ~= 51.1 seconds

   We note that the link delays of 100 ms would span most continents,
   and a constant queue length of 100 ms is also very generous.  When a
   loop occurs, it is almost certain to be resolved in 10 seconds or
   less.  The value calculated above is an upper limit for almost any
   real-world circumstance.

   A waiting time threshold parameter, dT, set consistent with this
   calculation, would not truncate the delay distribution (possibly
   causing a change in its mathematical properties), because the packets
   that might arrive have been given sufficient time to traverse the

   It is worth noting that packets that are stored and deliberately
   forwarded at a much later time constitute a replay attack on the
   measurement system and are beyond the scope of normal performance

4.1.2.  Application Performance

   Fortunately, application performance estimation activities are not
   adversely affected by the long estimated limit on waiting time,
   because most applications will use shorter time thresholds.  Although
   the designer's tendency might be to set the loss threshold at a value
   equivalent to a particular application's threshold, this specific
   threshold can be applied when post-processing the measurements.  A
   shorter waiting time can be enforced by locating packets with delays
   longer than the application's threshold and re-designating such
   packets as lost.  Thus, the measurement system can use a single loss
   waiting time and support both application and network performance
   POVs simultaneously.

4.2.  Errored Packet Designation

   RFC 2680 designates packets that arrive containing errors as lost
   packets.  Many packets that are corrupted by bit errors are discarded
   within the network and do not reach their intended destination.

   This is consistent with applications that would check the payload
   integrity at higher layers and discard the packet.  However, some
   applications prefer to deal with errored payloads on their own, and
   even a corrupted payload is better than no packet at all.

   To address this possibility, and to make network characterization
   more complete, distinguishing between packets that do not arrive
   (lost) and errored packets that arrive (conditionally lost) is

4.3.  Causes of Lost Packets

   Although many measurement systems use a waiting time to determine
   whether or not a packet is lost, most of the waiting is in vain.  The
   packets are no longer traversing the network and have not reached
   their destination.

   There are many causes of packet loss, including the following:

   1.  Queue drop, or discard

   2.  Corruption of the IP header, or other essential header

   3.  TTL expiration (or use of a TTL value that is too small)

   4.  Link or router failure

   5.  Layers below the Source-to-Destination IP layer can discard
       packets that fail error checking, and link-layer checksums often
       cover the entire packet

   It is reasonable to consider a packet that has not arrived after a
   large amount of time to be lost (due to one of the causes above)
   because packets do not "live forever" in the network or have infinite

4.4.  Summary for Loss

   Given that measurement post-processing is possible (even encouraged
   in the definitions of IPPM), measurements of loss can easily serve
   both POVs:

   o  Use a long waiting time to serve network characterization and
      revise results for specific application delay thresholds as

   o  Distinguish between errored packets and lost packets when possible
      to aid network characterization, and combine the results for
      application performance if appropriate.

5.  Effect of POV on the Delay Metric

   This section describes the ways in which the delay metric can be
   tuned to reflect the preferences of the two consumer categories, or
   different POVs.

5.1.  Treatment of Lost Packets

   The delay metric [RFC2679] specifies the treatment of packets that do
   not successfully traverse the network: their delay is undefined.

      >>The *Type-P-One-way-Delay* from Src to Dst at T is undefined
      (informally, infinite)<< means that Src sent the first bit of a
      Type-P packet to Dst at wire-time T and that Dst did not receive
      that packet.

   It is an accepted but informal practice to assign infinite delay to
   lost packets.  We next look at how these two different treatments
   align with the needs of measurement consumers who wish to
   characterize networks or estimate application performance.  Also, we
   look at the way that lost packets have been treated in other metrics:
   delay variation and reordering.

5.1.1.  Application Performance

   Applications need to perform different functions, dependent on
   whether or not each packet arrives within some finite tolerance.  In
   other words, a receiver's packet processing takes only one of two
   alternative directions (a "fork" in the road):

   o  Packets that arrive within expected tolerance are handled by
      removing headers, restoring smooth delivery timing (as in a
      de-jitter buffer), restoring sending order, checking for errors in
      payloads, and many other operations.

   o  Packets that do not arrive when expected lead to attempted
      recovery from the apparent loss, such as retransmission requests,
      loss concealment, or forward error correction to replace the
      missing packet.

