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Versions: 00 01                                                         
Transport Area Working Group                                 H. Dai, Ed.
Internet-Draft                                                     B. Fu
Intended status: Informational                                    K. Tan
Expires: 13 October 2021                                          Huawei
                                                           11 April 2021

                  PFC-Free Low Delay Control Protocol


   Today, low-latency transport protocols like RDMA over Converged
   Ethernet (RoCE) can provide good delay and throughput performance in
   small and lightly loaded high-speed datacenter networks due to
   lossless transport based on priority-based flow control (PFC).
   However, PFC suffers from various issues from performance degradation
   and unreliability (e.g., deadlock), limiting the deployment of RoCE
   to only small scale clusters (~1000).

   This document presents LDCP, a new transport that scales loss-
   sensitive transports, e.g., RDMA, to entire data-centers containing
   tens of thousands machines, without dependency on PFC for
   losslessness, i.e., PFC-free.  LDCP develops a novel end-to-end
   congestion control scheme and achieves very low queue occupancy even
   under high network utilization or large traffic churns, resulting in
   almost no packet loss.  Meanwhile, LDCP allows a new flow to jump
   start at full speed at the very beginning and therefore minimizes the
   latency for short RPC-style transactions.  LDCP relies on only WRED
   and ECN, two widely supported features on switches, so it can be
   easily deployed in existing network infrastructures.  Finally, LDCP
   is simple by design and thus can be easily implemented by
   programmable or ASIC NICs.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 13 October 2021.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  LDCP algorithm  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  ECN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Stable stage algorithm  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.3.  Zero-RTT bandwidth acquisition  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  Reference Implementations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.1.  Implementation on programmable NIC  . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.2.  Implementation on commercial NIC  . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11

1.  Introduction

   Modern cloud applications, such as web search, social networking,
   real-time communication, and retail recommendation, require high
   throughput and low latency network to meet the increasing demands
   from customers.  Meanwhile, new trends in data-centers, like resource
   disaggregation, heterogeneous computing, block storage over NVMe,
   etc., continuously drive the need for high-speed networks.  Recently,
   high-speed networks, with 40Gbps to 100Gbps link speed, are deployed
   in many large data-centers.

   Conventional software TCP/IP stacks incur high latencies and
   substantial CPU overhead, and have limited applications from fully
   utilizing the physical network capacities.  RDMA over Converged

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   Ethernet (RoCE), however, has shown very good low-delay and
   throughput performance in small and lightly loaded networks, due to
   the ability of OS bypassing and a lossless transport that performs
   hop-by-hop flow control, i.e., PFC.  Nevertheless, in a large data-
   center network (with tens of thousands of machines) with bursty
   traffic, PFC backpressure leads to cascaded queue buildups and
   collateral damages to victim flows, resulting in neither Low latency
   nor high throughput [Guo2016rdma].  Therefore, high-speed networks
   still face fundamental challenges to deliver the three aforementioned

   This document describes LDCP, a scalable end-to-end congestion
   control that achieves low latency even under high network
   utilization.  The key insight behind LDCP is using ACKs to grant to
   or revoke from senders credits, in order to mimic receiver-driven
   pulling.  LDCP requires data receivers to reply ACKs as fast as
   possible, preferably one ACK for each data packet received (per-
   packet ACK).  The congestion window is adjusted on the per-ACK basis
   using a parameterized AIMD algorithm.  This algorithm manages to
   smooth out the traffic burstiness and stabilize the queue size at
   ultra-low level, preventing queue buildups and preserving high link
   utilization.  A first-RTT bandwidth acquisition algorithm is also
   proposed to allow new flows to start sending at a large rate, but
   excessive packets will be actively dropped by WRED if they overwhelm
   the network, in order to protect on-going flows.  When heavy
   congestion happens due to a large number of concurrent flows
   contending for the bottleneck link, e.g., large-scale incast, LDCP
   allows the congestion window to be beneath one packet, so the number
   of flows that LDCP can endure remarkably increases compared with TCP
   or DCTCP.

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

2.  LDCP algorithm

   LDCP involves primarily two algorithms: a fast start algorithm that
   is used in the first RTT, and a stable stage algorithm that governs
   the rest lifespan of a flow.  Each algorithm works with a separate
   ECN setting respectively.  Because we want to use as fewer priority
   classes as possible, we leverage the common WRED/ECN [CiscoGuide2012]
   [RFC3168] feature in commodity switches to support multiple ECN
   marking policies within one priority class.

