SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Virtualization, Web 2.0, Big Data Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Understanding Application Performance on the Network | Part 4

Packet Loss

We know that losing packets is not a good thing; retransmissions cause delays. We also know that TCP ensures reliable data delivery, masking the impact of packet loss. So why are some applications seemingly unaffected by the same packet loss rate that seems to cripple others? From a performance analysis perspective, how do you understand the relevance of packet loss and avoid chasing red herrings?

In Part II, we examined two closely related constraints - bandwidth and congestion. In Part III, we discussed TCP slow-start and introduced the Congestion Window (CWD). In Part IV, we'll focus on packet loss, continuing the concepts from these two previous entries.

TCP Reliability
TCP ensures reliable delivery of data through its sliding window approach to managing byte sequences and acknowledgements; among other things, this sequencing allows a receiver to inform the sender of missing data caused by packet loss in multi-packet flows. Independently, a sender may detect packet loss through the expiration of its retransmission timer. We will look at the behavior and performance penalty associated with each of these cases; generally, the impact of packet loss will depend on both the characteristics of the flow and the position of the dropped packet within the flow.

The Retransmission Timer
Each packet a node sends is associated with a retransmission timer; if the timer expires before the sent data has been acknowledged, it is considered lost and retransmitted. There are two important characteristics of the retransmission timer that relate to performance. First, the default value for the initial retransmission timeout (RTO) is almost always 3000 milliseconds; this is adjusted to a more reasonable value as TCP observes actual path round-trip times. Second, the timeout value is doubled for subsequent retransmissions of a packet.

In small flows (a common characteristic of chatty operations - like web pages), the retransmission timer is the method used to detect packet loss. Consider a request or reply message of just 1000 bytes, sent in a single packet; if this packet is dropped, there will of course be no acknowledgement; the receiver has no idea the packet was sent. If the packet is dropped early in the life of a TCP connection - perhaps one of the SYN packets during the TCP 3-way handshake, or an initial GET request or a 304 Not Modified response - the dropped packet will be retransmitted only after 3 seconds have elapsed.

Triple Duplicate ACK
Within larger flows, a dropped packet may be detected before the retransmission time expires if the sender receives three duplicate ACKs; this is generally more efficient (faster) than waiting for the retransmission timer to expire. As the receiving node receives packets that are out of sequence (i.e., after the missing packet data should have been seen), it sends duplicate ACKs, the acknowledgement number repeatedly referencing the expected (missing) packet data. When the sending node receives the third duplicate ACK, it assumes the packet was in fact lost (not just delayed) and retransmits it. This event causes the sender to assume network congestion, reducing its congestion window by 50% to allow congestion to subside. Slow-start begins to increase the CWD from that new value, using a relatively conservative congestion avoidance ramp.

As an example, consider a server sending a large file to a client; the sending node is ramping up through slow-start. As the CWD reaches 24, earlier packet loss is detected via a triple duplicate ACK; the lost data is retransmitted, and the CWD is reduced to 12. Slow-start resumes from this point in its congestion avoidance mode.

While arguments abound about the inefficiency of existing congestion avoidance approaches, especially on high-speed networks, you can expect to see this behavior in today's networks.

Transaction Trace Illustration
Identifying retransmission timeouts using merged trace files is generally quite straightforward; we have proof the packet has been lost (because we see it on the sending side and not on the receiving side), and we know the delay between the dropped and retransmitted packets at the sending node. The Delta column in the Error Table indicates the retransmission delay.

Error Table entry showing a 3-second retransmission delay caused by a retransmission timeout (RTO)

For larger flows, you can illustrate the effect of dropped packets on the sender's Congestion Window by using the Time Plot view. For Series 1, graph the sender's Frames in Transit; this is essentially the CWD. For Series 2, graph the Cumulative Error Count in both directions. As errors (retransmitted packets or out-of-sequence packets) occur, the CWD will be reduced by about 50%.

Time Plot view showing the impact of packet loss (blue plot) on the Congestion Window (brown plot)

For more networking tips click here for the full article

More Stories By Gary Kaiser

Gary Kaiser is a Subject Matter Expert in Network Performance Analysis at Compuware APM. He has global field enablement responsibilities for performance monitoring and analysis solutions embracing emerging and strategic technologies, including WAN optimization, thin client infrastructures, network forensics, and a unique performance management maturity methodology. He is also a co-inventor of multiple analysis features, and continues to champion the value of software-enabled expert network analysis.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the ...
This builds on Puppet Labs' first class Windows support, including native .MSI packages for x32 and x64 operating systems, modules to extend common Windows server management tools, including Powershell, and integrations with Microsoft Azure and Visual Studio. By automating common Windows administration tasks, Puppet Labs is enabling users to adopt DevOps practices, thereby reducing the time needed to deploy applications from weeks to hours.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big D...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
The term culture has had a polarizing effect among DevOps supporters. Some propose that culture change is critical for success with DevOps, but are remiss to define culture. Some talk about a DevOps culture but then reference activities that could lead to culture change and there are those that talk about culture change as a set of behaviors that need to be adopted by those in IT. There is no question that businesses successful in adopting a DevOps mindset have seen departmental culture change, ...
SYS-CON Media announced today that Skytap blog on "DevOps Journal" exceeded 84,000 story reads. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Noel Wurst is the managing content editor at Skytap. Skytap provides SaaS-based dev/test environments to the enterprise. Skytap solution removes the inefficiencies and constraints that comp...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...