   So, it is important to maintain a distinction between packets that
   actually arrive and those that do not.  Therefore, it is preferable
   to leave the delay of lost packets undefined and to characterize the
   delay distribution as a conditional distribution (conditioned on

5.1.2.  Network Characterization

   In this discussion, we assume that both loss and delay metrics will
   be reported for network characterization (at least).

   Assume that packets that do not arrive are reported as lost, usually
   as a fraction of all sent packets.  If these lost packets are
   assigned an undefined delay, then the network's inability to deliver
   them (in a timely way) is relegated only in the loss metric when we
   report statistics on the delay distribution conditioned on the event
   of packet arrival (within the loss waiting time threshold).  We can
   say that the delay and loss metrics are orthogonal in that they
   convey non-overlapping information about the network under test.
   This is a valuable property whose absence is discussed below.

   However, if we assign infinite delay to all lost packets, then

   o  The delay metric results are influenced both by packets that
      arrive and those that do not.

   o  The delay singleton and the loss singleton do not appear to be
      orthogonal (delay is finite when loss=0; delay is infinite when

   o  The network is penalized in both the loss and delay metrics,
      effectively double-counting the lost packets.

   As further evidence of overlap, consider the Cumulative Distribution
   Function (CDF) of delay when the value "positive infinity" is
   assigned to all lost packets.  Figure 3 shows a CDF where a small
   fraction of packets are lost.

                 1 | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
                   |                                    |
                   |          _..----''''''''''''''''''''
                   |      ,-''
                   |    ,'
                   |   /                         Mass at
                   |  /                          +infinity
                   | /                           = fraction
                   ||                            lost
                 0 |_____________________________________

                   0               Delay               +o0

           Figure 3: Cumulative Distribution Function for Delay
                           When Loss = +Infinity

   We note that a delay CDF that is conditioned on packet arrival would
   not exhibit this apparent overlap with loss.

   Although infinity is a familiar mathematical concept, it is somewhat
   disconcerting to see any time-related metric reported as infinity.
   Questions are bound to arise and tend to detract from the goal of
   informing the consumer with a performance report.

5.1.3.  Delay Variation

   [RFC3393] excludes lost packets from samples, effectively assigning
   an undefined delay to packets that do not arrive in a reasonable
   time.  Section 4.1 of [RFC3393] describes this specification and its
   rationale (ipdv = inter-packet delay variation in the quote below).

      The treatment of lost packets as having "infinite" or "undefined"
      delay complicates the derivation of statistics for ipdv.
      Specifically, when packets in the measurement sequence are lost,
      simple statistics such as sample mean cannot be computed.  One
      possible approach to handling this problem is to reduce the event
      space by conditioning.  That is, we consider conditional
      statistics; namely we estimate the mean ipdv (or other derivative
      statistic) conditioned on the event that selected packet pairs

      arrive at the Destination (within the given timeout).  While this
      itself is not without problems (what happens, for example, when
      every other packet is lost), it offers a way to make some (valid)
      statements about ipdv, at the same time avoiding events with
      undefined outcomes.

   We note that the argument above applies to all forms of packet delay
   variation that can be constructed using the "selection function"
   concept of [RFC3393].  In recent work, the two main forms of delay
   variation metrics have been compared, and the results are summarized
   in [RFC5481].

5.1.4.  Reordering

   [RFC4737] defines metrics that are based on evaluation of packet
   arrival order and that include a waiting time before declaring that a
   packet is lost (to exclude the packet from further processing).

   If packets are assigned a delay value, then the reordering metric
   would declare any packets with infinite delay to be reordered,
   because their sequence numbers will surely be less than the "Next
   Expected" threshold when (or if) they arrive.  But this practice
   would fail to maintain orthogonality between the reordering metric
   and the loss metric.  Confusion can be avoided by designating the
   delay of non-arriving packets as undefined and reserving delay values
   only for packets that arrive within a sufficiently long waiting time.

5.2.  Preferred Statistics

   Today in network characterization, the sample mean is one statistic
   that is almost ubiquitously reported.  It is easily computed and
   understood by virtually everyone in this audience category.  Also,
   the sample is usually filtered on packet arrival, so that the mean is
   based on a conditional distribution.

   The median is another statistic that summarizes a distribution,
   having somewhat different properties from the sample mean.  The
   median is stable in distributions with a few outliers or without
   them.  However, the median's stability prevents it from indicating
   when a large fraction of the distribution changes value.  50% or more
   values would need to change for the median to capture the change.

   Both the median and sample mean have difficulty with bimodal
   distributions.  The median will reside in only one of the modes, and
   the mean may not lie in either mode range.  For this and other
   reasons, additional statistics such as the minimum, maximum, and 95th
   percentile have value when summarizing a distribution.

   When both the sample mean and median are available, a comparison will
   sometimes be informative, because these two statistics are equal only
   under unusual circumstances, such as when the delay distribution is
   perfectly symmetrical.

   Also, these statistics are generally useful from the application
   performance POV, so there is a common set that should satisfy

   Plots of the delay distribution may also be useful when single-value
   statistics indicate that new conditions are present.  An empirically
   derived probability distribution function will usually describe
   multiple modes more efficiently than any other form of result.

5.3.  Summary for Delay

   From the perspectives of

   1.  application/receiver analysis, where subsequent processing
       depends on whether the packet arrives or times out,

   2.  straightforward network characterization without double-counting
       defects, and

   3.  consistency with delay variation and reordering metric

   the most efficient practice is to distinguish between packets that
   are truly lost and those that are delayed packets with a sufficiently
   long waiting time, and to designate the delay of non-arriving packets
   as undefined.

6.  Reporting Raw Capacity Metrics

   Raw capacity refers to the metrics defined in [RFC5136], which do not
   include restrictions such as data uniqueness or flow-control response
   to congestion.

   The metrics considered are IP-layer capacity, utilization (or used
   capacity), and available capacity, for individual links and complete
   paths.  These three metrics form a triad: knowing one metric
   constrains the other two (within their allowed range), and knowing
   two determines the third.  The link metrics have another key aspect
   in common: they are single-measurement-point metrics at the egress of
   a link.  The path capacity and available capacity are derived by
   examining the set of single-point link measurements and taking the
   minimum value.

6.1.  Type-P Parameter

   The concept of "packets of Type-P" is defined in [RFC2330].  The
   Type-P categorization has critical relevance in all forms of capacity
   measurement and reporting.  The ability to categorize packets based
   on header fields for assignment to different queues and scheduling
   mechanisms is now commonplace.  When unused resources are shared
   across queues, the conditions in all packet categories will affect
   capacity and related measurements.  This is one source of variability
   in the results that all audiences would prefer to see reported in a
   useful and easily understood way.

   Communication of Type-P within the One-Way Active Measurement
   Protocol (OWAMP) and the Two-Way Active Measurement Protocol (TWAMP)
   is essentially confined to the Diffserv Code Point (DSCP) [RFC4656].
   DSCP is the most common qualifier for Type-P.

   Each audience will have a set of Type-P qualifications and value
   combinations that are of interest.  Measurements and reports should
   have the flexibility to report per-type and aggregate performance.

6.2.  A priori Factors

   The audience for network characterization may have detailed
   information about each link that comprises a complete path (due to
   ownership, for example), or some of the links in the path but not
   others, or none of the links.

   There are cases where the measurement audience only has information
   on one of the links (the local access link) and wishes to measure one
   or more of the raw capacity metrics.  This scenario is quite common
   and has spawned a substantial number of experimental measurement
   methods (e.g., http://www.caida.org/tools/taxonomy/).  Many of these
   methods respect that their users want a result fairly quickly and in
   one trial.  Thus, the measurement interval is kept short (a few
   seconds to a minute).  For long-term reporting, a sample of
   short-term results needs to be summarized.