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2.1.  ECN

   LDCP employs WRED/ECN at intermediate switches to mark packets when
   congestion happens [Floyd1993random].  Instead of using the average
   queue size for marking as in the original RED proposal, LDCP employs
   instant queue based ECN to give more precise congestion information
   to end hosts [Alizadeh2010data] [Kuzmanovic2005power].  The switch is
   configured with four parameters: K_min, K_max, P_max and buf_max, and
   it is going to mark a packet with a probability function as follows,

   if q < K_min, p = 0

   if K_min <= q < K_max, p = (q-K_min)/(K_max-K_min)*P_max

   if q >= K_max, p = 1

   If q is larger than the maximum buffer of the port (buf_max), the
   packet is dropped.  This general ECN model works for both algorithms
   developed in LDCP but with different sets of parameters,
   respectively.  We will explain below.

2.2.  Stable stage algorithm

   In stable stage, i.e., rounds after the fast start (sec 2.3), the
   flow is in the congestion avoidance state, and LDCP works as follows.

   The sender maintains a congestion window (cw) to control the sending
   rate of data packets.  The receiver returns ACK packets to confirm
   the delivery of these data packets.  Meanwhile, the CE (Congestion
   Experienced) flag in data packets are echoed back by ECN-Echo (ECE)
   flags in the ACKs.  An ACK that does not carry an ECE flag (ECE=0)
   informs the sender that the network is not congested, while an ACK
   that carries an ECE flag (ECE=1) informs the sender that the network
   is congested.

   There could be two possible ways regarding the number of ACKs
   generated.  The simplest one is to have the receiver to generate an
   ACK for every received data packet (i.e., per-packet ACK) and set the
   ECE flag if the corresponding packet has a CE mark.  Alternatively,
   if the receiver is busy, it can also employ delayed ACK to generate
   an ACK for at most m data packets if they all are not marked, but
   would generate an ACK with ECE flag immediately once a CE marked
   packet is received.  The goal of this receiver behavior is to ensure
   that the sender has precise information of CE marking.  A similar
   design is also in [Alizadeh2010data].

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   An LDCP sender updates the cw upon each ACK arrival according to the
   ECE marks, namely per-ACK window adjustment (PAWA).  An ECE=0 flag
   increases the cw, while an ECE=1 flag decreases the cw.  When per-
   packet ACK is obeyed on the receiver, the update rule is as follows:

   if ECN-Echo = 0, cw = cw + alpha/cw

   if ECN-Echo = 1, cw = cw - beta --(1)

   where alpha and beta are constants, and cw >= 1 (0 < alpha, beta <=

   Eq. (1) reveals that if an incoming ACK does not carry an ECE flag
   (ECE=0), it grants the sender credits, and cw is increased by alpha/
   cw; if the ACK carries an ECE flag (ECE=1), it revokes credits from
   the sender, and cw is decreased by beta.

   In essence, Eq. (1) implements an additive increase and
   multiplicative decrease (AIMD) policy similar to previous work, e.g.,
   DCTCP [Alizadeh2010data].  But PAWA, together with per-packet ACK,
   has following benefits: Firstly, PAWA reacts to each received ECE
   mark (or no mark) immediately, rather than employs a RTT-granularity
   averaging process and reacts only once per RTT (like DCTCP does), so
   it is more responsive and accurate to congestions.  Secondly, along
   with WRED/ECN, PAWA is able to de-synchronize flows.  Instead of
   cutting a large portion of cw immediately upon the first ECE-marked
   ACK (like ECN-enabled TCP does), LDCP distributes the window
   reduction in one round.  Such de-synchronization is effective to
   reduce the window fluctuation and stabilize a low queue at the
   switches.  Not only that, per-packet ACK allows ACK-clocking to
   better pace out the packets: as each ACK confirms the delivery of one
   packet, an ACK arrival also clocks out one new packet, hence the
   packets are almost equispaced.  Finally, PAWA has a tiny state
   footprint, i.e., a single state of cw, and is easy to implement in
   hardware compared with DCTCP.

   Per-packet ACK and PAWA match the principle in discrete control
   systems: increase the controller's action rate but take a small
   control step per action.  They are effective in improving the control
   stability and accuracy.

