Network Working Group D. Wagner
Internet-Draft University of Stuttgart
Intended status: Informational M. Kuehlewind
Expires: October 16, 2016 ETH Zurich
April 14, 2016

Auditing of Congestion Exposure (ConEx) signals


Congestion Exposure (ConEx) is a mechanism by which senders inform the network about the congestion encountered by previous packets on the same flow. Reliable auditing is necessary to provide a strong incentive to declare ConEx information honestly. This document defines how the signals are handled by an audit and lists requirements for an audit implementation. This document does not mandate a particular design but identifies state and functions that any auditor element must provide to fulfill the requirements stated in [draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech].

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

In order to make ConEx information useful, reliable auditing is necessary to provide a strong incentive to declare ConEx information honestly. However, there is always a delay between congestion events and the respective ConEx signal at the audit. In [draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech] it is proposed to use credit signals sent in advance to cover potential congestion in the next feedback delay duration.

The ConEx signal is based on loss or Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) marks [RFC3168] as a congestion indication. Following [draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech] (Section 4.4), ConEx signaling has to encode ConEx capability, Re-Echo-Loss (L), Re-Echo-ECN (E) and credit (C).

1.1. Meaning of the Re-Echo Signals

By the Re-Echo-Loss signal a sender exposes to the network that this transport has experienced loss very recently. By the Re-Echo-ECN signal a sender exposes to the network that this transport has experienced an ECN-CE mark very recently. For the audit this means, that if it detects a loss or an ECN-CE mark for a ConEx-enabled flow, for a compliant sender the corresponding Re-Echo-Loss or Re-Echo-ECN signals must be observed in the near future.

1.2. Meaning of Credit Signal

The Credit signal represents potential for congestion. A ConEx-enabled sender should signal sufficient credit in advance to any congestion event. If a congestion event occurs, a corresponding amount of credit is consumed. If the sender intends to take the same risk again, it just must replace this consumed credit as non-consumed credit does not expire.

1.3. Definitions

Congestion signal
The occurrence of a packet loss or ECN-CE mark. We do not consider other signs such as increased delay as congestion signals.

Congestion event
One or more congestion signals within one RTT. For today's congestion control algorithms all these signals trigger just one reaction regardless of their number.

A connection between transport layer endpoints that allows bidirectional signalling, e.g. a TCP connection.

The flow of packets of a connection in one direction. Therefore for a flow sender and receiver are well defined. With regard to ConEx auditing, only one flow of any observed connection is audited, see Section 2.1.

2. Audit Implementation

An audit element shall be a shadow device, i.e. its presence should not be detectable for well-behaving senders. The objective of an audit is to verify that senders signal the ConEx information correctly and to penalize cheaters. For this, the audit element has to maintain state for any active ConEx-enabled flow. It may maintain appropriate timers to remove flows that have been idle for too long. Flows can be audited independently, there are no dependencies. There are two aspects the auditor has to check for each flow:

The audit penalizes a flow if it fails either of these two criteria.

This document does not mandate a particular design but identifies state and functions that any auditor element must provide to fulfill the requirements stated in [draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech].

2.1. Placing an Audit Element

An audit element should be placed so that it can observe all congestion signals of audited flows. If both congestion signals, ECN and loss, are detected directly, all auditing should take place beyond any potential source of congestion, i.e. any potential bottleneck, towards the receiver of that flow. In that case it must be placed beyond any potential multi path routing in order to be able to identify all packet losses. For unencrypted TCP and maybe other protocols, losses can be easily detected indirectly by monitoring the sender's retransmissions, making loss auditing simple and reliable at the same time. Such ConEx-loss audit function must be placed close to the sender before any bottleneck where retransmissions might get lost. Therefore it might make sense to have ConEx-loss auditing and ConEx-ECN auditing separated. Nevertheless, this applies for certain deployment scenarios only. Therefore we describe a combined loss and ECN ConEx auditor in the following which must be placed close to the receiver, beyond any potential bottleneck.

2.2. Per Flow State

ConEx auditing must be performed per incoming ConEx-enabled flow, so all monitoring, assessment and penalizing is per flow.

An audit maintains state for each active connection that is updated on every packet of that flow. Such state entry is created when the first packet of an unknown flow is observed. It is deleted when either the corresponding connection is closed conforming to its transport layer protocol or a timeout expired. This timeout should be chosen to keep false negatives low, i.e. avoiding timing out still active flows. In contrast, false positives, recognizing two flows as one, are expected typically being a smaller issue since in most cases the sender is the same host and either complies to the protocol or not. We recommend setting this timeout to 60 seconds, a value also common e.g. in NAT middle boxes.

An audit should maintain an RTT_MAX estimation per flow. This value should be as close to the maximum RTT observed by the sender as possible. RTT_MAX must not be chosen smaller than the RTT observed by the sender.
An audit maintains the following variables per flow:

If the flow is part of a bidirectional connection, an auditor may use information from the return flow in order to define RTT_MAX and to detect packet losses.

2.3. Penalty Criteria

Generally, a connection is judged on three criteria, one concerning exposure of loss, one on exposure of ECN-based congestion signaling and one on announcing potential congestion by credit. A flow is considered misbehaving if at least one of the three conditions is met.

A connection is assumed behaving abusive if

The first criterion should be checked each time a packet of that flow towards the destination is observed. If Credit state is zero, is_in_penalty_state is set to true, else set to false.

The other two criteria shall be checked periodically based on timeouts. The timeout t must be equal or bigger than 2x RTT_MAX. There are n timers used and n should be equal or bigger than 2. To do the check, an audit element must store n snapshots of the ECN-CE and loss counter. When the timeout fires, the oldest set of values is compared with the current values of Re-echo-Loss and Re-Echo-ECN, respectively. If the saved loss counter is greater than the current Re-Echo-Loss counter, or saved ECN-CE counter is greater than the current Re-Echo-ECN counter, is_in_penalty_state is set to true, else set to false.

A flow may have not enough data at a time where it needs to send ConEx markings and by this fall into misbehaving state (is_in_penalty_state is true) during a phase of inactivity. If the sender then restarts sending packets carrying markings for all failed criteria, the sender is assumed being well-behaving (in dubio pro reo). Therefore the auditor shall not drop packets which carry all required flags, but use the normal penalty on all others.

For example, if credit is zero and the losses experienced in the 2xRTT_MAX period are not compensated by sufficient Re-Echo-Loss signals, packets carrying both the C and the L flag will not be subject of the penalty function. Nevertheless, packets carrying only the C-flag or only the L-flag will.

2.4. Appropriately Penalizing Misbehaving Flows

If a flow is detected to misbehave, the audit must start penalizing immediately. The only actually possible penalty is dropping packets (with a certain probability). In order to not incentivize senders to simply start new flows when detecting being penalized by an audit element, the penalty of a misbehaving flow should be proportional to the misbehavior.

Please note that we require the sender to make sure that any ConEx mark will reach the receiver, so it is responsible for timely retransmission of any lost ConEx signal.

The actual drop rate must provide a tangible disadvantage to the sender but should not make the connection unusable. An auditor should aim at forwarding not more packets than would have been successfully sent with the exposed congestion rate. Since the congestion rate may vary over time, the auditor should use an exponentially-weighted moving average (EWMA) for each flow to define the congestion rate p. An auditor should also maintain a EWMA for the rate of ConEx-signals (Re-Echo-Loss and Re-Echo-ECN) x.

TODO: what are appropriate weighting factors alpha in EWMA?

Assume the packet rate is r and congestion rate is p, but only p-x congestion is signaled by the sender using ConEx (c < p). The audit should aim at giving the flow just a rate of r*(x/p). In other words, it should drop (p-x)/p of the traffic, so its drop probability should be (p-x)/p. Therefore the audit just keeps updated x and p, and derives the drop probability as (p-x)/p.

2.5. Audit start for existing connections

An audit may be started with zero state information on existing flows, e.g. due to (re-)started audit or re-routing of flows. As credits will have been sent in advance of congestion events, it is possible that no valid credit state is available at the audit when a congestion event occurs. An audit implementation should take this into account by ignoring the first criterion for some time. We recommend starting to take credit into account after one minute.

TODO: is this the right way? this should be enough for the first congestion epoch, but disregards credit build up in slow start. Or give some credit on Credit for the start? how much?

2.6. Handling Loss of ConEx-marked Packets

ConEx-marked packets will be sent just after the sender noticed a congestion signal, so often this sender will just have reduced its sending rate. Thus the loss probability for ConEx-marked packets is expected to be lower than for the average flow. Nevertheless, ConEx-marked packets can be lost. The sender should re-send the ConEx-signal. This induces additional delay for that ConEx-signal but this is taken into account by using 2xRTT_MAX as threshold for penalties. By that false positives of the auditor misbehavior detection are avoided. Only if two ConEx-marked packets are lost in subsequent RTTs, the auditor will penalize a flow of a well-behaving sender. To avoid even these rare cases at least for long-lasting connections, the audit may use the fraction of lost packets of that connection to allow for the same fraction of loss for each ConEx-mark (E, L and C) for a time longer than 2xRTT_MAX. Nevertheless, the rare event of loss of ConEx-marked packets will often cause the audit to penalize the flow for one RTT. We deem this price being acceptable for the clean and robust auditor design made possible by making the sender responsible for successful delivery of ConEx signals.

3. Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Bob Briscoe for his input (based on research work of his PhD thesis).

4. Security Considerations

Here known / identified attacks will be discussed. Bob Briscoe's dissertation provides good material here. big TODO.

5. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA considerations.

6. References

6.1. Normative References

[draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech] Mathis, M. and B. Briscoe, "Congestion Exposure (ConEx) Concepts and Abstract Mechanism", Internet-Draft draft-ietf-conex-abstract-mech-08, October 2013.
[draft-ietf-conex-destopt] Krishnan, S., Kuehlewind, M. and C. Ucendo, "IPv6 Destination Option for ConEx", Internet-Draft draft-ietf-conex-destopt-05, March 2013.
[RFC3168] Ramakrishnan, K., Floyd, S. and D. Black, "The Addition of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP", RFC 3168, DOI 10.17487/RFC3168, September 2001.

6.2. Informative References

[RFC5681] Allman, M., Paxson, V. and E. Blanton, "TCP Congestion Control", RFC 5681, DOI 10.17487/RFC5681, September 2009.

Authors' Addresses

David Wagner University of Stuttgart Pfaffenwaldring 47 70569 Stuttgart, Germany EMail:
Mirja Kuehlewind ETH Zurich Gloriastrasse 35 8092 Zurich, Switzerland EMail: