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Guidelines for Adding Congestion Notification to Protocols that Encapsulate IP

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (tsvwg WG)
Authors Bob Briscoe , John Kaippallimalil
Last updated 2023-12-08 (Latest revision 2023-12-05)
Replaces draft-briscoe-tsvwg-ecn-encap-guidelines
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Best Current Practice
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Apr 2023
Submit 'Guidelines for Adding Congestion Notification to Protocols that Encapsulate IP' as a BCP RFC
Document shepherd Gorry Fairhurst
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2023-09-30
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Send notices to "David Black" <>,
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Transport Area Working Group                                  B. Briscoe
Internet-Draft                                               Independent
Updates: 3819 (if approved)                            J. Kaippallimalil
Intended status: Best Current Practice                         Futurewei
Expires: 7 June 2024                                     5 December 2023

    Guidelines for Adding Congestion Notification to Protocols that
                             Encapsulate IP


   The purpose of this document is to guide the design of congestion
   notification in any lower layer or tunnelling protocol that
   encapsulates IP.  The aim is for explicit congestion signals to
   propagate consistently from lower layer protocols into IP.  Then the
   IP internetwork layer can act as a portability layer to carry
   congestion notification from non-IP-aware congested nodes up to the
   transport layer (L4).  Following these guidelines should assure
   interworking among IP layer and lower layer congestion notification
   mechanisms, whether specified by the IETF or other standards bodies.
   This document is included in BCP 89 and updates the single paragraph
   of advice to subnetwork designers about ECN in Section 13 of RFC
   3819, by replacing it with a reference to the whole of this document.

Status of This Memo

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 7 June 2024.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Update to RFC 3819  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     1.2.  Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   3.  Modes of Operation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     3.1.  Feed-Forward-and-Up Mode  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     3.2.  Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     3.3.  Feed-Backward Mode  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     3.4.  Null Mode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   4.  Feed-Forward-and-Up Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion
           Notification  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     4.1.  IP-in-IP Tunnels with Shim Headers  . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     4.2.  Wire Protocol Design: Indication of ECN Support . . . . .  16
     4.3.  Encapsulation Guidelines  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
     4.4.  Decapsulation Guidelines  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
     4.5.  Sequences of Similar Tunnels or Subnets . . . . . . . . .  22
     4.6.  Reframing and Congestion Markings . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
   5.  Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion
           Notification  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
   6.  Feed-Backward Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion
           Notification  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
   8.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
   9.  Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
   10. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29

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     10.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
     10.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  30
   Comments Solicited  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  34
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  34
   Contributors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  35
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  35

1.  Introduction

   The benefits of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) described in
   [RFC8087] and summarized below can only be fully realized if support
   for ECN is added to the relevant subnetwork technology, as well as to
   IP.  When a lower layer buffer drops a packet obviously it does not
   just drop at that layer; the packet disappears from all layers.  In
   contrast, when active queue management (AQM) at a lower layer marks a
   packet with ECN, the marking needs to be explicitly propagated up the
   layers.  The same is true if AQM marks the outer header of a packet
   that encapsulates inner tunnelled headers.  Forwarding ECN is not as
   straightforward as other headers because it has to be assumed ECN may
   be only partially deployed.  If a lower layer header that contains
   ECN congestion indications is stripped off by a subnet egress that is
   not ECN-aware, or if the ultimate receiver or sender is not ECN-
   aware, congestion needs to be indicated by dropping the packet, not
   marking it.

   The purpose of this document is to guide the addition of congestion
   notification to any subnet technology or tunnelling protocol, so that
   lower layer AQM algorithms can signal congestion explicitly and it
   will propagate consistently into encapsulated (higher layer) headers,
   otherwise the signals will not reach their ultimate destination.

   ECN is defined in the IP header (IPv4 and IPv6) [RFC3168] to allow a
   resource to notify the onset of queue build-up without having to drop
   packets, by explicitly marking a proportion of packets with the
   congestion experienced (CE) codepoint.

   Given a suitable marking scheme, ECN removes nearly all congestion
   loss and it cuts delays for two main reasons:

   *  It avoids the delay when recovering from congestion losses, which
      particularly benefits small flows or real-time flows, making their
      delivery time predictably short [RFC2884];

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   *  As ECN is used more widely by end-systems, it will gradually
      remove the need to configure a degree of delay into buffers before
      they start to notify congestion (the cause of bufferbloat).  This
      is because drop involves a trade-off between sending a timely
      signal and trying to avoid impairment, whereas ECN is solely a
      signal not an impairment, so there is no harm triggering it

   Some lower layer technologies (e.g.  MPLS, Ethernet) are used to form
   subnetworks with IP-aware nodes only at the edges.  These networks
   are often sized so that it is rare for interior queues to overflow.
   However, until recently this was more due to the inability of TCP to
   saturate the links.  For many years, fixes such as window scaling
   [RFC7323] proved hard to deploy.  And the Reno variant of TCP has
   remained in widespread use despite its inability to scale to high
   flow rates.  However, now that modern operating systems are finally
   capable of saturating interior links, even the buffers of well-
   provisioned interior switches will need to signal episodes of

   Propagation of ECN is defined for MPLS [RFC5129], and has been
   defined for TRILL [RFC7780], [I-D.ietf-trill-ecn-support], but it
   remains to be defined for a number of other subnetwork technologies.

   Similarly, ECN propagation is yet to be defined for many tunnelling
   protocols.  [RFC6040] defines how ECN should be propagated for IP-in-
   IPv4 [RFC2003], IP-in-IPv6 [RFC2473] and IPsec [RFC4301] tunnels, but
   there are numerous other tunnelling protocols with a shim and/or a
   layer 2 header between two IP headers (IPv4 or IPv6).  Some address
   ECN propagation between the IP headers, but many do not.  This
   document gives guidance on how to address ECN propagation for future
   tunnelling protocols, and a companion standards track specification
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-shim] updates those existing IP-shim-
   (L2)-IP protocols that are under IETF change control and still widely

   Incremental deployment is the most delicate aspect when adding
   support for ECN.  The original ECN protocol in IP [RFC3168] was
   carefully designed so that a congested buffer would not mark a packet
   (rather than drop it) unless both source and destination hosts were
   ECN-capable.  Otherwise, its congestion markings would never be
   detected and congestion would just build up further.  However, to
   support congestion marking below the IP layer or within tunnels, it
   is not sufficient to only check that the two layer 4 transport end-
   points support ECN; correct operation also depends on the
   decapsulator at each subnet or tunnel egress faithfully propagating
   congestion notifications to the higher layer.  Otherwise, a legacy
   decapsulator might silently fail to propagate any ECN signals from

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   the outer to the forwarded header.  Then the lost signals would never
   be detected and again congestion would build up further.  The
   guidelines given later require protocol designers to carefully
   consider incremental deployment, and suggest various safe approaches
   for different circumstances.

   Of course, the IETF does not have standards authority over every link
   layer protocol.  So this document gives guidelines for designing
   propagation of congestion notification across the interface between
   IP and protocols that may encapsulate IP (i.e. that can be layered
   beneath IP).  Each lower layer technology will exhibit different
   issues and compromises, so the IETF or the relevant standards body
   must be free to define the specifics of each lower layer congestion
   notification scheme.  Nonetheless, if the guidelines are followed,
   congestion notification should interwork between different
   technologies, using IP in its role as a 'portability layer'.

   Therefore, the capitalized terms 'SHOULD' or 'SHOULD NOT' are often
   used in preference to 'MUST' or 'MUST NOT', because it is difficult
   to know the compromises that will be necessary in each protocol
   design.  If a particular protocol design chooses not to follow a
   'SHOULD (NOT)' given in the advice below, it MUST include a sound

   It has not been possible to give common guidelines for all lower
   layer technologies, because they do not all fit a common pattern.
   Instead, they have been divided into a few distinct modes of
   operation: feed-forward-and-upward; feed-upward-and-forward; feed-
   backward; and null mode.  These modes are described in Section 3,
   then in the subsequent sections separate guidelines are given for
   each mode.

1.1.  Update to RFC 3819

   This document updates the brief advice to subnetwork designers about
   ECN in Section 13 of [RFC3819], by replacing the last two paragraphs
   with the following sentence:

      By following the guidelines in [this document], subnetwork
      designers can enable a layer-2 protocol to participate in
      congestion control without dropping packets via propagation of
      explicit congestion notification (ECN [RFC3168]) to receivers.

   and adding [this document] as an informative reference. {RFC Editor:
   Please replace both instances of [this document] above with the
   number of the present RFC when published.}

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1.2.  Scope

   This document only concerns wire protocol processing of explicit
   notification of congestion.  It makes no changes or recommendations
   concerning algorithms for congestion marking or for congestion
   response, because algorithm issues should be independent of the layer
   the algorithm operates in.

   The default ECN semantics are described in [RFC3168] and updated by
   [RFC8311].  Also, the guidelines for AQM designers [RFC7567] clarify
   the semantics of both drop and ECN signals from AQM algorithms.
   [RFC4774] is the appropriate best current practice specification of
   how algorithms with alternative semantics for the ECN field can be
   partitioned from Internet traffic that uses the default ECN
   semantics.  There are two main examples for how alternative ECN
   semantics have been defined in practice:

   *  RFC 4774 suggests using the ECN field in combination with a
      Diffserv codepoint such as in PCN [RFC6660], Voice over 3G [UTRAN]
      or Voice over LTE (VoLTE) [LTE-RA];

   *  RFC 8311 suggests using the ECT(1) codepoint of the ECN field to
      indicate alternative semantics such as for the experimental Low
      Latency Low Loss Scalable throughput (L4S) service [RFC9331]).

   The aim is that the default rules for encapsulating and decapsulating
   the ECN field are sufficiently generic that tunnels and subnets will
   encapsulate and decapsulate packets without regard to how algorithms
   elsewhere are setting or interpreting the semantics of the ECN field.
   [RFC6040] updates RFC 4774 to allow alternative encapsulation and
   decapsulation behaviours to be defined for alternative ECN semantics.
   However, it reinforces the same point - that it is far preferable to
   try to fit within the common ECN encapsulation and decapsulation
   behaviours, because expecting all lower layer technologies and
   tunnels to be updated is likely to be completely impractical.

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   Alternative semantics for the ECN field can be defined to depend on
   the traffic class indicated by the DSCP.  Therefore, correct
   propagation of congestion signals could depend on correct propagation
   of the DSCP between the layers and along the path.  For instance, if
   the meaning of the ECN field depends on the DSCP (as in PCN or VoLTE)
   and if the outer DSCP is stripped on descapsulation, as in the pipe
   model of [RFC2983], the special semantics of the ECN field would be
   lost.  Similarly, if the DSCP is changed at the boundary between
   Diffserv domains, the special ECN semantics would also be lost.  This
   is an important implication of the localized scope of most Diffserv
   arrangements.  In this document, correct propagation of traffic class
   information is assumed, while what 'correct' means and how it is
   achieved is covered elsewhere (e.g.  RFC 2983) and is outside the
   scope of the present document.

   The guidelines in this document do ensure that common encapsulation
   and decapsulation rules are sufficiently generic to cover cases where
   ECT(1) is used instead of ECT(0) to identify alternative ECN
   semantics (as in L4S [RFC9331]) and where ECN marking algorithms use
   ECT(1) to encode 3 severity levels into the ECN field (e.g.  PCN
   [RFC6660]) rather than the default of 2.  All these different
   semantics for the ECN field work because it has been possible to
   define common default decapsulation rules that allow for all cases.

   Note that the guidelines in this document do not necessarily require
   the subnet wire protocol to be changed to add support for congestion
   notification.  For instance, the Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode
   (Section 3.2) and the Null Mode (Section 3.4) do not.  Another way to
   add congestion notification without consuming header space in the
   subnet protocol might be to use a parallel control plane protocol.

   This document focuses on the congestion notification interface
   between IP and lower layer or tunnel protocols that can encapsulate
   IP, where the term 'IP' includes IPv4 or IPv6, unicast, multicast or
   anycast.  However, it is likely that the guidelines will also be
   useful when a lower layer protocol or tunnel encapsulates itself,
   e.g.  Ethernet MAC in MAC ([IEEE802.1Q]; previously 802.1ah) or when
   it encapsulates other protocols.  In the feed-backward mode,
   propagation of congestion signals for multicast and anycast packets
   is out-of-scope (because the complexity would make it unlikely to be

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2.  Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   Further terminology used within this document:

   Protocol data unit (PDU):  Information that is delivered as a unit
      among peer entities of a layered network consisting of protocol
      control information (typically a header) and possibly user data
      (payload) of that layer.  The scope of this document includes
      layer 2 and layer 3 networks, where the PDU is respectively termed
      a frame or a packet (or a cell in ATM).  PDU is a general term for
      any of these.  This definition also includes a payload with a shim
      header lying somewhere between layer 2 and 3.

   Transport:  The end-to-end transmission control function,
      conventionally considered at layer-4 in the OSI reference model.
      Given the audience for this document will often use the word
      transport to mean low level bit carriage, whenever the term is
      used it will be qualified, e.g.  'L4 transport'.

   Encapsulator:  The link or tunnel endpoint function that adds an
      outer header to a PDU (also termed the 'link ingress', the 'subnet
      ingress', the 'ingress tunnel endpoint' or just the 'ingress'
      where the context is clear).

   Decapsulator:  The link or tunnel endpoint function that removes an
      outer header from a PDU (also termed the 'link egress', the
      'subnet egress', the 'egress tunnel endpoint' or just the 'egress'
      where the context is clear).

   Incoming header:  The header of an arriving PDU before encapsulation.

   Outer header:  The header added to encapsulate a PDU.

   Inner header:  The header encapsulated by the outer header.

   Outgoing header:  The header forwarded by the decapsulator.

   CE:  Congestion Experienced [RFC3168]

   ECT:  ECN-Capable (L4) Transport [RFC3168]

   Not-ECT:  Not ECN-Capable (L4) Transport [RFC3168]

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   Load Regulator:  For each flow of PDUs, the transport function that
      is capable of controlling the data rate.  Typically located at the
      data source, but in-path nodes can regulate load in some
      congestion control arrangements (e.g. admission control, policing
      nodes or transport circuit-breakers [RFC8084]).  Note the term "a
      function capable of controlling the load" deliberately includes a
      transport that does not actually control the load responsively but
      ideally it ought to (e.g. a sending application without congestion
      control that uses UDP).

   ECN-PDU:  A PDU at the IP layer or below with a capacity to signal
      congestion that is part of a congestion control feedback loop
      within which all the nodes necessary to propagate the signal back
      to the Load Regulator are capable of doing that propagation.  An
      IP packet with a non-zero ECN field implies that the endpoints are
      ECN-capable, so this would be an ECN-PDU.  However, ECN-PDU is
      intended to be a general term for a PDU at lower layers, as well
      as at the IP layer.

   Not-ECN-PDU:  A PDU at the IP layer or below that is part of a
      congestion control feedback loop that is not capable of
      propagating explicit congestion notification signals back to the
      Load Regulator, because at least one of the nodes necessary to
      propagate the signals is incapable of doing that propagation.
      Note that this definition is a property of the feedback-loop, not
      necessarily of the PDU itself, because in some protocols the PDU
      will self-describe the property, but in others the property might
      be carried in a separate control-plane context that is somehow
      bound to the PDU.

3.  Modes of Operation

   This section sets down the different modes by which congestion
   information is passed between the lower layer and the higher one.  It
   acts as a reference framework for the following sections, which give
   normative guidelines for designers of explicit congestion
   notification protocols, taking each mode in turn:

   Feed-Forward-and-Up:  Nodes feed forward congestion notification
      towards the egress within the lower layer then up and along the
      layers towards the end-to-end destination at the transport layer.
      The following local optimisation is possible:

      Feed-Up-and-Forward:  A lower layer switch feeds-up congestion
         notification directly into the higher layer (e.g.  into the ECN
         field in the IP header), irrespective of whether the node is at
         the egress of a subnet.

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   Feed-Backward:  Nodes feed back congestion signals towards the
      ingress of the lower layer and (optionally) attempt to control
      congestion within their own layer.

   Null:  Nodes cannot experience congestion at the lower layer except
      at ingress nodes (which are IP-aware or equivalently higher-layer-

3.1.  Feed-Forward-and-Up Mode

   Like IP and MPLS, many subnet technologies are based on self-
   contained protocol data units (PDUs) or frames sent unreliably.  They
   provide no feedback channel at the subnetwork layer, instead relying
   on higher layers (e.g.  TCP) to feed back loss signals.

   In these cases, ECN may best be supported by standardising explicit
   notification of congestion into the lower layer protocol that carries
   the data forwards.  Then a specification is needed for how the egress
   of the lower layer subnet propagates this explicit signal into the
   forwarded upper layer (IP) header.  This signal continues forwards
   until it finally reaches the destination transport (at L4).  Then
   typically the destination will feed this congestion notification back
   to the source transport using an end-to-end protocol (e.g.  TCP).
   This is the arrangement that has already been used to add ECN to IP-
   in-IP tunnels [RFC6040], IP-in-MPLS and MPLS-in-MPLS [RFC5129].

