Network Working Group                                         C. Huitema
Internet-Draft                                      Private Octopus Inc.
Intended status: Experimental                             March 17, 2021
Expires: September 18, 2021

              Quic Timestamps For Measuring One-Way Delays


   The TIMESTAMP frame can be added to Quic packets when one way delay
   measurements are useful.  The timestamp is set to the number of
   microseconds from the beginning of the node's epoch to the time at
   which the packet is sent.  The draft defines the "enable_timestamp"
   transport parameter for negotiating the use of this extension frame,
   and the TIMESTAMP frame.

Status of This Memo

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   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on September 18, 2021.

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   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Terms and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Negotiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
       2.1.1.  Zero RTT and Timestamp Option . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Sending TIMESTAMP frames  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.3.  TIMESTAMP frame format  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.4.  RTT Measurements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.5.  Choice of Epoch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.6.  One-Way Delay Measurements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  Discussion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.1.  Management of Time  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   6.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   The QUIC Transport Protocol [I-D.ietf-quic-transport] provides a
   secure, multiplexed connection for transmitting reliable streams of
   application data.  The algorithms for QUIC Loss Detection and
   Congestion Control [I-D.ietf-quic-recovery] use measurement of Round
   Trip Time (RTT) to determine when packets should be retransmitted.
   RTT measurements are useful, but there are however many cases in
   which more precise One-Way Delay (1WD) measurements enable more
   efficient Loss Detection and Congestion Control.

   An example would be the Low Extra Delay Background Transport (LEDBAT)
   [RFC6817] which uses variations in transmission delay to detect
   competition for transmission resource.  Experience shows that while
   LEDBAT may be implemented using RTT measurements, it is somewhat
   inefficient because it will cause unnecessary slowdowns in case of
   queues or delayed ACKs on the return path.  Using 1WD solves these
   issues.  Similar argument can be made for most delay-based

   We propose to enable one way delay measurements in QUIC by defining a
   TIMESTAMP frame carrying the time at which a packet is sent.  The use
   of this extension frame is negotiated with a transport parameter,

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   "enable_timestamp".  When the extension is negotiated by both
   parties, this frame can be used in conjunction with other such as ACK
   to measure one way delays.

1.1.  Terms and Definitions

   The keywords "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.

2.  Specification

   The enable_timestamp transport parameter used for negotiating the use
   of the extension frame is defined in Section 2.1.  The timestamp
   frame format is defined in Section 2.3.

2.1.  Negotiation

   The use of the timestamp frame extension is negotiated using a
   transport parameter:

   o  enable_timestamp (TBD)

   The enable timestamp transport parameter is included if the endpoint
   wants to receive or accepts to send timestamp frames for this
   connection.  This parameter is encoded as a variable integer as
   specified in section 16 of [I-D.ietf-quic-transport].  It can take
   one of the following three values:

   1.  I would like to receive TIMESTAMP frames

   2.  I am able to generate TIMESTAMP frames

   3.  I am able to generate TIMESTAMP frames and I would like to
       receive them

   Peers receiving another value SHOULD terminate the connection with a

   A peer that advertises its capability of sending TIMESTAMP frames
   using option values 2 or 3 MUST NOT send these frames if the other
   peer does not announce advertise its desire to receive them by
   sending the enable_timestamp TP with option 1 or 3.  This condition
   is described as "successful sending negotiation" in Section 2.2.

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   Peers that receive TIMESTAMP frames when they have not advertised
   their desire to receive them MAY terminate the connection with a

2.1.1.  Zero RTT and Timestamp Option

   Implementations MUST NOT remember the value of the enable_timestamp
   parameter and try to use it when attempting 0-RTT on subsequent
   connections.  This rules is in line with the suggestions in section
   7.4.2 of [I-D.ietf-quic-transport] to adopt conservative defaults and
   avoid compatibility issues.  It is also consistent with the
   specification to only use TIMESTAMP frames in 1RTT packets, see
   Section 2.2.

2.2.  Sending TIMESTAMP frames

   Following successful sending negotiation, a peer SHOULD add a
   timestamp frame to 1RTT packets carrying an ACK frame.  This
   specification does not impose a placement of TIMESTAMP frames in the
   packet.  They MAY be sent either before or after the ACK frame.

   Implementations SHOULD NOT send more than one TIMESTAMP frame per
   packet, but they MAY send more than one in rare circumstances.  When
   multiple TIMESTAMP frames are present in a packet, the receiver
   retains the frame indicating the largest timestamp.

   Implementations MUST NOT send the TIMESTAMP frame in Initial, 0-RTT
   or Handshake packets, because there is a risk that the peer will
   receive such packets before the negotiation completes.  This
   restriction may appear excessive because some Handshake packets are
   typically sent after the negotiation completes, but restricting
   TIMESTAMP frames to 1RTT packets is simpler and less error prone than
   allowing the TIMESTAMP frame in just a fraction of Handshake packets.

2.3.  TIMESTAMP frame format

   TIMESTAMP frames are identified by the frame type:


   TIMESTAMP frames carry a single parameter, the timestamp.

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    0                   1                   2                   3
    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
   |                          Timestamp (i)                      ...

              Figure 1: TIMESTAMP Frame Format with Timestamp

   The timestamp encodes the number of microseconds since the beginning
   of the epoch, as measured by the peer at the time at which the packet
   is sent.  It is encoded using the exponent selected by the peer in
   the ack_delay_exponent.  The exponent reduced timestamp is encoded as
   a variable length integer.

   TIMESTAMP frames are not ack-eliciting.  Their loss does not require

   For congestion control, TIMESTAMP frames are treated like ACK frames.
   Section 7 of [I-D.ietf-quic-recovery] specifies that "packets
   containing only ACK frames do not count towards bytes in flight and
   are not congestion controlled".  The same applies to packets
   containing only TIMESTAMP frames, or a combination of ACK frames and
   TIMESTAMP frames.

2.4.  RTT Measurements

   RTT measurements are performed as specified in Section 4 of
   [I-D.ietf-quic-recovery], without reference to the Timestamp
   parameter of the Timestamped ACK frames.

2.5.  Choice of Epoch

   Each peer can chose its epoch as it sees fit, but it MUST remain
   constant for the duration of the connection, and the resulting
   timestamps MUST be positive integers.  Plausible values for the epoch
   could be:

   o  the beginning of the connection, i.e., the time at which the first
      packet for that connection was sent or received.

   o  the time at which the first timestamp is sent.

   Chosing values close to the beginning of the connection ensures that
   the timestamps value will be at most equal to the duration of the
   connection, which limits the amount of bytes required to encode the

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2.6.  One-Way Delay Measurements

   An endpoint generates a One Way Delay Sample on receiving a packet
   containing both a TIMESTAMP frame and an ACK frame that meets the
   following two conditions:

   o  the largest acknowledged packet number is newly acknowledged, and

   o  at least one of the newly acknowledged packets was ack-eliciting.

   The One Way Delay sample, latest_1wd, is generated as the time
   elapsed since the largest acknowledged packet was sent, corrected for
   the difference between local time at the sending peer and connection
   time at the receiving peer, phase_shift.

   latest_1wd = timestamp - send_time_of_largest_acked - phase_shift

   By convention, the phase_shift is estimated upon reception of the
   first RTT sample, first_rtt.  It is set to:

   phase_shift = timestamp - send_time_of_largest_acked - latest_rtt/2

   In that formula, we assume that the local time are measured in
   microseconds since the beginning of the connection.  The formula does
   not depend on the choice of epoch by each peer, but simply of the
   hypothesis that delays on the data path and the return path are about

   We understand that clocks may drift over time, and that simply
   estimating a phase shift at the beginning of a connection may be too
   simplistic for long duration connections.  Implementations MAY adopt
   different strategies to reestimate the phase shift at appropriate
   intervals.  Specifying these strategies is beyond the scope of this

3.  Discussion

   This document replaces an earlier proposal to modify the format of
   the ACK frame by including a timestamp inside the modified frame.
   The revised proposal encodes the timestamp independently of the ACK
   frame, which requires slightly more overhead to encode the type of
   the TIMESTAMP frame.

   Defining an independent frame allows for more flexibility.  This
   draft defines the combination of TIMESTAMP with ACK frames, but they
   could be combined with other frames as well.  For example, adding a
   TIMESTAMP to packets carrying a Path Response could allow measuring
   one way delays before deciding to migrate to a new path.

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3.1.  Management of Time

   There are two known issues with deducing one way delays from RTT
   measurements: clock drift and undefined phase difference.

   The phase difference problem is easy to understand.  We start from a
   list of measurements associating the send time of packet number x
   (s[x]), the receive time of the acknowledgement of packet (a[x]), and
   the timestamp indicating when packet x was received by the peer
   (p[x]).  The peer's timestamp are expressed in the peer's clock.

   Suppose that we model the peer's clock as local time plus phase
   difference f, and that we model the rtt as the sum of two one way
   delays, up (u[x]) and down (d[x]).  We get:

       u[x] = p[x] + f - s[x]

       d[x] = a[x] - p[x] - f

   Just looking at the equation shows that the value of f cannot be
   determined from the a series of measurement (s[x], a[x], p[x]).  You
   can just add constraints that all u[x] and d[x] are positive numbers,
   which gives a range of plausible values for f: max(s[x] - p[x]) < f <
   min(a[x]-p[x]).  In case you wonder, you get similar formulations in
   a multipath scenario.  The plausible range may narrow to the min rtt
   of the shortest path, but no further.

   The phase difference uncertainty is not a big issue in practice,
   because control algorithms are much more interested in the variations
   of the delays than by their absolute values.  Suppose we want to
   compare one way delays at measurement (x) and (y).  We get:

       u[x] = p[x] + f - s[x]

       u[y] = p[y] + f - s[y]

       u[x] - u[y] = p[x] - p[y] - s[x] + s[y]

   The phase difference does not affect the measurement of variations in
   the one way delay.

   The clock drift is another matter.  All the equations above assume
   that the local clock and the remote clock have the same frequency.
   This is an approximation.  Clocks drift over time.  Instead of just
   considering a stable phase difference, one should consider the sum of
   a phase difference and a time-varying drift component.  Estimating
   drift is a complex problem.  This was studied in detail in the
   development of the Network Time Protocol (NTP) [RFC5905].  In theory,

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   implementations of Quic could copy the algorithms of NTP to build a
   model of the clocks used by the local node and the peer.  That would
   be very complex.

   Fortunately, implementations of Quic no not need to implement
   something as complex as NTP.  Most time based algorithms are only
   interested in variations of delays over a short horizon.  Clock drift
   happens at a slow pace, maybe 1 millisecond per minute.  Time base
   congestion control algorithms already have to cope with the potential
   drift of the minimum RTT due to changing network conditions.  They do
   that by periodically restarting the measurement of the minimum RTT
   after some delay, typically less than a minute.  A simple
   implementation of one way delay measurements could follow the same
   approach, for example resetting the phase difference every 30 seconds
   or so.

4.  Security Considerations

   The Timestamp value in the TIMESTAMP frame is asserted by the sender
   of the packet.  Adversarial peers could chose values of the timestamp
   designed to exercise side effects in congestion control algorithms or
   other algorithms relying on the one-way delays.  This can be
   mitigated by running plausibility checks on the received values.  For
   example, each peer can maintain statistics not just on the One Way
   Delays, but also on the differences between One Way Delays and RTT,
   and detect outlier values.  Peers can also compare the differences
   between timestamps in packets carrying acknowledgements and the
   differences between the sending times of corresponding packets, and
   detect anomalies if the delays between acknowledging packets appears
   shorter than the delays when sending them.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document registers a new value in the QUIC Transport Parameter

   Value: TBD (using value 0x7158 in early deployments)

   Parameter Name: enable_timestamp

   Specification: Indicates that the connection should use TimeStamped
   ACK frames

   This document also registers a new value in the QUIC Frame Type

   Value: TBD (using value 757 in early deployments)

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   Frame Name: TIMESTAMP

   Specification: Timestamp set at the time packet was sent

6.  Acknowledgements

   Thanks to Dmitri Tikhonov, Tal Misrahi, Watson Ladd, Martin Thomson
   and Ian Swett for their reviews and suggestions.

7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

              Iyengar, J. and I. Swett, "QUIC Loss Detection and
              Congestion Control", draft-ietf-quic-recovery-34 (work in
              progress), January 2021.

              Iyengar, J. and M. Thomson, "QUIC: A UDP-Based Multiplexed
              and Secure Transport", draft-ietf-quic-transport-34 (work
              in progress), January 2021.

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

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

7.2.  Informative References

   [RFC5905]  Mills, D., Martin, J., Ed., Burbank, J., and W. Kasch,
              "Network Time Protocol Version 4: Protocol and Algorithms
              Specification", RFC 5905, DOI 10.17487/RFC5905, June 2010,

   [RFC6817]  Shalunov, S., Hazel, G., Iyengar, J., and M. Kuehlewind,
              "Low Extra Delay Background Transport (LEDBAT)", RFC 6817,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6817, December 2012,

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Author's Address

   Christian Huitema
   Private Octopus Inc.
   427 Golfcourse Rd
   Friday Harbor  WA 98250


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