   If delayed ACK is used on the receiver side, an ACK can confirm the
   delivery of multiple (denoted by n) packets, then Eq. (1) becomes:

   if ECN-Echo = 0, cw = cw + n * alpha/cw

   if ECN-Echo = 1, cw = cw - n * beta --(2)

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   In extremely congested cases where a large number of flows contending
   for the bottleneck link, e.g., heavy incast with thousands of
   senders, even each flow maintains a window of merely one packet,
   large queue sizes would still be caused.  To handle these situations,
   LDCP allows cw to further reduce beneath one packet.  A flow with a
   cw < 1 is ticked out by a timer, whose timeout is set as RTT/cw.
   Accordingly, the cw updating rule is,

   if ECN-Echo = 0, cw = cw + gamma

   if ECN-Echo = 1, cw = max{gamma,eta * cw}

   where cw < 1.  We choose eta = 1/2. gamma is the increase step when
   ACK is not marked ECE, and is also the minimum window size (typical
   values of gamma include 1/4, 1/8, 1/16).

2.3.  Zero-RTT bandwidth acquisition

   Setting up an initial rate at the very beginning of a flow is
   challenging.  Since the sender does not ever get a chance to probe
   the network, it faces a difficult dilemma: If it picks up a too large
   initial window (IW), it may cause congestion inside network,
   resulting in large queue buildup or even packet drops; On the other
   hand, if the sender chooses a too conservative IW, it may lose the
   transmission opportunities in the first RTT and hurt short flow
   performance greatly, which could have finished in one round.  LDCP
   resolves this dilemma with a zero-RTT bandwidth acquisition
   algorithm, which allows the sender to fast start opportunistically
   without adverse impacts to on-going flows in stable stage.  In what
   follows, the design of the fast start algorithm is firstly described,
   afterwards an implementation using existing techniques is provided.

   Specifically, when a flow starts, the sender chooses a large enough
   Initial Window (e.g., BDP) and sends out as many packets as possible
   in the first RTT.  (For brevity, packets transmitted by a sender in
   the first RTT are denoted by first-RTT-packets, and packets
   transmitted in the congestion avoidance state (sec 2.2) are referred
   to as stable-stage-packets.)  By intention, first-RTT-packets are
   marked to have lower priority, while stable-stage-packets are marked
   to have high priority.  The two priority classes are controlled by
   two separate AQM policies.

   The first-RTT-packets are controlled by an AQM policy which simply
   drops packets if they are sent too aggressively, i.e., the queue
   exceeds a configured threshold K.  A network switch receives packets
   transmitted by the senders and puts them into a queue.  The queue
   distinguishes the first-RTT-packets and the stable-stage-packets
   according to the marks in the packets.  Because first-RTT-packets are

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   with low priority, they will be dropped if the receiving queue size
   exceeds the configured threshold, while stable-stage-packets are
   enqueued as long as the queue size is below the queue capacity.
   Stable-stage-packets are dropped only when the queue is full.

   Senders and switches must cooperate.  The sender adds one mark to
   first-RTT-packets, and the switches identify first-RTT-packets using
   this mark; the sender adds another mark to stable-stage-packets, and
   the switches recognize packets sent beyond first RTT based on this

   In summary, first-RTT-packets are sent with a large rate, and
   controlled by a separate AQM, to quickly acquire free bandwidth if
   there is; and low priority is used to protect on-going long flows if
   there is not.

   The above design can be implemented by leveraging a common feature on
   modern switches.  On a commodity switch, the WERD/ECN feature on an
   ECN-enabled queue works as follows.  ECN-capable packets (the two-bit
   ECN fields in IP headers are set to '01' or '10') are subject to ECN-
   marking, while ECN-incapable packets (the two-bit ECN fields in IP
   headers are set to '00') comply with WRED-dropping, i.e., ECN-
   incapable packets are dropped if the queue size exceeds a configured
   threshold K, as in Eq (3).

   if q < K, D(q) = no drop

   if q >= K, D(q) = drop --(3)

   The fast start algorithm makes use of such WERD/ECN feature to
   distinguish first-RTT and stable-stage packets: the sender sets the
   low priority first-RTT-packets to ECN-incapable, and sets the high
   priority stable-stage-packets to ECN-capable.  All the packets carry
   the same DSCP value and are mapped to the same priority queue on
   switches.  This queue is exclusively used by LDCP flows.  First-RTT-
   packets are either dropped or successfully pass the switch.  After
   the first RTT, the sender will count how many in-order packets has
   been acknowledged using ACKs and takes this as a good estimation of
   cw and enters the stable stage (sec 2.2).

   At first glance, the above design might look counterintuitive.  If we
   want to improve the performance of short flows, why should we drop
   their packets, instead of queuing them, even with a higher priority?
   The answer, however, lies in that if we allow blind burst in the
   first RTT, these first-RTT-packets could build excessively large
   queues, e.g., in a heavy incast scenario, and eventually these
   packets may still get dropped.  Therefore, an AQM policy is necessary
   to keep a low queue for the first RTT packets.  An additional benefit

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   of the above strategy is to also give protection to flows in stable
   stage.  Those stable stage flows will experience seldom packet loss
   and constant performance even facing rather dynamic churns of short
   flows.  Finally, we comment that while we could put the first-RTT-
   traffic into a separate high priority queue, we believe it is not
   very necessary.  The reason is with LDCP's stable stage algorithm,
   the queue is already small at the switch, and thus the benefit for a
   separate priority queue may be limited.  Given the limited priority
   queues in Ethernet, it is a fair choice to map both into one priority
   queue while applying different WRED/ECN polices to control their

3.  Reference Implementations

3.1.  Implementation on programmable NIC

   LDCP has been implemented with RoCEv2 on a programmable many-core NIC
   (referred to as uNIC). uNIC has hardware enhancements for RoCEv2
   packet (IB/UDP/IP stack) encapsulation and decapsulation.  The RoCEv2
   stack, as well as the congestion control algorithm, is implemented by
   microcode software on uNIC.

   Congestion window cw is firstly added to RoCEv2 to limit the in-
   flight data size.  RoCEv2 uses Packet Sequence Number (PSN) to ensure
   in-order delivery, but PSN can have jump overs if SEND/WRITE requests
   are interleaved with READ requests, and packets can have different
   sizes.  Therefore, it is difficult for cw to calculate the data size
   by PSN.  A new byte sequence number -- LDCP Sequence Number (LSN) --
   is used to slide the window.  Packets belonging to READ, SEND/WRITE
   requests share the same LSN space, while packets of READ Responses
   have a separate LSN space, coded in a customized header.

   In the stable stage of LDCP, cw is updated in the PAWA manner, and
   the uNIC is programmed to reply an ACK for each data packet it
   receives (uNIC is able to automatically coalesce ACKs based on its
   current load), which echoes back the CE mark if the data packet is
   marked.  Note that there is no ACK packets for Read Response in the
   RDMA protocol, the uNIC is also programmed to reply ACKs for Read
   Responses to enable congestion control.  Because out-of-order
   delivery of Read Responses can be discovered by the requester, and a
   repeat read request will be issued, it is not necessary to add a NAK
   protocol for Read Responses to ensure reliability.  The CE-Echo bits
   are coded in a customized header encapsulated in the ACK.

   On switches, fast-start packet needs WRED-dropping while stable-stage
   packets need ECN-marking, so the packets should carry different flags
   to be identified by the switches.  The WERD/ECN feature on an ECN-
   enabled queue works as follows: ECN-capable packets are subject to

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   ECN-marking, while ECN-incapable packets follows WRED-dropping, i.e.,
   packets are dropped if the queue size exceeds the threshold K.
   Therefore, the WERD/ECN feature is used to tag fast-start and stable-
   stage packets: uNIC sets fast-start packets to ECN-incapable and
   stable-stage packets ECN-capable.  All the packets are mapped to the
   same priority queue.

   If tail loss happens for the fast-start packets, the sender needs to
   wait for retransmission timeout.  To prevent this problem, the last
   fast-start packet is set to ECN-capable, that is the IW-th packet if
   the message is larger than BDP, or the last packet of a message if
   its size is below BDP.  The ECN-capable packet will not be dropped by
   WRED, so it can pass the switches and arrive at the receiver,
   allowing the receiver to detect if packet loss happens.

   If a new flow does not finish within the fast-start stage, it will
   transfer to the stable stage.  There are two transition conditions:
   1) Packet loss is detected in the fast-start stage, which indicates
   the network is overloaded. cw in stable stage is set to the number of
   packets that are accumulatively acknowledged before packet loss.  The
   lost packets are retransmitted using go-back-N. 2) When a full IW of
   packets have all been acknowledged.  (IW is set to BDP as suggested
   in sec 2.3.)  This condition is for flows that are larger than BDP
   and finish the fast-start stage without packet loss.  Since all
   packets sent during fast-start stage are confirmed, the stable stage
   algorithm now takes over and cw is set to BDP.  Note that
   acknowledging a BDP size of data needs two RTTs (the ACK for the IW-
   th packet returns at the end of second RTT), but sending BDP-sized
   data only requires one RTT.  After the end of the first RTT, the flow
   will not stop sending (because the ACK of the first packet will
   return to free the cw) but set the packets to ECN-capable ever since.

   All these implementation details are transparent to user
   applications.  LDCP supports all RDMA transport operations (READ,
   WRITE, SEND, with immediate data or not, ATOMIC), and thus has full
   support of IB verbs.

3.2.  Implementation on commercial NIC

   LDCP has been implemented on Mellanox CX6-DX NIC as well.  This NIC
   has a programmable congestion control (PCC) platform that allows
   users to define their own algorithms, but the RoCE protocol are
   standard and are implemented by ASIC.  In PCC users can issue a
   request to measure the round-trip time (RTT), and a standalone RTT
   request packet will be sent among data packets to the receiver NIC.
   Upon receiving an RTT requet, the receiver NIC returns a standalone
   RTT response packet to the sender, then the sender compares the
   timestamp difference to calculate the RTT.

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   When a data-sender NIC receives ACKs, NACKs, CNPs and RTT responses,
   or after transmitting a burst of data, it generates corresponding
   type of events and pushes the events to PCC.  In PCC users can define
   event-handling functions to calculate the transmitting rate.
   Afterwards, the rate is fed to the transmitting hardware to control
   the speed at which the data packets are put onto the wire.

   LDCP is implemented by the event-handling functions.  As LDCP is an
   AIMD algorithm, the AI logic means the window size is increased by a
   fixed step per-RTT, and the MD logic reveals that window is decreased
   by beta upon *every* CNP.  Therefore, MD can be easily implemented in
   the CNP handling function, while the difficulty is how to implement
   AI since standard RoCE does not have per-packet ACK for Send/Write
   requests, and Read Responses do not have ACKs at all.  Eventually,
   the implementation of AI resorts to the RTT request and response.
   The RTT request is issued in this way: at the beginning of a flow, an
   RTT request is sent out, and the next RTT request is sent after the
   RTT response of the previous request is received (or a timeout is
   experienced).  Upon the arrival of an RTT response, it is for sure
   that one RTT has elapsed and the window should increase by alpha.
   Therefore, the AI logic is implemented in the RTT response handling
   function where the window grows by alpha.  Divided by RTT, the window
   is converted to rate, and the rate is provided to the TX pipeline via
   an interface in PCC.

   In conclusion, the LDCP implementation on Mellanox CX6-DX is quite
   straightforward and does not require any customization.  Evaluation
   results reveal that LDCP outperforms DCQCN and TIMELY remarkably in
   both throughput and latency.

4.  IANA Considerations

   This document makes no request of IANA.

5.  Security Considerations

   To be added.

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

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

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   [RFC3168]  Ramakrishnan, K., Floyd, S., and D. Black, "The Addition
              of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP",
              RFC 3168, September 2001,

6.2.  Informative References

              Alizadeh, M., Greenberg, A., Maltz, D., Padhye, J., Patel,
              P., Prabhakar, B., Sengupta, S., and M. Sridharan, "Data
              Center TCP (DCTCP)", ACM SIGCOMM 63-74, 2010.

              "Cisco IOS Quality of Service Solutions Configuration
              Guide",  , 2012.

              Floyd, S. and V. Jacobson, "Random early detection
              gateways for congestion avoidance", IEEE/ACM Transactions
              on networking 1, 4 (1993), 397-413, 1993.

              Guo, C., Wu, H., Deng, Z., Soni, G., Ye, J., Padhye, J.,
              and M. Lipshteyn, "RDMA over commodity Ethernet at scale",
              ACM SIGCOMM 202-215, 2016.

              Kuzmanovic, A., "The power of explicit congestion
              notification", ACM SIGCOMM 61-72, 2005.

Authors' Addresses

   Huichen Dai (editor)
   Huawei Mansion, No.3, Xinxi Road, Haidian District

   Email: daihuichen@huawei.com

   Binzhang Fu
   Huawei Mansion, No.3, Xinxi Road, Haidian District

   Email: fubinzhang@huawei.com

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   Kun Tan
   Huawei Mansion, No.3, Xinxi Road, Haidian District

   Email: kun.tan@huawei.com

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