6.3.  IP-Layer Capacity

   For links, this metric's theoretical maximum value can be determined
   from the physical-layer bit rate and the bit rate reduction due to
   the layers between the physical layer and IP.  When measured, this
   metric takes additional factors into account, such as the ability of
   the sending device to process and forward traffic under various
   conditions.  For example, the arrival of routing updates may spawn
   high-priority processes that reduce the sending rate temporarily.

   Thus, the measured capacity of a link will be variable, and the
   maximum capacity observed applies to a specific time, time interval,
   and other relevant circumstances.

   For paths composed of a series of links, it is easy to see how the
   sources of variability for the results grow with each link in the
   path.  Variability of results will be discussed in more detail below.

6.4.  IP-Layer Utilization

   The ideal metric definition of link utilization [RFC5136] is based on
   the actual usage (bits successfully received during a time interval)
   and the maximum capacity for the same interval.

   In practice, link utilization can be calculated by counting the
   IP-layer (or other layer) octets received over a time interval and
   dividing by the theoretical maximum number of octets that could have
   been delivered in the same interval.  A commonly used time interval
   is 5 minutes, and this interval has been sufficient to support
   network operations and design for some time.  5 minutes is somewhat
   long compared with the expected download time for web pages but short
   with respect to large file transfers and TV program viewing.  It is
   fair to say that considerable variability is concealed by reporting a
   single (average) utilization value for each 5-minute interval.  Some
   performance management systems have begun to make 1-minute averages

   There is also a limit on the smallest useful measurement interval.
   Intervals on the order of the serialization time for a single Maximum
   Transmission Unit (MTU) packet will observe on/off behavior and
   report 100% or 0%.  The smallest interval needs to be some multiple
   of MTU serialization time for averaging to be effective.

6.5.  IP-Layer Available Capacity

   The available capacity of a link can be calculated using the capacity
   and utilization metrics.

   When available capacity of a link or path is estimated through some
   measurement technique, the following parameters should be reported:

   o  Name and reference to the exact method of measurement

   o  IP packet length, octets (including IP header)

   o  Maximum capacity that can be assessed in the measurement

   o  Time duration of the measurement

   o  All other parameters specific to the measurement method

   Many methods of available capacity measurement have a maximum
   capacity that they can measure, and this maximum may be less than the
   actual available capacity of the link or path.  Therefore, it is
   important to know the capacity value beyond which there will be no
   measured improvement.

   The application performance estimation audience may have a desired
   target capacity value and simply wish to assess whether there is
   sufficient available capacity.  This case simplifies the measurement
   of link and path capacity to some degree, as long as the measurable
   maximum exceeds the target capacity.

6.6.  Variability in Utilization and Available Capacity

   As with most metrics and measurements, assessing the consistency or
   variability in the results gives the user an intuitive feel for the
   degree (or confidence) that any one value is representative of other
   results, or the spread of the underlying distribution of the
   singleton measurements.

   How can utilization be measured and summarized to describe the
   potential variability in a useful way?

   How can the variability in available capacity estimates be reported,
   so that the confidence in the results is also conveyed?

   We suggest some methods below.

6.6.1.  General Summary of Variability

   With a set of singleton utilization or available capacity estimates,
   each representing a time interval needed to ascertain the estimate,
   we seek to describe the variation over the set of singletons as
   though reporting summary statistics of a distribution.  Three useful
   summary statistics are

   o  Minimum,

   o  Maximum, and

   o  Range

   An alternate way to represent the range is as a ratio of maximum to
   minimum value.  This enables an easily understandable statistic to
   describe the range observed.  For example, when maximum = 3*minimum,
   then the max/min ratio is 3, and users may see variability of this
   order.  On the other hand, capacity estimates with a max/min ratio
   near 1 are quite consistent and near the central measure or statistic

   For an ongoing series of singleton estimates, a moving average of n
   estimates may provide a single value estimate to more easily
   distinguish substantial changes in performance over time.  For
   example, in a window of n singletons observed in time interval t, a
   percentage change of x% is declared to be a substantial change and
   reported as an exception.

   Often, the most informative summary of the results is a two-axis plot
   rather than a table of statistics, where time is plotted on the
   x-axis and the singleton value on the y-axis.  The time-series plot
   can illustrate sudden changes in an otherwise stable range, identify
   bi-modality easily, and help quickly assess correlation with other
   time-series.  Plots of frequency of the singleton values are likewise
   useful tools to visualize the variation.

7.  Reporting Restricted Capacity Metrics

   Restricted capacity refers to the metrics defined in [RFC3148], which
   include criteria of data uniqueness or flow-control response to

   One primary metric considered is Bulk Transfer Capacity (BTC) for
   complete paths.  [RFC3148] defines BTC as

      BTC = data_sent / elapsed_time

   for a connection with congestion-aware flow control, where data_sent
   is the total number of unique payload bits (no headers).

   We note that this definition *differs* from the raw capacity
   definition in Section 2.3.1 of [RFC5136], where IP-layer capacity
   *includes* all bits in the IP header and payload.  This means that
   restricted capacity BTC is already operating at a disadvantage when
   compared to the raw capacity at layers below TCP.  Further, there are
   cases where one IP layer is encapsulated in another IP layer or other
   form of tunneling protocol, designating more and more of the
   fundamental transport capacity as header bits that are pure overhead
   to the BTC measurement.

   We also note that raw and restricted capacity metrics are not
   orthogonal in the sense defined in Section 5.1.2 above.  The
   information they convey about the network under test is certainly
   overlapping, but they reveal two different and important aspects of

   When thinking about the triad of raw capacity metrics, BTC is most
   akin to the "IP-Type-P Available Path Capacity", at least in the eyes
   of a network user who seeks to know what transmission performance a
   path might support.

7.1.  Type-P Parameter and Type-C Parameter

   The concept of "packets of Type-P" is defined in [RFC2330].  The
   considerations for restricted capacity are identical to the raw
   capacity section on this topic, with the addition that the various
   fields and options in the TCP header must be included in the

   The vast array of TCP flow-control options are not well captured by
   Type-P, because they do not exist in the TCP header bits.  Therefore,
   we introduce a new notion here: TCP Configuration of "Type-C".  The
   elements of Type-C describe all of the settings for TCP options and
   congestion control algorithm variables, including the main form of
   congestion control in use.  Readers should consider the parameters
   and variables of [RFC3148] and [RFC6349] when constructing Type-C.

7.2.  A Priori Factors

   The audience for network characterization may have detailed
   information about each link that comprises a complete path (due to
   ownership, for example), or some of the links in the path but not
   others, or none of the links.

   There are cases where the measurement audience only has information
   on one of the links (the local access link) and wishes to measure one
   or more BTC metrics.  The discussion in Section 6.2 applies here
   as well.

7.3.  Measurement Interval

   There are limits on a useful measurement interval for BTC.  Three
   factors that influence the interval duration are listed below:

   1.  Measurements may choose to include or exclude the 3-way handshake
       of TCP connection establishment, which requires at least 1.5 *
       RTT (round-trip time) and contains both the delay of the path and
       the host processing time for responses.  However, user experience
       includes the 3-way handshake for all new TCP connections.

   2.  Measurements may choose to include or exclude Slow-Start,
       preferring instead to focus on a portion of the transfer that
       represents "equilibrium" (which needs to be defined for
       particular circumstances if used).  However, user experience
       includes the Slow-Start for all new TCP connections.

   3.  Measurements may choose to use a fixed block of data to transfer,
       where the size of the block has a relationship to the file size
       of the application of interest.  This approach yields variable
       size measurement intervals, where a path with faster BTC is
       measured for less time than a path with slower BTC, and this has
       implications when path impairments are time-varying, or
       transient.  Users are likely to turn their immediate attention
       elsewhere when a very large file must be transferred; thus, they
       do not directly experience such a long transfer -- they see the
       result (success or failure) and possibly an objective measurement
       of the transfer time (which will likely include the 3-way
       handshake, Slow-Start, and application file management processing
       time as well as the BTC).

   Individual measurement intervals may be short or long, but there is a
   need to report the results on a long-term basis that captures the BTC
   variability experienced between each interval.  Consistent BTC is a
   valuable commodity along with the value attained.

7.4.  Bulk Transfer Capacity Reporting

   When BTC of a link or path is estimated through some measurement
   technique, the following parameters should be reported:

   o  Name and reference to the exact method of measurement

   o  Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU)

   o  Maximum BTC that can be assessed in the measurement configuration

   o  Time and duration of the measurement

   o  Number of BTC connections used simultaneously

   o  *All* other parameters specific to the measurement method,
      especially the congestion control algorithm in use

   See also [RFC6349].

   Many methods of BTC measurement have a maximum capacity that they can
   measure, and this maximum may be less than the available capacity of
   the link or path.  Therefore, it is important to specify the measured
   BTC value beyond which there will be no measured improvement.

   The application performance estimation audience may have a desired
   target capacity value and simply wish to assess whether there is
   sufficient BTC.  This case simplifies the measurement of link and
   path capacity to some degree, as long as the measurable maximum
   exceeds the target capacity.

7.5.  Variability in Bulk Transfer Capacity

   As with most metrics and measurements, assessing the consistency or
   variability in the results gives the user an intuitive feel for the
   degree (or confidence) that any one value is representative of other
   results, or the underlying distribution from which these singleton
   measurements have come.

   With two questions looming --

   1.  What ways can BTC be measured and summarized to describe the
       potential variability in a useful way?

   2.  How can the variability in BTC estimates be reported, so that the
       confidence in the results is also conveyed?

   -- we suggest the methods listed in Section 6.6.1 above, and the
   additional results presentations given in [RFC6349].

8.  Reporting on Test Streams and Sample Size

   This section discusses two key aspects of measurement that are
   sometimes omitted from the report: the description of the test stream
   on which the measurements are based, and the sample size.

8.1.  Test Stream Characteristics

   Network characterization has traditionally used Poisson-distributed
   inter-packet spacing, as this provides an unbiased sample.  The
   average inter-packet spacing may be selected to allow observation of

   specific network phenomena.  Other test streams are designed to
   sample some property of the network, such as the presence of
   congestion, link bandwidth, or packet reordering.

   If measuring a network in order to make inferences about applications
   or receiver performance, then there are usually efficiencies derived
   from a test stream that has similar characteristics to the sender.
   In some cases, it is essential to synthesize the sender stream, as
   with BTC estimates.  In other cases, it may be sufficient to sample
   with a "known bias", e.g., a Periodic stream to estimate real-time
   application performance.

8.2.  Sample Size

   Sample size is directly related to the accuracy of the results and
   plays a critical role in the report.  Even if only the sample size
   (in terms of number of packets) is given for each value or summary
   statistic, it imparts a notion of the confidence in the result.

   In practice, the sample size will be selected taking both statistical
   and practical factors into account.  Among these factors are the

   1.  The estimated variability of the quantity being measured.

   2.  The desired confidence in the result (although this may be
       dependent on assumption of the underlying distribution of the
       measured quantity).

   3.  The effects of active measurement traffic on user traffic.

   A sample size may sometimes be referred to as "large".  This is a
   relative and qualitative term.  It is preferable to describe what one
   is attempting to achieve with his sample.  For example, stating an
   implication may be helpful: this sample is large enough that a single
   outlying value at ten times the "typical" sample mean (the mean
   without the outlying value) would influence the mean by no more
   than X.

   The Appendix of [RFC2330] indicates that a sample size of 128
   singletons worked well for goodness-of-fit testing, while a much
   larger size (8192 singletons) almost always failed.

9.  Security Considerations

   The security considerations that apply to any active measurement of
   live networks are relevant here as well.  See the Security
   Considerations section of [RFC4656] for mandatory-to-implement
   security features that intend to mitigate attacks.

   Measurement systems conducting long-term measurements are more
   exposed to threats as a by-product of ports open longer to perform
   their task, and more easily detected measurement activity on those
   ports.  Further, use of long packet waiting times affords an attacker
   a better opportunity to prepare and launch a replay attack.

10.  Acknowledgements

   The authors thank Phil Chimento for his suggestion to employ
   conditional distributions for delay, Steve Konish Jr. for his careful
   review and suggestions, Dave McDysan and Don McLachlan for useful
   comments based on their long experience with measurement and
   reporting, Daniel Genin for his observation of non-orthogonality
   between raw and restricted capacity metrics (and for noticing our
   previous omission of this fact), and Matt Zekauskas for suggestions
   on organizing the memo for easier consumption.

11.  References

11.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2330]   Paxson, V., Almes, G., Mahdavi, J., and M. Mathis,
               "Framework for IP Performance Metrics", RFC 2330,
               May 1998.

   [RFC2678]   Mahdavi, J. and V. Paxson, "IPPM Metrics for Measuring
               Connectivity", RFC 2678, September 1999.

   [RFC2679]   Almes, G., Kalidindi, S., and M. Zekauskas, "A One-way
               Delay Metric for IPPM", RFC 2679, September 1999.

   [RFC2680]   Almes, G., Kalidindi, S., and M. Zekauskas, "A One-way
               Packet Loss Metric for IPPM", RFC 2680, September 1999.

   [RFC3148]   Mathis, M. and M. Allman, "A Framework for Defining
               Empirical Bulk Transfer Capacity Metrics", RFC 3148,
               July 2001.

   [RFC3393]   Demichelis, C. and P. Chimento, "IP Packet Delay
               Variation Metric for IP Performance Metrics (IPPM)",
               RFC 3393, November 2002.

   [RFC3432]   Raisanen, V., Grotefeld, G., and A. Morton, "Network
               performance measurement with periodic streams", RFC 3432,
               November 2002.

   [RFC4656]   Shalunov, S., Teitelbaum, B., Karp, A., Boote, J., and M.
               Zekauskas, "A One-way Active Measurement Protocol
               (OWAMP)", RFC 4656, September 2006.

   [RFC4737]   Morton, A., Ciavattone, L., Ramachandran, G., Shalunov,
               S., and J. Perser, "Packet Reordering Metrics", RFC 4737,
               November 2006.

   [RFC5136]   Chimento, P. and J. Ishac, "Defining Network Capacity",
               RFC 5136, February 2008.

11.2.  Informative References

   [Casner]    Casner, S., Alaettinoglu, C., and C. Kuan, "A Fine-
               Grained View of High-Performance Networking",
               NANOG 22 Conf., May 20-22 2001,

   [Cia03]     Ciavattone, L., Morton, A., and G. Ramachandran,
               "Standardized Active Measurements on a Tier 1 IP
               Backbone", IEEE Communications Magazine, Vol. 41
               No. 6, pp. 90-97, June 2003.

   [IPPM-RPT]  Shalunov, S. and M. Swany, "Reporting IP Performance
               Metrics to Users", Work in Progress, March 2011.

   [RFC5481]   Morton, A. and B. Claise, "Packet Delay Variation
               Applicability Statement", RFC 5481, March 2009.

   [RFC5835]   Morton, A., Ed., and S. Van den Berghe, Ed., "Framework
               for Metric Composition", RFC 5835, April 2010.

   [RFC6349]   Constantine, B., Forget, G., Geib, R., and R. Schrage,
               "Framework for TCP Throughput Testing", RFC 6349,
               August 2011.

   [Y.1540]    International Telecommunication Union, "Internet protocol
               data communication service - IP packet transfer and
               availability performance parameters", ITU-T
               Recommendation Y.1540, March 2011.

   [Y.1541]    International Telecommunication Union, "Network
               performance objectives for IP-based services", ITU-T
               Recommendation Y.1541, December 2011.

Authors' Addresses

   Al Morton
   AT&T Labs
   200 Laurel Avenue South
   Middletown, NJ  07748

   Phone: +1 732 420 1571
   Fax:   +1 732 368 1192
   EMail: acmorton@att.com
   URI:   http://home.comcast.net/~acmacm/

   Gomathi Ramachandran
   AT&T Labs
   200 Laurel Avenue South
   Middletown, New Jersey  07748

   Phone: +1 732 420 2353
   EMail: gomathi@att.com

   Ganga Maguluri
   AT&T Labs
   200 Laurel Avenue South
   Middletown, New Jersey  07748

   Phone: +1 732 420 2486
   EMail: gmaguluri@att.com


User Contributions:

Comment about this RFC, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: