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Simulation Studies of Increased Initial TCP Window Size

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
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This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 2415.
Authors Kathleen Nichols , Kedernath Poduri
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 1998-06-27)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Informational
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Internet Engineering Task Force
TCP Implementers Working Group                                  K. Poduri
INTERNET DRAFT                                                  K. Nichols
Expires November, 1998                                          Bay Networks
                                                                June, 1998

          Simulation Studies of Increased Initial TCP Window Size

Status of this Memo

     This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
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  Distribution of this document is unlimited. 

  This Internet Draft expires on November 1998.


An increase in the permissible initial window size of a TCP connection,
from one segment to three or four segments, has been under discussion in
the tcp-impl working group. This document covers some simulation studies of
the effects of increasing the initial window size of TCP. Both long-lived
TCP connections (file transfers) and short-lived web-browsing style
connections were modeled. The simulations were performed using the publicly
available ns-2 simulator and our custom models and files are also

1. Introduction

We present results from a set of simulations with increased TCP initial 
window (IW). The main objectives were to explore the conditions
under which the larger IW was a "win" and to determine the effects, if any,
the larger IW might have on other traffic flows using an IW of one segment.

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This study was inspired by discussions at the Munich IETF tcp-impl and
tcp-sat meetings. A proposal to increase the IW size to about 4K bytes
(4380 bytes in the case of 1460 byte segments) was discussed. Concerns
about both the utility of the increase and its effect on other traffic were
raised. Some studies were presented showing the positive effects of
increased IW on individual connections, but no studies were shown with a
wide variety of simultaneous traffic flows. It appeared that some of the
questions being raised could be addressed in an ns-2 simulation. Early
results from our simulations were previously posted to the tcp-impl mailing
list and presented at the tcp-impl WG meeting at the December 1997 IETF.

2. Model and Assumptions

We simulated a network topology with a bottleneck link as shown:

     10Mb,                                    10Mb,
     (all 4 links)                          (all 4 links)

C   n2_________                               ______ n6     S
l   n3_________\                             /______ n7     e
i              \\              1.5Mb,50ms   //              r
e               n0 ------------------------ n1              v
n   n4__________//                          \ \_____ n8     e
t   n5__________/                            \______ n9     r
s                                                           s

              URLs -->          <--- FTP & Web data

File downloading and web-browsing clients are attached to the nodes (n2-n5)
on the left-hand side. These clients are served by the FTP and Web servers
attached to the nodes (n6-n9) on the right-hand side. The links to and from
those nodes are at 10 Mbps. The bottleneck link is between n1 and n0. All
links are bi-directional, but only ACKs, SYNs, FINs, and URLs are flowing
from left to right. Some simulations were also performed with data traffic
flowing from right to left simultaneously, but it had no affect on the

In the simulations we assumed that all ftps transferred 1-MB files and that
all web pages had exactly three embedded URLs. The web clients are browsing
quite aggressively, requesting a new page after a delay uniformly randomly
distributed between 1 and 5 seconds. This is not meant to realistically
model a single user's web-browsing pattern, but to create a reasonably
heavy traffic load whose individual tcp connections accurately reflect real
web traffic. Some discussion of these models as used in earlier studies is
available in references [3] and [4].

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The maximum tcp window was set to 11 packets, maximum packet/segment size
to 1460 bytes, and buffer sizes were set at 25 packets. (The ns-2 TCPs
require setting window sizes and buffer sizes in number of packets. In our
tcp-full code some of the internal parameters have been set to be
byte-oriented, but external values must still be set in number of packets.)
In our simulations, we varied the number of data segments sent into a new
TCP connection from one to four, keeping all segments at 1460 bytes. A
dropped packet causes a restart window of one segment to be used, just as
in current practice.

For ns-2 users: The tcp-full code was modified to use an "application"
class and three application client-server pairs were written: a simple file
transfer (ftp), a model of http1.0 style web connection and a very rough
model of http1.1 style web connection. The required files and scripts for
these simulations are available at the site{tar,
tar.Z} or 

Simulations were run with 8, 16, 32 web clients and a number of ftp clients
ranging from 0 to 3. The IW was varied from 1 to 4, though the 4-packet
case lies beyond what is currently recommended. The figures of merit used
were goodput, the median page delay seen by the web clients and the
median file transfer delay seen by the ftp clients. The simulated run time
was rather large, 360 seconds, to ensure an adequate sample. (Median values 
remained the same for simulations with larger run times and can be considered 

3. Results

        In our simulations, we varied the number of file transfer clients in 
Order to change the congestion of the link. Recall that our ftp clients
continuously request 1 Mbyte transfers, so the link utilization is over 90%
when even a single ftp client is present. When three file transfer clients
are running simultaneously, the resultant congestion is somewhat
pathological, making the values recorded stable. Though all connections use
the same initial window, the effect of increasing the IW on a 1 Mbyte file
transfer is not detectable, thus we focus on the web browsing connections.
(In the tables, we use "webs" to indicate number of web clients and "ftps"
to indicate the number of file transfer clients attached.) Table 1 shows
the median delays experienced by the web transfers with an increase in the
TCP IW.  There is clearly an improvement in transfer delays for the web 
connections with increase in the IW, in many cases on the order of 30%. 
The steepness of the performance improvement going from an IW of 1 to an 
IW of 2 is mainly due to the distribution of files fetched by each URL 
(see references [1] and [2]); the median size of both primary and in-line 
URLs fits completely into two packets. If file distributions change, the shape
of this curve may also change.

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Table 1. Median web page delay 

#Webs   #FTPs   IW=1    IW=2    IW=3    IW=4 
                (s)        (% decrease)
  8      0      0.56    14.3  17.9   16.1
  8      1      1.06    18.9  25.5   32.1
  8      2      1.18    16.1  17.1   28.9        
  8      3      1.26    11.9  19.0   27.0
 16      0      0.64    11.0  15.6   18.8
 16      1      1.04    17.3  24.0   35.6
 16      2      1.22    17.2  20.5   25.4 
 16      3      1.31    10.7  21.4   22.1 
 32      0      0.92    17.6  28.6   21.0
 32      1      1.19    19.6  25.0   26.1 
 32      2      1.43    23.8  35.0   33.6 
 32      3      1.56    19.2  29.5   33.3

Table 2 shows the bottleneck link utilization and packet drop percentage of 
the same experiment. Packet drop rates did increase with IW, but in all cases 
except that of the single most pathological overload, the increase in drop 
percentage was less than 1%. A decrease in packet drop percentage is observed 
in some overloaded situations, specifically when ftp transfers consumed most 
of the link bandwidth and a large number of web transfers shared the remaining 
bandwidth of the link. In this case, the web transfers experience severe packet 
loss and some of the IW=4 web clients suffer multiple packet losses from the
same window, resulting in longer recovery times than when there is a single
packet loss in a window [reference Stevens or Van's 88 paper or something]. 
During the recovery time, the connections are inactive which alleviates congestion 
and thus results in a decrease in the packet drop percentage. It should be noted 
that such observations were made only in extremely overloaded scenarios.

Table 2. Link utilization and packet drop rates

         Percentage Link Utilization            |         Packet drop rate
#Webs   #FTPs   IW=1    IW=2    IW=3  IW=4      |IW=1  IW=2     IW=3    IW=4
  8     0        34     37      38      39      | 0.0   0.0     0.0     0.0
  8     1        95     92      93      92      | 0.6   1.2     1.4     1.3
  8     2        98     97      97      96      | 1.8   2.3     2.3     2.7
  8     3        98     98      98      98      | 2.6   3.0     3.5     3.5
 16     0        67     69      69      67      | 0.1   0.5     0.8     1.0
 16     1        96     95      93      92      | 2.1   2.6     2.9     2.9
 16     2        98     98      97      96      | 3.5   3.6     4.2     4.5
 16     3        99     99      98      98      | 4.5   4.7     5.2     4.9
 32     0        92     87      85      84      | 0.1   0.5     0.8     1.0
 32     1        98     97      96      96      | 2.1   2.6     2.9     2.9
 32     2        99     99      98      98      | 3.5   3.6     4.2     4.5
 32     3       100     99      99      98      | 9.3   8.4     7.7     7.6

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To get a more complete picture of performance, we computed the network power, 
goodput divided by median delay (in Mbytes/ms), and plotted it against IW for 
all scenarios. (Each scenario is uniquely identified by its number of webs and
number of file transfers.) We plot these values in Figure 1 (in the pdf 
version), illustrating a general advantage to increasing IW. When a large
number of web clients is combined with ftps, particularly multiple ftps, 
pathological cases result from the extreme congestion. In these cases, there 
appears to be no particular trend to the results of increasing the IW, in fact
simulation results are not particularly stable. 

To get a clearer picture of what is happening across all the tested scenarios,
we normalized the network power values for the non-pathological scenario by 
the network power for that scenario at IW of one. These results are plotted in
Figure 2. As IW is increased from one to four, network power increased by at 
least 15%, even in a congested scenario dominated by bulk transfer traffic. In
simulations where web traffic has a dominant share of the available bandwidth,
the increase in network power was up to 60%.

The increase in network power at higher initial window sizes is due to an 
increase in throughput and a decrease in the delay. Since the (slightly) 
increased drop rates were accompanied by better performance, drop rate is 
clearly not an indicator of user level performance.

The gains in performance seen by the web clients need to be balanced
against the performance the file transfers are seeing. We computed ftp
network power and show this in Table 3.  It appears that the improvement 
in network power seen by the web connections has negligible effect on
the concurrent file transfers. It can be observed from the table that there is a 
small variation in the network power of file transfers with an increase in the size 
of IW but no particular trend can be seen. It can be concluded that the network 
power of file transfers essentially remained the same. However, it should be noted 
that a larger IW does allow web transfers to gain slightly more bandwidth than with 
a smaller IW. This could mean fewer bytes tranferred for FTP applications or a slight 
decrease in network power as computed by us.

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Table 3. Network power of file transfers with an increase in the TCP IW size

#Webs   #FTPs   IW=1    IW=2    IW=3    IW=4 
  8      1      4.7     4.2     4.2     4.2 
  8      2      3.0     2.8     3.0     2.8 
  8      3      2.2     2.2     2.2     2.2
 16      1      2.3     2.4     2.4     2.5 
 16      2      1.8     2.0     1.8     1.9 
 16      3      1.4     1.6     1.5     1.7 
 32      1      0.7     0.9     1.3     0.9 
 32      2      0.8     1.0     1.3     1.1 
 32      3      0.7     1.0     1.2     1.0 

The above simulations all used http1.0 style web connections, thus, a natural
question is to ask how results are affected by migration to http1.1. A rough 
model of this behavior was simulated by using one connection to send all of 
the information from both the primary URL and the three embedded, or in-line, 
URLs. Since the transfer size is now made up of four web files, the steep 
improvement in performance between an IW of 1 and an IW of two, noted in the 
previous results, has been smoothed. Results are shown in Tables 4 & 5 and 
Figs. 3 & 4. Occasionally an increase in IW from 3 to 4 decreases the network 
power owing to a non-increase or a slight decrease in the throughput. TCP 
connections opening up with a higher window size into a very congested network
might experience some packet drops and consequently a slight decrease in the 
throughput. This indicates that increase of the initial window sizes to 
further higher values (>4) may not always result in a favorable network 
performance. This can be seen clearly in Figure 4 where the network power 
shows a decrease for the two highly congested cases.

Table 4. Median web page delay for http1.1

#Webs   #FTPs   IW=1    IW=2    IW=3    IW=4 
                (s)       (% decrease)
  8      0      0.47   14.9   19.1   21.3
  8      1      0.84   17.9   19.0   25.0 
  8      2      0.99   11.5   17.3   23.0 
  8      3      1.04   12.1   20.2   28.3 
 16      0      0.54   07.4   14.8   20.4        
 16      1      0.89   14.6   21.3   27.0        
 16      2      1.02   14.7   19.6   25.5 
 16      3      1.11   09.0   17.0   18.9 
 32      0      0.94   16.0   29.8   36.2       
 32      1      1.23   12.2   28.5   21.1 
 32      2      1.39   06.5   13.7   12.2 
 32      3      1.46   04.0   11.0   15.0 

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Table 5. Network power of file transfers with an increase in the TCP IW size

#Webs   #FTPs   IW=1    IW=2    IW=3    IW=4 
  8      1      4.2     4.2     4.2     3.7 
  8      2      2.7     2.5     2.6     2.3 
  8      3      2.1     1.9     2.0     2.0
 16      1      1.8     1.8     1.5     1.4 
 16      2      1.5     1.2     1.1     1.5      
 16      3      1.0     1.0     1.0     1.0
 32      1      0.3     0.3     0.5     0.3 
 32      2      0.4     0.3     0.4     0.4 
 32      3      0.4     0.3     0.4     0.5 

For further insight, we returned to the http1.0 model and mixed some web-
browsing connections with IWs of one with those using IWs of three. In this 
experiment, we first simulated a total of 16 web-browsing connections, all 
using IW of one. Then the clients were split into two groups of 8 each, 
one of which uses IW=1 and the other used IW=3.

We repeated the simulations for a total of 32 and 64 web-browsing clients,
splitting those into groups of 16 and 32 respectively. Table 6 shows these 
results.  We report the goodput (in Mbytes), teh web page delays (in milli
seconds), the percent utilization of the link and the percent of packets

Table 6. Results for half-and-half scenario

Median Page Delays and Goodput (MB)   | Link Utilization (%) & Drops (%)
#Webs     IW=1    |     IW=3          |       IW=1    |    IW=3
      G.put   dly |  G.put   dly      |  L.util  Drops| L.util   Drops 
16      35.5  0.64|  36.4   0.54      |   67      0.1 |   69       0.7
8/8     16.9  0.67|  18.9   0.52      |   68      0.5 |
32      48.9  0.91|  44.7   0.68      |   92      3.5 |   85       4.3    
16/16   22.8  0.94|  22.9   0.71      |   89      4.6 |
64      51.9  1.50|  47.6   0.86      |   98     13.0 |   91       8.6
32/32   29.0  1.40|  22.0   1.20      |   98     12.0 |

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Unsurprisingly, the non-split experiments are consistent with our earlier
results, clients with IW=3 outperform clients with IW=1. The results of 
running the 8/8 and 16/16 splits show that running a mixture of IW=3 and IW=1 
has no negative effect on the IW=1 conversations, while IW=3 conversations 
maintain their performance. However, the 32/32 split shows that web-browsing
connections with IW=3 are adversely affected. We believe this is due to the
pathological dynamics of this extremely congested scenario. Since embedded
URLs open their connections simultaneously, very large number of TCP 
connections are arriving at the bottleneck link resulting in multiple packet 
losses for the IW=3 conversations. The myriad problems of this simultaneous 
opening strategy is, of course, part of the motivation for the development of 

4. Discussion

The indications from these results are that increasing the initial window
size to 3 packets (or 4380 bytes) helps to improve perceived performance. 
Many further variations on these simulation scenarios are possible and  
we've made our simulation models and scripts available in order to facilitate
others' experiments. 

Although the simulation sets were run for a T1 link, several scenarios with varying
levels of congestion and varying number of web and ftp clients were analyzed. It is 
reasonable to expect that the results would scale for links with higher bandwidth. 
However, interested readers could investigate this aspect further.

We also used the RED queue management included with ns-2 to perform some
other simulation studies. We have not reported on those results here since
we don't consider the studies complete. We found that by adding RED to the
bottleneck link, we achieved similar performance gains (with an IW of 1) to
those we found with increased IWs without RED. Others may wish to
investigate this further.

5. References

[1] B. Mah, "An Empirical Model of HTTP Network Traffic", Proceedings of
INFOCOM '97, Kobe, Japan, April 7-11, 1997.
[2] C.R. Cunha, A. Bestavros, M.E. Crovella, "Characteristics of WWW
Client-based Traces", Boston University Computer Science Technical Report 
BU-CS-95-010, July 18, 1995.
[3] K.M. Nichols and M. Laubach, "Tiers of Service for Data Access in a HFC
Architecture", Proceedings of SCTE Convergence Conference, January, 1997.
[4] K.M. Nichols, "Improving Network Simulation with Feedback", available

6. Acknowledgements

This work benefited from discussions with and comments from Van Jacobson.

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7. Authors' addresses

Kedarnath Poduri        
Bay Networks
4401 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8185
Voice: +1-408-495-2463
Fax: +1-408-495-1299            

Kathleen Nichols
Bay Networks
4401 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8185                

This Internet Draft expires on November 1998.

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