   This mode is illustrated in Figure 1.  Along the middle of the
   figure, layers 2, 3 and 4 of the protocol stack are shown, and one
   packet is shown along the bottom as it progresses across the network
   from source to destination, crossing two subnets connected by a
   router, and crossing two switches on the path across each subnet.
   Congestion at the output of the first switch (shown as *) leads to a
   congestion marking in the L2 header (shown as C in the illustration
   of the packet).  The chevrons show the progress of the resulting
   congestion indication.  It is propagated from link to link across the
   subnet in the L2 header, then when the router removes the marked L2
   header, it propagates the marking up into the L3 (IP) header.  The
   router forwards the marked L3 header into subnet B.  The L2 protocol
   used in subnet B does not support ECN, but the signal proceeds across
   it in the L3 header.

   Note that there is no implication that each 'C' marking is encoded
   the same; a different encoding might be used for the 'C' marking in
   each protocol.

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   Finally, for completeness, we show the L3 marking arriving at the
   destination, where the host transport protocol (e.g.  TCP) feeds it
   back to the source in the L4 acknowledgement (the 'C' at L4 in the
   packet at the top of the diagram).

                        _ _ _
             /_______  | | |C|  ACK Packet (V)
             \         |_|_|_|
    +---+        layer: 2 3 4 header                            +---+
    |  <|<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Packet V <<<<<<<<<<<<<|<< |L4
    |   |                         +---+                         | ^ |
    |   | . . . . . . Packet U. . | >>|>>> Packet U >>>>>>>>>>>>|>^ |L3
    |   |     +---+     +---+     | ^ |     +---+     +---+     |   |
    |   |     |  *|>>>>>|>>>|>>>>>|>^ |     |   |     |   |     |   |L2
    source          subnet A      router       subnet B         dest
       __ _ _ _|   __ _ _ _|  __ _ _|       __ _ _ _|
      |  | | | |  |  | | |C| |  | |C|      |  | |C| |    Data________\
      |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|_| |__|_|_|      |__|_|_|_|    Packet (U)  /
    layer:4 3 2A      4 3 2A     4 3           4 3 2B

                     Figure 1: Feed-Forward-and-Up Mode

   Of course, modern networks are rarely as simple as this text-book
   example, often involving multiple nested layers.  For example, a 3GPP
   mobile network may have two IP-in-IP (GTP [GTPv1]) tunnels in series
   and an MPLS backhaul between the base station and the first router.
   Nonetheless, the example illustrates the general idea of feeding
   congestion notification forward then upward whenever a header is
   removed at the egress of a subnet.

   Note that the FECN (forward ECN ) bit in Frame Relay [Buck00] and the
   explicit forward congestion indication (EFCI [ITU-T.I.371]) bit in
   ATM user data cells follow a feed-forward pattern.  However, in ATM,
   this arrangement is only part of a feed-forward-and-backward pattern
   at the lower layer, not feed-forward-and-up out of the lower layer —
   the intention was never to interface to IP ECN at the subnet egress.
   To our knowledge, Frame Relay FECN is solely used to detect where
   more capacity should be provisioned.

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3.2.  Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode

   Ethernet is particularly difficult to extend incrementally to support
   explicit congestion notification.  One way to support ECN in such
   cases has been to use so called 'layer-3 switches'.  These are
   Ethernet switches that dig into the Ethernet payload to find an IP
   header and manipulate or act on certain IP fields (specifically
   Diffserv & ECN).  For instance, in Data Center TCP [RFC8257], layer-3
   switches are configured to mark the ECN field of the IP header within
   the Ethernet payload when their output buffer becomes congested.
   With respect to switching, a layer-3 switch acts solely on the
   addresses in the Ethernet header; it does not use IP addresses, and
   it does not decrement the TTL field in the IP header.

                        _ _ _
             /_______  | | |C|  ACK packet (V)
             \         |_|_|_|
    +---+        layer: 2 3 4 header                            +---+
    |  <|<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Packet V <<<<<<<<<<<<<|<< |L4
    |   |                         +---+                         | ^ |
    |   | . . .  >>>> Packet U >>>|>>>|>>> Packet U >>>>>>>>>>>>|>^ |L3
    |   |     +--^+     +---+     |  v|     +---+     +---+     | ^ |
    |   |     |  *|     |   |     |  >|>>>>>|>>>|>>>>>|>>>|>>>>>|>^ |L2
    source          subnet E      router       subnet F         dest
       __ _ _ _|   __ _ _ _|  __ _ _|       __ _ _ _|
      |  | | | |  |  | |C| | |  | |C|      |  | |C|C|    Data________\
      |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|_| |__|_|_|      |__|_|_|_|    Packet (U)  /
    layer:4 3 2       4 3 2      4 3           4 3 2

                     Figure 2: Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode

   By comparing Figure 2 with Figure 1, it can be seen that subnet E
   (perhaps a subnet of layer-3 Ethernet switches) works in feed-up-and-
   forward mode by notifying congestion directly into L3 at the point of
   congestion, even though the congested switch does not otherwise act
   at L3.  In this example, the technology in subnet F (e.g.  MPLS) does
   support ECN natively, so when the router adds the layer-2 header it
   copies the ECN marking from L3 to L2 as well, as shown by the 'C's in
   both layers.

3.3.  Feed-Backward Mode

   In some layer 2 technologies, explicit congestion notification has
   been defined for use internally within the subnet with its own
   feedback and load regulation, but typically the interface with IP for
   ECN has not been defined.

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   For instance, for the available bit-rate (ABR) service in ATM, the
   relative rate mechanism was one of the more popular mechanisms for
   managing traffic, tending to supersede earlier designs.  In this
   approach ATM switches send special resource management (RM) cells in
   both the forward and backward directions to control the ingress rate
   of user data into a virtual circuit.  If a switch buffer is
   approaching congestion or is congested it sends an RM cell back
   towards the ingress with respectively the No Increase (NI) or
   Congestion Indication (CI) bit set in its message type field
   [ATM-TM-ABR].  The ingress then holds or decreases its sending bit-
   rate accordingly.

                        _ _ _
             /_______  | | |C|  ACK packet (X)
             \         |_|_|_|
    +---+        layer: 2 3 4 header                            +---+
    |  <|<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Packet X <<<<<<<<<<<<<|<< |L4
    |   |                         +---+                         | ^ |
    |   |                         |  *|>>> Packet W >>>>>>>>>>>>|>^ |L3
    |   |     +---+     +---+     |   |     +---+     +---+     |   |
    |   |     |   |     |   |     |  <|<<<<<|<<<|<(V)<|<<<|     |   |L2
    |   | . . | . |Packet U | . . | . | . . | . | . . | .*| . . |   |L2
    source          subnet G      router       subnet H         dest
        __ _ _ _    __ _ _ _    __ _ _        __ _ _ _   later
       |  | | | |  |  | | | |  |  | | |      |  | |C| |  data________\
       |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|      |__|_|_|_|  packet (W)  /
           4 3 2       4 3 2       4 3           4 3 2
                                     /__  |C|  Feedback control
                                     \    |_|  cell/frame (V)
        __ _ _ _    __ _ _ _    __ _ _        __ _ _ _   earlier
       |  | | | |  |  | | | |  |  | | |      |  | | | |  data________\
       |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|_|  |__|_|_|      |__|_|_|_|  packet (U)  /
   layer:  4 3 2       4 3 2       4 3           4 3 2

                        Figure 3: Feed-Backward Mode

   ATM's feed-backward approach does not fit well when layered beneath
   IP's feed-forward approach — unless the initial data source is the
   same node as the ATM ingress.  Figure 3 shows the feed-backward
   approach being used in subnet H.  If the final switch on the path is
   congested (*), it does not feed-forward any congestion indications on
   packet (U).  Instead it sends a control cell (V) back to the router
   at the ATM ingress.

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   However, the backward feedback does not reach the original data
   source directly because IP does not support backward feedback (and
   subnet G is independent of subnet H).  Instead, the router in the
   middle throttles down its sending rate but the original data sources
   don't reduce their rates.  The resulting rate mismatch causes the
   middle router's buffer at layer 3 to back up until it becomes
   congested, which it signals forwards on later data packets at layer 3
   (e.g. packet W).  Note that the forward signal from the middle router
   is not triggered directly by the backward signal.  Rather, it is
   triggered by congestion resulting from the middle router's mismatched
   rate response to the backward signal.

   In response to this later forward signalling, end-to-end feedback at
   layer-4 finally completes the tortuous path of congestion indications
   back to the origin data source, as before.

   Quantized congestion notification (QCN [IEEE802.1Q]) would suffer
   from similar problems if extended to multiple subnets.  However, from
   the start QCN was clearly characterized as solely applicable to a
   single subnet (see Section 6).

3.4.  Null Mode

   Often link and physical layer resources are 'non-blocking' by design.
   In these cases congestion notification may be implemented but it does
   not need to be deployed at the lower layer; ECN in IP would be

   A degenerate example is a point-to-point Ethernet link.  Excess
   loading of the link merely causes the queue from the higher layer to
   back up, while the lower layer remains immune to congestion.  Even a
   whole meshed subnetwork can be made immune to interior congestion by
   limiting ingress capacity and sufficient sizing of interior links,
   e.g. a non-blocking fat-tree network [Leiserson85].  An alternative
   to fat links near the root is numerous thin links with multi-path
   routing to ensure even worst-case patterns of load cannot congest any
   link, e.g. a Clos network [Clos53].

4.  Feed-Forward-and-Up Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion

   Feed-forward-and-up is the mode already used for signalling ECN up
   the layers through MPLS into IP [RFC5129] and through IP-in-IP
   tunnels [RFC6040], whether encapsulating with IPv4 [RFC2003], IPv6
   [RFC2473] or IPsec [RFC4301].  These RFCs take a consistent approach
   and the following guidelines are designed to ensure this consistency
   continues as ECN support is added to other protocols that encapsulate
   IP.  The guidelines are also designed to ensure compliance with the

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   more general best current practice for the design of alternate ECN
   schemes given in [RFC4774] and extended by [RFC8311].

   The rest of this section is structured as follows:

   *  Section 4.1 addresses the most straightforward cases, where
      [RFC6040] can be applied directly to add ECN to tunnels that are
      effectively IP-in-IP tunnels, but with shim header(s) between the
      IP headers.

   *  The subsequent sections give guidelines for adding ECN to a subnet
      technology that uses feed-forward-and-up mode like IP, but it is
      not so similar to IP that [RFC6040] rules can be applied directly.

      -  Sections 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 respectively address how to add ECN
         support to the wire protocol and to the encapsulators and
         decapsulators at the ingress and egress of the subnet.

      -  Section 4.5 deals with the special, but common, case of
         sequences of tunnels or subnets that all use the same

      -  Section 4.6 deals with the question of reframing when IP
         packets do not map 1:1 into lower layer frames.

4.1.  IP-in-IP Tunnels with Shim Headers

   A common pattern for many tunnelling protocols is to encapsulate an
   inner IP header with shim header(s) then an outer IP header.  A shim
   header is defined as one that is not sufficient alone to forward the
   packet as an outer header.  Another common pattern is for a shim to
   encapsulate a layer 2 (L2) header, which in turn encapsulates (or
   might encapsulate) an IP header.  [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-shim]
   clarifies that RFC 6040 is just as applicable when there are shim(s)
   and possibly a L2 header between two IP headers.

   However, it is not always feasible or necessary to propagate ECN
   between IP headers when separated by a shim.  For instance, it might
   be too costly to dig to arbitrary depths to find an inner IP header,
   there may be little or no congestion within the tunnel by design (see
   null mode in Section 3.4 above), or a legacy implementation might not
   support ECN.  In cases where a tunnel does not support ECN, it is
   important that the ingress does not copy the ECN field from an inner
   IP header to an outer.  Therefore Section 4 of
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-shim] requires network operators to
   configure the ingress of a tunnel that does not support ECN so that
   it zeros the ECN field in the outer IP header.

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   Nonetheless, in many cases it is feasible to propagate the ECN field
   between IP headers separated by shim header(s) and/or a L2 header.
   Particularly in the typical case when the outer IP header and the
   shim(s) are added (or removed) as part of the same procedure.  Even
   if the shim(s) encapsulate a L2 header, it is often possible to find
   an inner IP header within the L2 PDU and propagate ECN between that
   and the outer IP header.  This can be thought of as a special case of
   the feed-up-and-forward mode (Section 3.2), so the guidelines for
   this mode apply (Section 5).

   Numerous shim protocols have been defined for IP tunnelling.  More
   recent ones e.g.  Geneve [RFC8926] and Generic UDP Encapsulation
   (GUE) [I-D.ietf-intarea-gue] cite and follow RFC 6040.  And some
   earlier ones, e.g.  CAPWAP [RFC5415] and LISP [RFC9300], cite RFC
   3168, which is compatible with RFC 6040.

   However, as Section 9.3 of [RFC3168] pointed out, ECN support needs
   to be defined for many earlier shim-based tunnelling protocols, e.g.
   L2TPv2 [RFC2661], L2TPv3 [RFC3931], GRE [RFC2784], PPTP [RFC2637],
   GTP [GTPv1], [GTPv1-U], [GTPv2-C] and Teredo [RFC4380] as well as
   some recent ones, e.g.  VXLAN [RFC7348], NVGRE [RFC7637] and NSH

   All these IP-based encapsulations can be updated in one shot by
   simple reference to RFC 6040.  However, it would not be appropriate
   to update all these protocols from within the present guidance
   document.  Instead a companion specification
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-shim] has been prepared that has the
   appropriate standards track status to update standards track
   protocols.  For those that are not under IETF change control
   [I-D.ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-shim] can only recommend that the
   relevant body updates them.

4.2.  Wire Protocol Design: Indication of ECN Support

   This section is intended to guide the redesign of any lower layer
   protocol that encapsulate IP to add native ECN support at the lower
   layer.  It reflects the approaches used in [RFC6040] and in
   [RFC5129].  Therefore IP-in-IP tunnels or IP-in-MPLS or MPLS-in-MPLS
   encapsulations that already comply with [RFC6040] or [RFC5129] will
   already satisfy this guidance.

   A lower layer (or subnet) congestion notification system:

   1.  SHOULD NOT apply explicit congestion notifications to PDUs that
       are destined for legacy layer-4 transport implementations that
       will not understand ECN, and

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   2.  SHOULD NOT apply explicit congestion notifications to PDUs if the
       egress of the subnet might not propagate congestion notifications
       onward into the higher layer.

       We use the term ECN-PDUs for a PDU on a feedback loop that will
       propagate congestion notification properly because it meets both
       the above criteria.  And a Not-ECN-PDU is a PDU on a feedback
       loop that does not meet at least one of the criteria, and will
       therefore not propagate congestion notification properly.  A
       corollary of the above is that a lower layer congestion
       notification protocol:

   3.  SHOULD be able to distinguish ECN-PDUs from Not-ECN-PDUs.

   Note that there is no need for all interior nodes within a subnet to
   be able to mark congestion explicitly.  A mix of ECN and drop signals
   from different nodes is fine.  However, if _any_ interior nodes might
   generate ECN markings, guideline 2 above says that all relevant
   egress node(s) SHOULD be able to propagate those markings up to the
   higher layer.

   In IP, if the ECN field in each PDU is cleared to the Not-ECT (not
   ECN-capable transport) codepoint, it indicates that the L4 transport
   will not understand congestion markings.  A congested buffer must not
   mark these Not-ECT PDUs, and therefore has to signal congestion by
   increasingly applying drop instead.

   The mechanism a lower layer uses to distinguish the ECN-capability of
   PDUs need not mimic that of IP.  The above guidelines merely say that
   the lower layer system, as a whole, should achieve the same outcome.
   For instance, ECN-capable feedback loops might use PDUs that are
   identified by a particular set of labels or tags.  Alternatively,
   logical link protocols that use flow state might determine whether a
   PDU can be congestion marked by checking for ECN-support in the flow
   state.  Other protocols might depend on out-of-band control signals.

   The per-domain checking of ECN support in MPLS [RFC5129] is a good
   example of a way to avoid sending congestion markings to L4
   transports that will not understand them, without using any header
   space in the subnet protocol.

   In MPLS, header space is extremely limited, therefore RFC5129 does
   not provide a field in the MPLS header to indicate whether the PDU is
   an ECN-PDU or a Not-ECN-PDU.  Instead, interior nodes in a domain are
   allowed to set explicit congestion indications without checking
   whether the PDU is destined for a L4 transport that will understand
   them.  Nonetheless, this is made safe by requiring that the network
   operator upgrades all decapsulating edges of a whole domain at once,

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   as soon as even one switch within the domain is configured to mark
   rather than drop some PDUs during congestion.  Therefore, any edge
   node that might decapsulate a packet will be capable of checking
   whether the higher layer transport is ECN-capable.  When
   decapsulating a CE-marked packet, if the decapsulator discovers that
   the higher layer (inner header) indicates the transport is not ECN-
   capable, it drops the packet — effectively on behalf of the earlier
   congested node (see Decapsulation Guideline 1 in Section 4.4).

   It was only appropriate to define such an incremental deployment
   strategy because MPLS is targeted solely at professional operators,
   who can be expected to ensure that a whole subnetwork is consistently
   configured.  This strategy might not be appropriate for other link
   technologies targeted at zero-configuration deployment or deployment
   by the general public (e.g.  Ethernet).  For such 'plug-and-play'
   environments it will be necessary to invent a failsafe approach that
   ensures congestion markings will never fall into black holes, no
   matter how inconsistently a system is put together.  Alternatively,
   congestion notification relying on correct system configuration could
   be confined to flavours of Ethernet intended only for professional
   network operators, such as Provider Backbone Bridges (PBB
   [IEEE802.1Q]; previously 802.1ah).

   ECN support in TRILL [I-D.ietf-trill-ecn-support] provides a good
   example of how to add ECN to a lower layer protocol without relying
   on careful and consistent operator configuration.  TRILL provides an
   extension header word with space for flags of different categories
   depending on whether logic to understand the extension is critical.
   The congestion experienced marking has been defined as a 'critical
   ingress-to-egress' flag.  So if a transit RBridge sets this flag on a
   frame and an egress RBridge does not have any logic to process it, it
   will drop it; which is the desired default action anyway.  Therefore
   TRILL RBridges can be updated with support for ECN in no particular
   order and, at the egress of the TRILL campus, congestion notification
   will be propagated to IP as ECN whenever ECN logic has been
   implemented at the egress, or as drop otherwise.

   QCN [IEEE802.1Q] is not intended to extend beyond a single subnet, or
   to interoperate with ECN.  Nonetheless, the way QCN indicates to
   lower layer devices that the end-points will not understand QCN
   provides another example that a lower layer protocol designer might
   be able to mimic for their scenario.  An operator can define certain
   Priority Code Points (PCPs [IEEE802.1Q]; previously 802.1p) to
   indicate non-QCN frames and an ingress bridge is required to map
   arriving not-QCN-capable IP packets to one of these non-QCN PCPs.

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   When drop for non-ECN traffic is deferred to the egress of a subnet,
   it cannot necessarily be assumed that one ECN mark is equivalent to
   one drop, as was originally required by [RFC3168].  [RFC8311] updated
   RFC 3168, to allow experimentation with congestion markings that are
   not equivalent to drop, in particular for L4S [RFC9331].  ECN support
   in TRILL [I-D.ietf-trill-ecn-support] is a good example of a way to
   defer drop to the egress of a subnet both when marks are equivalent
   to drops (as in RFC 3168) and when they are not (as in L4S).  The ECN
   scheme for MPLS [RFC5129] was defined before L4S, so it only
   currently supports deferred drop that is equivalent to ECN-marking.
   Nonetheless, in principle, MPLS (and potentially future L2 protocols)
   could support L4S marking and copy TRILL's approach for determining
   the drop level of any non-ECN traffic at the subnet egress.

4.3.  Encapsulation Guidelines

   This section is intended to guide the redesign of any node that
   encapsulates IP with a lower layer header when adding native ECN
   support to the lower layer protocol.  It reflects the approaches used
   in [RFC6040] and in [RFC5129].  Therefore IP-in-IP tunnels or IP-in-
   MPLS or MPLS-in-MPLS encapsulations that already comply with
   [RFC6040] or [RFC5129] will already satisfy this guidance.

   1.  Egress Capability Check: A subnet ingress needs to be sure that
       the corresponding egress of a subnet will propagate any
       congestion notification added to the outer header across the
       subnet.  This is necessary in addition to checking that an
       incoming PDU indicates an ECN-capable (L4) transport.  Examples
       of how this guarantee might be provided include:

       *  by configuration (e.g. if any label switches in a domain
          support ECN marking, [RFC5129] requires all egress nodes to
          have been configured to propagate ECN)

       *  by the ingress explicitly checking that the egress propagates
          ECN (e.g. an early attempt to add ECN support to TRILL used
          IS-IS to check path capabilities before adding ECN extension
          flags to each frame [RFC7780]).

       *  by inherent design of the protocol (e.g. by encoding ECN
          marking on the outer header in such a way that a legacy egress
          that does not understand ECN will consider the PDU corrupt or
          invalid and discard it, thus at least propagating a form of
          congestion signal).

   2.  Egress Fails Capability Check: If the ingress cannot guarantee
       that the egress will propagate congestion notification, the
       ingress SHOULD disable ECN at the lower layer when it forwards

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       the PDU.  An example of how the ingress might disable ECN at the
       lower layer would be by setting the outer header of the PDU to
       identify it as a Not-ECN-PDU, assuming the subnet technology
       supports such a concept.

   3.  Standard Congestion Monitoring Baseline: Once the ingress to a
       subnet has established that the egress will correctly propagate
       ECN, on encapsulation it SHOULD encode the same level of
       congestion in outer headers as is arriving in incoming headers.
       For example, it might copy any incoming congestion notification
       into the outer header of the lower layer protocol.

       This ensures that bulk congestion monitoring of outer headers
       (e.g. by a network management node monitoring ECN in passing
       frames) will measure congestion accumulated along the whole
       upstream path — starting from the Load Regulator not just
       starting from the ingress of the subnet.  A node that is not the
       Load Regulator SHOULD NOT re-initialize the level of CE markings
       in the outer to zero.

       It would still also be possible to measure congestion introduced
       across one subnet (or tunnel) by subtracting the level of CE
       markings on inner headers from that on outer headers (see
       Appendix C of [RFC6040]).  For example:

       *  If this guideline has been followed and if the level of CE
          markings is 0.4% on the outer and 0.1% on the inner, 0.4%
          congestion has been introduced across all the networks since
          the load regulator, and 0.3% (= 0.4% - 0.1%) has been
          introduced since the ingress to the current subnet (or

       *  Without this guideline, if the subnet ingress had re-
          initialized the outer congestion level to zero, the outer and
          inner would measure 0.1% and 0.3%. It would still be possible
          to infer that the congestion introduced since the Load
          Regulator was 0.4% (= 0.1% + 0.3%).  But only if the
          monitoring system somehow knows whether the subnet ingress re-
          initialized the congestion level.

       As long as subnet and tunnel technologies use the standard
       congestion monitoring baseline in this guideline, monitoring
       systems will know to use the former approach, rather than having
       to "somehow know" which approach to use.

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4.4.  Decapsulation Guidelines

   This section is intended to guide the redesign of any node that
   decapsulates IP from within a lower layer header when adding native
   ECN support to the lower layer protocol.  It reflects the approaches
   used in [RFC6040] and in [RFC5129].  Therefore IP-in-IP tunnels or
   IP-in-MPLS or MPLS-in-MPLS encapsulations that already comply with
   [RFC6040] or [RFC5129] will already satisfy this guidance.

   A subnet egress SHOULD NOT simply copy congestion notification from
   outer headers to the forwarded header.  It SHOULD calculate the
   outgoing congestion notification field from the inner and outer
   headers using the following guidelines.  If there is any conflict,
   rules earlier in the list take precedence over rules later in the

   1.  If the arriving inner header is a Not-ECN-PDU it implies the L4
       transport will not understand explicit congestion markings.

       *  If the outer header carries an explicit congestion marking, it
          is likely that a protocol error has occurred, so drop is the
          only indication of congestion that the L4 transport will
          understand.  If the congestion marking is the most severe
          possible, the packet MUST be dropped.  However, if congestion
          can be marked with multiple levels of severity and the
          packet's marking is not the most severe, this requirement can
          be relaxed to: the packet SHOULD be dropped.

       *  If the outer is an ECN-PDU that carries no indication of
          congestion or a Not-ECN-PDU the PDU SHOULD be forwarded, but
          still as a Not-ECN-PDU.

   2.  If the outer header does not support explicit congestion
       notification (a Not-ECN-PDU), but the inner header does (an ECN-
       PDU), the inner header SHOULD be forwarded unchanged.

   3.  In some lower layer protocols congestion may be signalled as a
       numerical level, such as in the control frames of quantized
       congestion notification (QCN [IEEE802.1Q]).  If such a multi-bit
       encoding encapsulates an ECN-capable IP data packet, a function
       will be needed to convert the quantized congestion level into the
       frequency of congestion markings in outgoing IP packets.

   4.  Congestion indications might be encoded by a severity level.  For
       instance increasing levels of congestion might be encoded by
       numerically increasing indications, e.g. pre-congestion
       notification (PCN) can be encoded in each PDU at three severity

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       levels in IP or MPLS [RFC6660] and the default encapsulation and
       decapsulation rules [RFC6040] are compatible with this
       interpretation of the ECN field.

       If the arriving inner header is an ECN-PDU, where the inner and
       outer headers carry indications of congestion of different
       severity, the more severe indication SHOULD be forwarded in
       preference to the less severe.

   5.  The inner and outer headers might carry a combination of
       congestion notification fields that should not be possible given
       any currently used protocol transitions.  For instance, if
       Encapsulation Guideline 3 in Section 4.3 had been followed, it
       should not be possible to have a less severe indication of
       congestion in the outer than in the inner.  It MAY be appropriate
       to log unexpected combinations of headers and possibly raise an

       If a safe outgoing codepoint can be defined for such a PDU, the
       PDU SHOULD be forwarded rather than dropped.  Some implementers
       discard PDUs with currently unused combinations of headers just
       in case they represent an attack.  However, an approach using
       alarms and policy-mediated drop is preferable to hard-coded drop,
       so that operators can keep track of possible attacks but
       currently unused combinations are not precluded from future use
       through new standards actions.

4.5.  Sequences of Similar Tunnels or Subnets

   In some deployments, particularly in 3GPP networks, an IP packet may
   traverse two or more IP-in-IP tunnels in sequence that all use
   identical technology (e.g.  GTP).

   In such cases, it would be sufficient for every encapsulation and
   decapsulation in the chain to comply with RFC 6040.  Alternatively,
   as an optimisation, a node that decapsulates a packet and immediately
   re-encapsulates it for the next tunnel MAY copy the incoming outer
   ECN field directly to the outgoing outer and the incoming inner ECN
   field directly to the outgoing inner.  Then the overall behavior
   across the sequence of tunnel segments would still be consistent with
   RFC 6040.

   Appendix C of RFC6040 describes how a tunnel egress can monitor how
   much congestion has been introduced within a tunnel.  A network
   operator might want to monitor how much congestion had been
   introduced within a whole sequence of tunnels.  Using the technique
   in Appendix C of RFC6040 at the final egress, the operator could
   monitor the whole sequence of tunnels, but only if the above

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   optimisation were used consistently along the sequence of tunnels, in
   order to make it appear as a single tunnel.  Therefore, tunnel
   endpoint implementations SHOULD allow the operator to configure
   whether this optimisation is enabled.

   When ECN support is added to a subnet technology, consideration
   SHOULD be given to a similar optimisation between subnets in sequence
   if they all use the same technology.

4.6.  Reframing and Congestion Markings

   The guidance in this section is worded in terms of framing
   boundaries, but it applies equally whether the protocol data units
   are frames, cells or packets.

   Where an AQM marks the ECN field of IP packets as they queue into a
   layer-2 link, there will be no problem with framing boundaries,
   because the ECN markings would be applied directly to IP packets.
   The guidance in this section is only applicable where an ECN
   capability is being added to a layer-2 protocol so that layer-2
   frames can be ECN-marked by an AQM at layer-2.  This would only be
   necessary where AQM will be applied at pure layer-2 nodes (without

   Where ECN marking has had to be applied at non-IP-aware nodes and
   framing boundaries do not necessarily align with packet boundaries,
   the decapsulating IP forwarding node SHOULD propagate ECN markings
   from layer-2 frame headers to IP packets that may have different
   boundaries as a consequence of reframing.

   Two possible design goals for propagating congestion indications,
   described in Section 5.3 of [RFC3168] and Section 2.4 of [RFC7141],

   1.  approximate preservation of the presence (and therefore timing)
       of congestion marks on the L2 frames used to construct an IP

       a.  at high frequency of congestion marking, approximate
           preservation of the proportion of congestion marks arriving
           and departing;

       b.  at low frequency of congestion marking, approximate
           preservation of the timing of congestion marks arriving and

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   In either case, an implementation SHOULD ensure that any new incoming
   congestion indication is propagated immediately, not held awaiting
   the possibility of further congestion indications to be sufficient to
   indicate congestion on an outgoing PDU [RFC7141].  Nonetheless, to
   facilitate pipelined implementation, it would be acceptable for
   congestion marks to propagate to a slightly later IP packet.

   At decapsulation in either case:

   *  ECN marking propagation logically occurs before application of
      Decapsulation Guideline 1 in Section 4.4.  For instance, if ECN
      marking propagation would cause an ECN congestion indication to be
      applied to an IP packet that is a Not-ECN-PDU, then that IP packet
      is dropped in accordance with Guideline 1;

   *  where a mix of ECN-PDUs and non-ECN-PDUs arrives to construct the
      same IP packet, the decapsulation spec SHOULD require that packet
      to be discarded.

   *  where a mix of different types of ECN-PDUs arrives to construct
      the same IP packet, e.g. a mix of frames that map to ECT(0) and
      ECT(1) IP packets, the decapsulation spec might consider this a
      protocol error.  But, if the lower layer protocol has defined such
      a mix of types of ECN-PDU as valid, it SHOULD require the
      resulting IP packet to be set to either ECT(0) or ECT(1).  In this
      case, it SHOULD take into account that the RFC series has so far
      allowed ECT(0) and ECT(1) to be considered equivalent [RFC3168],
      or ECT(1) can provide a less severe congestion marking than CE
      [RFC6040], or ECT(1) can indicate an unmarked but ECN-capable
      packet that is subject to a different marking algorithm to ECT(0)
      packets, for example L4S [RFC8311] [RFC9331].

   The following are two ways that goal 1 might be achieved, but they
   are not intended to be the only ways:

   *  Every IP PDU that is constructed, in whole or in part, from an L2
      frame that is marked with a congestion signal, has that signal
      propagated to it;

   *  Every L2 frame that is marked with a congestion signal, propagates
      that signal to one IP PDU which is constructed, in whole or in
      part, from it.  If multiple IP PDUs meet this description, the
      choice can be made arbitrarily but ought to be consistent.

   The following gives one way that goal 2 might be achieved, but it is
   not intended to be the only way:

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   *  For each of the streams of frames that encapsulate the IP packets
      of each IP-ECN codepoint and follow the same path through the
      subnet, a counter ('in') tracks octets arriving within the payload
      of marked L2 frames and another ('out') tracks octets departing in
      marked IP packets.  While 'in' exceeds 'out', forwarded IP packets
      are ECN-marked.  If 'out' exceeds 'in' for longer than a timeout,
      both counters are zeroed, to ensure that the start of the next
      congestion episode propagates immediately.  The 'out' counter
      includes octets in reconstructed IP packets that would have been
      marked, but had to be dropped because they were Not-ECN-PDUs (by
      Decapsulation Guideline 1 in Section 4.4).

   Generally, the number of L2 frames may be higher (e.g.  ATM), similar
   to, or lower (e.g. 802.11 aggregation at a L2-only station) than the
   number of IP PDUs, and this distinction may influence the choice of

5.  Feed-Up-and-Forward Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion

   The guidance in this section is applicable, for example, when IP

   *  are encapsulated in Ethernet headers, which have no support for

   *  are forwarded by the eNode-B (base station) of a 3GPP radio access
      network, which is required to apply ECN marking during congestion,
      [LTE-RA], [UTRAN], but the Packet Data Convergence Protocol (PDCP)
      that encapsulates the IP header over the radio access has no
      support for ECN.

   This guidance also generalizes to encapsulation by other subnet
   technologies with no native support for explicit congestion
   notification at the lower layer, but with support for finding and
   processing an IP header.  It is unlikely to be applicable or
   necessary for IP-in-IP encapsulation, where feed-forward-and-up mode
   based on [RFC6040] would be more appropriate.

   Marking the IP header while switching at layer-2 (by using a layer-3
   switch) or while forwarding in a radio access network seems to
   represent a layering violation.  However, it can be considered as a
   benign optimisation if the guidelines below are followed.  Feed-up-
   and-forward is certainly not a general alternative to implementing
   feed-forward congestion notification in the lower layer, because:

   *  IPv4 and IPv6 are not the only layer-3 protocols that might be
      encapsulated by lower layer protocols

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   *  Link-layer encryption might be in use, making the layer-2 payload

   *  Many Ethernet switches do not have 'layer-3 switch' capabilities
      so they cannot read or modify an IP payload

   *  It might be costly to find an IP header (IPv4 or IPv6) when it may
      be encapsulated by more than one lower layer header, e.g.
      Ethernet MAC in MAC ([IEEE802.1Q]; previously 802.1ah).

   Nonetheless, configuring lower layer equipment to look for an ECN
   field in an encapsulated IP header is a useful optimisation.  If the
   implementation follows the guidelines below, this optimisation does
   not have to be confined to a controlled environment such as within a
   data centre; it could usefully be applied on any network — even if
   the operator is not sure whether the above issues will never apply:

   1.  If a native lower-layer congestion notification mechanism exists
       for a subnet technology, it is safe to mix feed-up-and-forward
       with feed-forward-and-up on other switches in the same subnet.
       However, it will generally be more efficient to use the native

   2.  The depth of the search for an IP header SHOULD be limited.  If
       an IP header is not found soon enough, or an unrecognized or
       unreadable header is encountered, the switch SHOULD resort to an
       alternative means of signalling congestion (e.g. drop, or the
       native lower layer mechanism if available).

   3.  It is sufficient to use the first IP header found in the stack;
       the egress of the relevant tunnel can propagate congestion
       notification upwards to any more deeply encapsulated IP headers

6.  Feed-Backward Mode: Guidelines for Adding Congestion Notification

   It can be seen from Section 3.3 that congestion notification in a
   subnet using feed-backward mode has generally not been designed to be
   directly coupled with IP layer congestion notification.  The subnet
   attempts to minimize congestion internally, and if the incoming load
   at the ingress exceeds the capacity somewhere through the subnet, the
   layer 3 buffer into the ingress backs up.  Thus, a feed-backward mode
   subnet is in some sense similar to a null mode subnet, in that there
   is no need for any direct interaction between the subnet and higher
   layer congestion notification.  Therefore no detailed protocol design
   guidelines are appropriate.  Nonetheless, a more general guideline is

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      A subnetwork technology intended to eventually interface to IP
      SHOULD NOT be designed using only the feed-backward mode, which is
      certainly best for a stand-alone subnet, but would need to be
      modified to work efficiently as part of the wider Internet,
      because IP uses feed-forward-and-up mode.

   The feed-backward approach at least works beneath IP, where the term
   'works' is used only in a narrow functional sense because feed-
   backward can result in very inefficient and sluggish congestion
   control — except if it is confined to the subnet directly connected
   to the original data source, when it is faster than feed-forward.  It
   would be valid to design a protocol that could work in feed-backward
   mode for paths that only cross one subnet, and in feed-forward-and-up
   mode for paths that cross subnets.

   In the early days of TCP/IP, a similar feed-backward approach was
   tried for explicit congestion signalling, using source-quench (SQ)
   ICMP control packets.  However, SQ fell out of favour and is now
   formally deprecated [RFC6633].  The main problem was that it is hard
   for a data source to tell the difference between a spoofed SQ message
   and a quench request from a genuine buffer on the path.  It is also
   hard for a lower layer buffer to address an SQ message to the
   original source port number, which may be buried within many layers
   of headers, and possibly encrypted.

   QCN (also known as backward congestion notification, BCN; see
   Sections 30–33 of [IEEE802.1Q]; previously known as 802.1Qau) uses a
   feed-backward mode structurally similar to ATM's relative rate
   mechanism.  However, QCN confines its applicability to scenarios such
   as some data centres where all endpoints are directly attached by the
   same Ethernet technology.  If a QCN subnet were later connected into
   a wider IP-based internetwork (e.g. when attempting to interconnect
   multiple data centres) it would suffer the inefficiency shown in
   Figure 3.

7.  IANA Considerations

   This section is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   This memo includes no request to IANA.

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8.  Security Considerations

   If a lower layer wire protocol is redesigned to include explicit
   congestion signalling in-band in the protocol header, care SHOULD be
   taken to ensure that the field used is specified as mutable during
   transit.  Otherwise interior nodes signalling congestion would
   invalidate any authentication protocol applied to the lower layer
   header — by altering a header field that had been assumed as

   The redesign of protocols that encapsulate IP in order to propagate
   congestion signals between layers raises potential signal integrity
   concerns.  Experimental or proposed approaches exist for assuring the
   end-to-end integrity of in-band congestion signals, e.g.:

   *  Congestion exposure (ConEx) for networks to audit that their
      congestion signals are not being suppressed by other networks or
      by receivers, and for networks to police that senders are
      responding sufficiently to the signals, irrespective of the L4
      transport protocol used [RFC7713].

   *  A test for a sender to detect whether a network or the receiver is
      suppressing congestion signals (for example see 2nd para of
      Section 20.2 of [RFC3168]).

   Given these end-to-end approaches are already being specified, it
   would make little sense to attempt to design hop-by-hop congestion
   signal integrity into a new lower layer protocol, because end-to-end
   integrity inherently achieves hop-by-hop integrity.

   Section 6 gives vulnerability to spoofing as one of the reasons for
   deprecating feed-backward mode.

9.  Conclusions

   Following the guidance in this document enables ECN support to be
   extended consistently to numerous protocols that encapsulate IP (IPv4
   and IPv6), so that IP continues to fulfil its role as an end-to-end
   interoperability layer.  This includes:

   *  A wide range of tunnelling protocols including those with various
      forms of shim header between two IP headers, possibly also
      separated by a L2 header;

   *  A wide range of subnet technologies, particularly those that work
      in the same 'feed-forward-and-up' mode that is used to support ECN
      in IP and MPLS.

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   Guidelines have been defined for supporting propagation of ECN
   between Ethernet and IP on so-called Layer-3 Ethernet switches, using
   a 'feed-up-and-forward' mode.  This approach could enable other
   subnet technologies to pass ECN signals into the IP layer, even if
   they do not support ECN natively.

   Finally, attempting to add ECN to a subnet technology in feed-
   backward mode is deprecated except in special cases, due to its
   likely sluggish response to congestion.

10.  References

10.1.  Normative References

              Eastlake, D. E. and B. Briscoe, "TRILL (TRansparent
              Interconnection of Lots of Links): ECN (Explicit
              Congestion Notification) Support", Work in Progress,
              Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-trill-ecn-support-07, 25
              February 2018, <

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [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,

   [RFC3819]  Karn, P., Ed., Bormann, C., Fairhurst, G., Grossman, D.,
              Ludwig, R., Mahdavi, J., Montenegro, G., Touch, J., and L.
              Wood, "Advice for Internet Subnetwork Designers", BCP 89,
              RFC 3819, DOI 10.17487/RFC3819, July 2004,

   [RFC4774]  Floyd, S., "Specifying Alternate Semantics for the
              Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) Field", BCP 124,
              RFC 4774, DOI 10.17487/RFC4774, November 2006,

   [RFC5129]  Davie, B., Briscoe, B., and J. Tay, "Explicit Congestion
              Marking in MPLS", RFC 5129, DOI 10.17487/RFC5129, January
              2008, <>.

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   [RFC6040]  Briscoe, B., "Tunnelling of Explicit Congestion
              Notification", RFC 6040, DOI 10.17487/RFC6040, November
              2010, <>.

   [RFC7141]  Briscoe, B. and J. Manner, "Byte and Packet Congestion
              Notification", BCP 41, RFC 7141, DOI 10.17487/RFC7141,
              February 2014, <>.

10.2.  Informative References

              Cisco, "Understanding the Available Bit Rate (ABR) Service
              Category for ATM VCs", Design Technote 10415, 5 June 2005,

   [Buck00]   Buckwalter, J.T., "Frame Relay: Technology and Practice",
              Pub. Addison Wesley ISBN-13: 978-0201485240, 2000.

   [Clos53]   Clos, C., "A Study of Non-Blocking Switching Networks",
              Bell Systems Technical Journal 32(2):406–424, March 1953.

   [GTPv1]    3GPP, "GPRS Tunnelling Protocol (GTP) across the Gn and Gp
              interface", Technical Specification TS 29.060.

   [GTPv1-U]  3GPP, "General Packet Radio System (GPRS) Tunnelling
              Protocol User Plane (GTPv1-U)", Technical Specification TS

   [GTPv2-C]  3GPP, "Evolved General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
              Tunnelling Protocol for Control plane (GTPv2-C)",
              Technical Specification TS 29.274.

              Herbert, T., Yong, L., and O. Zia, "Generic UDP
              Encapsulation", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-intarea-gue-09, 26 October 2019,

              Briscoe, B., "Propagating Explicit Congestion Notification
              Across IP Tunnel Headers Separated by a Shim", Work in
              Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-tsvwg-rfc6040update-
              shim-22, 29 October 2023,

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              IEEE, "IEEE Standard for Local and Metropolitan Area
              Networks—Virtual Bridged Local Area Networks—Amendment 6:
              Provider Backbone Bridges", IEEE Std 802.1Q-2018, July
              2018, <>.

              ITU-T, "Traffic Control and Congestion Control in B-ISDN",
              ITU-T Rec. I.371 (03/04), March 2004,

              Leiserson, C.E., "Fat-trees: universal networks for
              hardware-efficient supercomputing", IEEE Transactions on
              Computers 34(10):892–901, October 1985.

   [LTE-RA]   3GPP, "Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA)
              and Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network
              (E-UTRAN); Overall description; Stage 2", Technical
              Specification TS 36.300.

   [RFC2003]  Perkins, C., "IP Encapsulation within IP", RFC 2003,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2003, October 1996,

   [RFC2473]  Conta, A. and S. Deering, "Generic Packet Tunneling in
              IPv6 Specification", RFC 2473, DOI 10.17487/RFC2473,
              December 1998, <>.

   [RFC2637]  Hamzeh, K., Pall, G., Verthein, W., Taarud, J., Little,
              W., and G. Zorn, "Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol
              (PPTP)", RFC 2637, DOI 10.17487/RFC2637, July 1999,

   [RFC2661]  Townsley, W., Valencia, A., Rubens, A., Pall, G., Zorn,
              G., and B. Palter, "Layer Two Tunneling Protocol "L2TP"",
              RFC 2661, DOI 10.17487/RFC2661, August 1999,

   [RFC2784]  Farinacci, D., Li, T., Hanks, S., Meyer, D., and P.
              Traina, "Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE)", RFC 2784,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2784, March 2000,

   [RFC2884]  Hadi Salim, J. and U. Ahmed, "Performance Evaluation of
              Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) in IP Networks",
              RFC 2884, DOI 10.17487/RFC2884, July 2000,

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   [RFC2983]  Black, D., "Differentiated Services and Tunnels",
              RFC 2983, DOI 10.17487/RFC2983, October 2000,

   [RFC3931]  Lau, J., Ed., Townsley, M., Ed., and I. Goyret, Ed.,
              "Layer Two Tunneling Protocol - Version 3 (L2TPv3)",
              RFC 3931, DOI 10.17487/RFC3931, March 2005,

   [RFC4301]  Kent, S. and K. Seo, "Security Architecture for the
              Internet Protocol", RFC 4301, DOI 10.17487/RFC4301,
              December 2005, <>.

   [RFC4380]  Huitema, C., "Teredo: Tunneling IPv6 over UDP through
              Network Address Translations (NATs)", RFC 4380,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4380, February 2006,

   [RFC5415]  Calhoun, P., Ed., Montemurro, M., Ed., and D. Stanley,
              Ed., "Control And Provisioning of Wireless Access Points
              (CAPWAP) Protocol Specification", RFC 5415,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5415, March 2009,

   [RFC6633]  Gont, F., "Deprecation of ICMP Source Quench Messages",
              RFC 6633, DOI 10.17487/RFC6633, May 2012,

   [RFC6660]  Briscoe, B., Moncaster, T., and M. Menth, "Encoding Three
              Pre-Congestion Notification (PCN) States in the IP Header
              Using a Single Diffserv Codepoint (DSCP)", RFC 6660,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6660, July 2012,

   [RFC7323]  Borman, D., Braden, B., Jacobson, V., and R.
              Scheffenegger, Ed., "TCP Extensions for High Performance",
              RFC 7323, DOI 10.17487/RFC7323, September 2014,

   [RFC7348]  Mahalingam, M., Dutt, D., Duda, K., Agarwal, P., Kreeger,
              L., Sridhar, T., Bursell, M., and C. Wright, "Virtual
              eXtensible Local Area Network (VXLAN): A Framework for
              Overlaying Virtualized Layer 2 Networks over Layer 3
              Networks", RFC 7348, DOI 10.17487/RFC7348, August 2014,

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   [RFC7567]  Baker, F., Ed. and G. Fairhurst, Ed., "IETF
              Recommendations Regarding Active Queue Management",
              BCP 197, RFC 7567, DOI 10.17487/RFC7567, July 2015,

   [RFC7637]  Garg, P., Ed. and Y. Wang, Ed., "NVGRE: Network
              Virtualization Using Generic Routing Encapsulation",
              RFC 7637, DOI 10.17487/RFC7637, September 2015,

   [RFC7713]  Mathis, M. and B. Briscoe, "Congestion Exposure (ConEx)
              Concepts, Abstract Mechanism, and Requirements", RFC 7713,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7713, December 2015,

   [RFC7780]  Eastlake 3rd, D., Zhang, M., Perlman, R., Banerjee, A.,
              Ghanwani, A., and S. Gupta, "Transparent Interconnection
              of Lots of Links (TRILL): Clarifications, Corrections, and
              Updates", RFC 7780, DOI 10.17487/RFC7780, February 2016,

   [RFC8084]  Fairhurst, G., "Network Transport Circuit Breakers",
              BCP 208, RFC 8084, DOI 10.17487/RFC8084, March 2017,

   [RFC8087]  Fairhurst, G. and M. Welzl, "The Benefits of Using
              Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)", RFC 8087,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8087, March 2017,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8257]  Bensley, S., Thaler, D., Balasubramanian, P., Eggert, L.,
              and G. Judd, "Data Center TCP (DCTCP): TCP Congestion
              Control for Data Centers", RFC 8257, DOI 10.17487/RFC8257,
              October 2017, <>.

   [RFC8300]  Quinn, P., Ed., Elzur, U., Ed., and C. Pignataro, Ed.,
              "Network Service Header (NSH)", RFC 8300,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8300, January 2018,

   [RFC8311]  Black, D., "Relaxing Restrictions on Explicit Congestion
              Notification (ECN) Experimentation", RFC 8311,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8311, January 2018,

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   [RFC8926]  Gross, J., Ed., Ganga, I., Ed., and T. Sridhar, Ed.,
              "Geneve: Generic Network Virtualization Encapsulation",
              RFC 8926, DOI 10.17487/RFC8926, November 2020,

   [RFC9300]  Farinacci, D., Fuller, V., Meyer, D., Lewis, D., and A.
              Cabellos, Ed., "The Locator/ID Separation Protocol
              (LISP)", RFC 9300, DOI 10.17487/RFC9300, October 2022,

   [RFC9331]  De Schepper, K. and B. Briscoe, Ed., "The Explicit
              Congestion Notification (ECN) Protocol for Low Latency,
              Low Loss, and Scalable Throughput (L4S)", RFC 9331,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9331, January 2023,

   [UTRAN]    3GPP, "UTRAN Overall Description", Technical
              Specification TS 25.401.

Comments Solicited

   This section is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Comments and questions are encouraged and very welcome.  They can be
   addressed to the IETF Transport Area working group mailing list
   <>, and/or to the authors.


   Thanks to Gorry Fairhurst and David Black for extensive reviews.
   Thanks also to the following reviewers: Joe Touch, Andrew McGregor,
   Richard Scheffenegger, Ingemar Johansson, Piers O'Hanlon, Donald
   Eastlake, Jonathan Morton, Markku Kojo, Sebastian Möller, Martin Duke
   and Michael Welzl, who pointed out that lower layer congestion
   notification signals may have different semantics to those in IP.
   Thanks are also due to the tsvwg chairs, TSV ADs and IETF liaison
   people such as Eric Gray, Dan Romascanu and Gonzalo Camarillo for
   helping with the liaisons with the IEEE and 3GPP.  And thanks to
   Georg Mayer and particularly to Erik Guttman for the extensive search
   and categorisation of any 3GPP specifications that cite ECN
   specifications.  Thanks also to the Area Reviewers Dan Harkins, Paul
   Kyzivat, Sue Hares and Dale Worley.

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   Bob Briscoe was part-funded by the European Community under its
   Seventh Framework Programme through the Trilogy project (ICT-216372)
   for initial drafts then through the Reducing Internet Transport
   Latency (RITE) project (ICT-317700), and for final drafts (from -18)
   he was funded by Apple Inc. The views expressed here are solely those
   of the authors.


      Pat Thaler
      Broadcom Corporation (retired)

   Pat was a co-author of this draft, but retired before its

Authors' Addresses

   Bob Briscoe
   United Kingdom

   John Kaippallimalil
   5700 Tennyson Parkway, Suite 600
   Plano, Texas 75024
   United States of America

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