Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

@CloudExpo: 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 Analytics at Dynatrace, responsible for DC RUM’s technical marketing programs. He is a co-inventor of multiple performance analysis features, and continues to champion the value of network performance analytics. He is the author of Network Application Performance Analysis (WalrusInk, 2014).

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
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place in November in Silicon Valley, California.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Carter, CEO of Approyo, will discuss the basic set up and solution for an SAP solution in the cloud and what it means to the viability of your company. Chris Carter is CEO of Approyo. He works with business around the globe, to assist them in their journey to the usage of Big Data in the forms of Hadoop (Cloudera and Hortonwork's) and SAP HANA. At Approyo, we support firms who are looking for knowledge to grow through current business process, where even ...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
Addteq is one of the top 10 Platinum Atlassian Experts who specialize in DevOps, custom and continuous integration, automation, plugin development, and consulting for midsize and global firms. Addteq firmly believes that automation is essential for successful software releases. Addteq centers its products and services around this fundamentally unique approach to delivering complete software release management solutions. With a combination of Addteq's services and our extensive list of partners,...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain.