Internet-Draft                                               Matt Mathis
                                                            John Heffner
                                                             Kevin Lahey
                                                            Oct 19, 2003

                           Path MTU Discovery

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that other
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
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   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at


   [@@ To be rewritten]

   This document describes Path MTU Discovery for the Internet.  It is
   largely derived from RFC 1191 and RFC 1981, which describe ICMP based
   Path MTU Discovery for IP versions 4 and 6, plus a robust new

   The general strategy of the new algorithm is to start with a small
   MTU and probe upward, testing successively larger MTUs by probing
   with single packets.  If the probe is successfully delivered, then

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   the MTU is raised.  If the probe is lost, it is treated as an MTU
   limitation and not as a congestion signal.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

   When one Internet node has a large amount of data to send to another
   node, the data is transmitted in a series of IP packets.  It is
   usually preferable that these packets be of the largest size that can
   successfully traverse the path from the source node to the
   destination node.  This packet size is referred to as the Path MTU
   (PMTU), and it is equal to the minimum link MTU of all the links in a

   This document describes a path MTU discovery (PMTUD) method based on
   the earlier methods described in the standards track documents,
   RFC1191 and RFC1981, with the addition of a new algorithm that
   searches for the proper MTU by probing with successively larger
   packets.  Large sections of this document are taken directly from
   RFC1191 and RFC1981.

   The methods described in this document apply to IPv4, IPv6, TCP, and
   other transport protocols.   This document does not define a
   protocol, but rather a method to use features of existing protocols
   to discover the path MTU.  It does not require cooperation from the
   lower layers (except that they are consistent about what packet sizes
   are acceptable) or the far node.  Variants in implementations will
   not cause problems with interoperability.

   For sake of clarity we uniformly prefer TCP and IPv6 terminology.  In
   the terminology section we also present the analogous IPv4 terms and
   concepts for the IPv6 terminology.  In a few situations we describe
   specific details that are different between IPv4 and IPv6.

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

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   [[This document still bears markup notes, indicated with square
   brackets [] or @@@@ signs.]]

2. Terminology

   IP          - Either IPv4 [IPv4-SPEC] or IPv6 [IPv6-SPEC].

   node        - A device that implements IP.

   router      - A node that forwards IP packets not explicitly
                 addressed to itself.

   host        - Any node that is not a router.

   upper layer - A protocol layer immediately above IP.  Examples are
                 transport protocols such as TCP and UDP, control
                 protocols such as ICMP, routing protocols such as OSPF,
                 and Internet or lower-layer protocols being "tunneled"
                 over (i.e., encapsulated in) IP such as IPX,
                 AppleTalk, IP itself.

   link        - A communication facility or medium over which nodes can
                 communicate at the link layer, i.e., the layer
                 immediately below IPv6.  Examples are Ethernets (simple
                 or bridged); PPP links; X.25, Frame Relay, or ATM
                 networks; and Internet (or higher) layer "tunnels",
                 such as tunnels over IPv4 or IPv6 itself.

   interface   - A node‚ÇÖs attachment to a link.

   address     - An IP-layer identifier for an interface or a set of

   packet      - An IP header plus payload.

   MTU         - Maximum Transmission Unit, the size in bytes of the
                 largest packet that can be transmitted on a link or
                 path.   Note that this could more properly be called
                 the IP MTU, to be consistent with how other standards
                 organizations use the term.  Beware that the definition
                 used in this and other IETF documents is not the same
                 as the definition used in other contexts.

   link MTU    - The Maximum Transmission Unit, i.e., maximum packet
                 size in octets, that can be conveyed in one piece over
                 a link.

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   path        - The set of links traversed by a packet between a source
                 node and a destination node

   path MTU    - The minimum link MTU of all the links in a path between
                 a source node and a destination node.

   PMTU        - Path MTU

   Path MTU Discovery,
   PMTUD       - Process by which a node learns the PMTU of a path

   Packet Too Big message
               - An ICMP message reporting that an IP packet is too
                 large to forward.  This is the IPv6 term that
                 corresponds to the IPv4 "ICMP Can‚ÇÖt fragment" message.

   flow id     - A combination of a source address and a non-zero
                 IPv6 flow label.

   packetization protocol
               - The layer of the network stack which segments data into

   flow        - A context in which MTU discovery is applied.  This is
                 naturally an instance of the packetization protocol, e.g.
                 half of a TCP connection.

   MPS         - The maximum payload size available to a flow, usually
                 over a specific path.  As an example, this is the maximum
                 TCP segment size, including TCP headers but not including
                 IP headers.

   probe packet- A packet which is being used to test for a larger MTU.

   probe size  - The size of a packet being used to probe for a larger MTU.

   successful probe
               - The probe packet was delivered through the network.

   inconclusive probe
               - The probe packet was not delivered, but there were other lost
                 packets too close to the probe.   By implication the probe
                 might have been lost due to something other than MTU, so the
                 results are inconclusive.

   failed probe
               - The probe packet was not delivered and there were not other
                 lost packets close to the probe.

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   probe gap   - The L3 payload data that will need to be retransmitted if the
                 probe is not delivered.

[[Deprecated terms - these terms should only appear in very specific parts of
the document.


Can‚ÇÖt fragment messages

lower layers

@@@ remove as the document matures]]

3. Overview

   This document describes a technique to dynamically discover the MTU
   of a path.  These procedures are applicable to TCP and other
   transport- or application-level packetization protocols which
   implement similar features.

   The general strategy of the new procedure is to find the proper MTU
   by starting a connection using relatively small packets and then
   probing with progressively larger packets (containing application
   data).  If a probe packet is successfully delivered, then the path
   MTU is raised.  The isolated loss of a probe packet (with or without
   a Packet Too Big message) is treated as an indication of an MTU
   limit, and not as a congestion indicator.

   PMTUD can optionally process Packet Too Big messages for faster
   convergence in exchange for a slight decrease in robustness.
   Processing malicious or erroneous Packet Too Big messages can cause
   PMTU discovery to arrive at the incorrect MTU for a path, which is
   likely to reduce protocol performance.  The document describes three
   options for processing Packet Too Big messages: completely ignore
   them, only accept them in response to probes or accept all Packet Too
   Big messages (the previous approach).

   In addition, PMTUD can be extended with heuristics to use alternate
   criteria to select PMTU.  For example, on a path that is so congested
   that the fair share window is too small (smaller than 5 kB), TCP may
   be better behaved with 512-byte packets than with 1500-byte packets
   since with the larger packets the window would be too small to
   trigger Fast Retransmit.

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   Relatively few details of this procedure affect interoperability with
   other standards or Internet protocols.  These details are specified
   in RFC2119 standards language in the requirements section.  The vast
   majority of the implementation details are recommendations based on
   experiences with earlier versions of path MTU discovery.  These are
   motivated by a desire to maximize robustness in the presence of less
   than ideal implementations as they exist in the field.

4. Requirements

   All Internet nodes SHOULD implement Path MTU Discovery in order to
   discover and take advantage of the largest MTU supported along the
   Internet path.

   Nodes not implementing Path MTU Discovery must use a default MTU as
   specified by the respective IP protocols.  For IPv6 the default MTU
   is 1280 bytes, the minimum link MTU as defined in [IPv6-SPEC].  For
   IPv4 it is 576 bytes, as specified in [IPv4-SPEC].

   Links MUST not deliver packets that are larger than their true MTU.
   Links that have parametric limitations (e.g. MTU bounds due to
   limited clock stability) MUST include explicit mechanisms to
   consistently reject packets that might otherwise be
   nondeterministically delivered.

   When a packet is too large to traverse a link, the attached router,
   if any, SHOULD send a Packet Too Big message (IPv6) or ICMP, can‚ÇÖt
   fragment message (IPv4 with DF set), as appropriate.

   The requirements below only apply to those implementations that
   include Path MTU Discovery.

   A flow MUST NOT send a probe packet until at least one packet of its
   full current MPS is acknowledged.  This implicitly limits successful
   probes to once per two round trips.  To make the algorithm more
   robust in the presence of multi-path routing, a flow SHOULD NOT send
   a probe packet until at least a full window or an appropriately large
   quantity of packets have been successfully acknowledged.

   Before a probe can be sent, the flow MUST be able to produce a packet
   containing a payload of at least the candidate MPS.  That is, it must
   have enough data or be able to pad the packet to the full desired
   size.  If the flow is able to send a probe with the exception of

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   having enough data to

   Failed and inconclusive probes MUST NOT be sent more frequently than
   the normal congestion interval for the current average window size.

   A packetization protocol which does loss recovery MUST use a loss
   detection mechanism which does not result in spurious retransmission
   of any additional data when a probe packet is lost.

   During the probe, the normal congestion control machinery should
   remain in effect except when only the probe gap is detected as lost.
   In this case the normal multiplicative congestion window reduction is
   suppressed.  If any other data is detected as lost, all normal
   congestion control MUST take place.

   If the probe is successful, the current MPS is updated to the
   candidate MPS.  If window and other congestion state variables are
   kept in units of packets, they MUST be rescaled to preserve the
   current window size in bytes.

5. Implementation Issues

   This section discusses a number of issues related to the
   implementation of Path MTU Discovery.  This is not a specification,
   but rather a set of notes provided as an aid for implementers.

   The issues include:

   - What layer or layers implement Path MTU Discovery?

   - Accounting for headers

   - How is the PMTU information cached?

   - How are ICMP messages processed

   - How is stale PMTU information removed?

   - How to implement PMTUD with TCP?

   - What should other transport and higher layers do?

   - What should tunnels above IP do?

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5.1. Layering

   In the IP architecture, the choice of what size packet to send is
   made by a protocol at a layer above IP.  This memo refers to such a
   protocol as a "packetization protocol".  Packetization protocols are
   usually transport protocols (for example, TCP) but can also be
   higher-layer protocols (for example, protocols built on top of UDP).

   This memo uses the concept of a "flow" to define the scope in which
   path MTU information is used.  Each flow locally stores its maximum
   payload size (MPS), which is used for packetizing data.  Flows may
   communicate with the IP layer to store or access cached PMTU values,
   providing a means by which similar flows may share information.  To
   do so, the flow must convert between these two values by adding or
   subtracting the size of the IP header plus any additional
   intermediate headers.  The IP layer also stores PMTU information from
   the ICMP layer when it receives Packet Too Big messages.

   It is possible that a packetization layer, perhaps a UDP application
   outside the kernel, is unable to change the size of messages it
   sends.  This may result in a packet size that exceeds the Path MTU.

   In such situations, the packets must be fragmented by the IP layer.
   To accommodate this, IPv6 defines a mechanism that allows large
   payloads to be divided into fragments, with each fragment sent in a
   separate packet (see [IPv6-SPEC] section "Fragment Header").  It is
   also recommended that IPv4 fragment the packets at the end system.
   @@@ Should it also set the DF flag to mimic IPv6? @@@

   However, packetization layers are encouraged to avoid sending
   messages that will require fragmentation (for the case against
   fragmentation, see [FRAG]).

5.2. Accounting for headers

   The packetization is done at or near the top of the protocol stack,
   while the final packet size, only determined at bottom of the stack,
   is what is determines the link‚ÇÖs ability to transmit the packet.  As
   such, it is necessary for the lower layers to deterministically
   accept all payloads of a uniform size, or for these layers to
   communicate their header sizes to the upper layer prior to

   This document does not take a position on the layering boundaries of
   IPsec, which logically sits between IP and TCP or another
   packetization layer.  IPsec can be treated either as part of IP or as
   part of the packetization layer, as long as the accounting is
   consistent within any given implementation.  If IPsec is treated as

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   part of the IP layer, then each security association that contributes
   a different length security header, may need to be treated as a
   separate path.  If IPsec is treated as part of the packetization
   layer, then the MPS to PMTU calculation must include the IPsec header
   size for that flow.

5.3. Storing PMTU information

   Ideally, a PMTU value should be associated with a specific path
   traversed by packets exchanged between the source and destination
   nodes.  However, in most cases a node will not have enough
   information to completely and accurately identify such a path.
   Rather, a node must associate a PMTU value with some local
   representation of a path.  It is left to the implementation to select
   the local representation of a path.

   In the case of a multicast destination address, copies of a packet
   may traverse many different paths to reach many different nodes.  The
   local representation of the "path" to a multicast destination must in
   fact represent a potentially large set of paths.

   Minimally, an implementation could maintain a single PMTU value to be
   used for all packets originated from the node.  This PMTU value would
   be the minimum PMTU learned across the set of all paths in use by the
   node.  This approach is likely to result in the use of smaller
   packets than is necessary for many paths.

   An implementation could use the destination address as the local
   representation of a path.  The PMTU value associated with a
   destination would be the minimum PMTU learned across the set of all
   paths in use to that destination.  The set of paths in use to a
   particular destination is expected to be small, in many cases
   consisting of a single path.  This approach will result in the use of
   optimally sized packets on a per-destination basis.  This approach
   integrates nicely with the conceptual model of a host as described in
   [ND]: a PMTU value could be stored with the corresponding entry in
   the destination cache.

   If IPv6 flows [IPv6-SPEC] are in use, an implementation could use the
   flow id as the local representation of a path.  Packets sent to a
   particular destination but belonging to different flows may use
   different paths, with the choice of path depending on the flow id.
   This approach will result in the use of optimally sized packets on a
   per-flow basis, providing finer granularity than PMTU values
   maintained on a per-destination basis.

   For source routed packets (i.e. packets containing an IPv6 Routing
   header [IPv6-SPEC]), the source route may further qualify the local

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   representation of a path.  In particular, a packet containing a type
   0 Routing header in which all bits in the Strict/Loose Bit Map are
   equal to 1 contains a complete path specification.  An implementation
   could use source route information in the local representation of a

   Note: Some paths may be further distinguished by different security
   classifications.  The details of such classifications are beyond the
   scope of this memo.    @@@ this should be in scope

5.4. Probing method using TCP

   A new candidate MPS is tested by sending one "probe segment", which
   is larger than the current MPS.  We present here two possible probing
   methods for TCP.

   In the first method, after a probe segment has been sent (of size
   candidate MPS), the subsequent segment(s) may be sent as though the
   probe segment was not over sized.  Thus if the probe segment is lost,
   it will leave a gap in the sequence space that is exactly one current
   MPS minus the TCP header size.  We refer to this potential hole as
   the probe gap.  Note that the length of the probe segment is
   determined by the candidate MPS under consideration, but the length
   of the probe gap by the current MPS.  If the probe segment is lost,
   this gap can be filled by a single retransmitted segment.

   This method will create duplicate acknowledgements if the probe is
   successful.  The sender must be capable of dealing with these
   expected duplicate acknowledgements in a manner which will not cause
   unnecessary retransmission or congestion window reduction.

   In the second method, after a probe segment has been sent, subsequent
   segments are sent in a non-overlapping manner.  If the probe segment
   is lost, it will leave a gap which will require retransmission of
   multiple segment to fill.

   The probe is completed when the acknowledgment sequence advances past
   the probe gap.  If, when the probe is complete, the probe gap was not
   retransmitted, the probe was successful.  If the probe gap was
   retransmitted and there were no other retransmissions, the candidate
   MPS failed.  If there were any other retransmissions the probe was

   If the probe was successful, the current MPS is updated to the
   candidate MPS.  @@@ add robustness language re: more losses

   If the probe failed or was inconclusive the probe countdown is set to
   COUNTDOWN_SCALE times the square of the current window size in

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   If a Packet Too Big message is received, it can be is used to compute
   an MPS limit by deducting the IP header size from the MTU reported in
   the ICMP message.  If the MPS limit is between the current MPS and
   candidate MPS, the current MPS is updated from the MPS limit,
   otherwise the message is ignored.  If the current MPS is updated,
   then the probe strategy is forced into the Monitor state described

5.5. Probing method using SCTP

   @@@@ to be written

5.6. General probing methods

   @@@@ to be written

5.7. Probe strategy

   The probe strategy described here is a recommended baseline
   algorithm.  It is not presented in formal standards language because
   the probe strategy can include heuristics to help select an optimal
   MSS for a given path.  As a consequence there is opportunity for
   future improvements to this algorithms.

   The probing strategy has three major states: Search, Monitor and
   Suspend.  In the Search state, it sequentially searches for the
   largest MSS that the path can support.  Once the appropriate MPS has
   been discovered, the probing algorithm enters the Monitor state where
   it probes infrequently to detect if the path MPS has become larger.

   If the MPS probing persistently fails it may be desirable to suspend
   MPS probing and heuristically select one of the common default MSSs:
   576, 1240, or 1460 Bytes.

   5.7.1. Search

   The recommended search strategy is a multi-phase scan: First, a
   coarse scan for the approximate MTU using factor of 2 steps starting
   at 1024 Bytes until a probe fails, followed by successively finer
   scans between the largest previously successful and unsuccessful
   probes.  The TCP should use its best knowledge of the lower layer
   header sizes to appropriately determine the MPS from the MTUs listed
   in the table below.

          Table 1: Recommended MTU scanning sequence
          (Coarse scan down column 1, fine scan across each row)

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          512, [Use only after repeated timeouts]
          1024,  1492, 1500, 2002
          4096, 4352
          8192, 9000
          16384, 17914
          ((Additional values needed))

   During the scan it is recommended that the MPS not be raised if cwnd
   is too small as determined by a heuristic.  The recommended heuristic
   is that the MPS is only raised when the cwnd is larger than 20
   segments.  @@@ This may be too high.

   5.7.2. Monitor

   Once the scan has found an appropriate MPS, the probe strategy enters
   the Monitor state, where it re-probes the most recent failed MTU,
   once every MONITOR_INTERVAL seconds.  If the probe fails, it remains
   in the Monitor state.  If it succeeds, it enters the scanning state.

   If the network becomes too congested during either the Search or the
   Monitor states, it is recommended that the MPS be reduced to a
   smaller size as determined by a heuristic.  The recommended heuristic
   is to reduce the MSS if ssthresh is reduced to 5 segments or smaller.
   The recommended reduction is to the next smaller coarse step in Table

   When there are repeated timeouts (MAX_TIMO or more retransmissions,
   without any received ACKs), it is presumed that the connection was
   re-routed onto a link with a smaller MSS, and that ICMP messages are
   not being delivered.  The MSS probing algorithms is reset by pulling
   back the MSS to 1024 Bytes, rescaling the congestion control
   variables and reentering the Search state.

   5.7.3. Suspend

   If there is a timeout, and cwnd prior to the timeout was smaller than
   6 packets, then the probe strategy can enter the Suspend state and
   set the MSS to 512 or 1240 Bytes.  This has the effect of reducing
   the minimum data rate that TCP can stably manage.

5.8.  Processing Packet Too Big messages

   @@@ Add language re: optional processing

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   When a Packet Too Big message is received, the node determines which
   path the message applies to based on the contents of the Packet Too
   Big message.  For example, if the destination address is used as the
   local representation of a path, the destination address from the
   original packet would be used to determine which path the message
   applies to.

      Note: if the original packet contained a IPv6 Routing header, the
      Routing header should be used to determine the location of the
      destination address within the original packet.  If Segments Left
      is equal to zero, the destination address is in the Destination
      Address field in the IPv6 header.  If Segments Left is greater
      than zero, the destination address is the last address
      (Address[n]) in the Routing header.

      If the original packet contained a IPv4 Source Route Option .....
      @@@@ write

   The node then uses the value in the MTU field in the Packet Too Big
   message as a tentative PMTU value, and compares the tentative PMTU to
   the existing PMTU.  If the tentative PMTU is less than the existing
   PMTU estimate, the tentative PMTU replaces the existing PMTU as the
   PMTU value for the path.

   The packetization layers must be notified about decreases in the
   PMTU.  Any packetization layer instance (for example, a TCP
   connection) that is actively using the path must be notified if the
   PMTU estimate is decreased.

      Note: even if the Packet Too Big message contains an Original
      Packet Header that refers to a UDP packet, the TCP layer must be
      notified if any of its connections use the given path.

   Also, the instance that sent the packet that elicited the Packet Too
   Big message should be notified that its packet has been dropped, even
   if the PMTU estimate has not changed, so that it may retransmit the
   dropped data.

      Note: An implementation can avoid the use of an asynchronous
      notification mechanism for PMTU decreases by postponing
      notification until the next attempt to send a packet larger than
      the PMTU estimate.  In this approach, when an attempt is made to
      SEND a packet that is larger than the PMTU estimate, the SEND
      function should fail and return a suitable error indication.  This
      approach may be more suitable to a connectionless packetization
      layer (such as one using UDP), which (in some implementations) may
      be hard to "notify" from the ICMP layer.  In this case, the normal
      timeout-based retransmission mechanisms would be used to recover

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      from the dropped packets.    @@@@ why "SEND"?

   It is important to understand that the notification of the
   packetization layer instances using the path about the change in the
   PMTU is distinct from the notification of a specific instance that a
   packet has been dropped.  The latter should be done as soon as
   practical (i.e., asynchronously from the point of view of the
   packetization layer instance), while the former may be delayed until
   a packetization layer instance wants to create a packet.
   Retransmission should be done for only those packets that are known
   to be dropped, as indicated by a Packet Too Big message.

5.9. Purging stale PMTU information

   @@@ update

   Internetwork topology is dynamic; routes change over time.  While the
   local representation of a path may remain constant, the actual
   path(s) in use may change.  Thus, PMTU information cached by a node
   can become stale.

   If the stale PMTU value is too large, this will be discovered almost
   immediately once a large enough packet is sent on the path.  No such
   mechanism exists for realizing that a stale PMTU value is too small,
   so an implementation should "age" cached values.  When a PMTU value
   has not been decreased for a while (on the order of 10 minutes), the
   PMTU estimate should be set to the MTU of the first-hop link, and the
   packetization layers should be notified of the change.  This will
   cause the complete Path MTU Discovery process to take place again.

      Note: an implementation should provide a means for changing the
      timeout duration, including setting it to "infinity".  For
      example, nodes attached to an FDDI link which is then attached to
      the rest of the Internet via a small MTU serial line are never
      going to discover a new non-local PMTU, so they should not have to
      put up with dropped packets every 10 minutes.

   An upper layer must not retransmit data in response to an increase in
   the PMTU estimate, since this increase never comes in response to an
   indication of a dropped packet.

   One approach to implementing PMTU aging is to associate a timestamp
   field with a PMTU value.  This field is initialized to a "reserved"
   value, indicating that the PMTU is equal to the MTU of the first hop
   link.  Whenever the PMTU is decreased in response to a Packet Too Big
   message, the timestamp is set to the current time.

   Once a minute, a timer-driven procedure runs through all cached PMTU

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   values, and for each PMTU whose timestamp is not "reserved" and is
   older than the timeout interval:

   - The PMTU estimate is set to the MTU of the first hop link.

   - The timestamp is set to the "reserved" value.

   - Packetization layers using this path are notified of the increase.

5.10. TCP layer actions

   The TCP layer must track the PMTU for the path(s) in use by a
   connection; it should not send segments that would result in packets
   larger than the PMTU except to probe the path MTU.  A simple
   implementation could ask the IP layer for this value each time it
   created a new segment, but this could be inefficient.  Moreover, TCP
   implementations that follow the "slow-start" congestion-avoidance
   algorithm [CONG] typically calculate and cache several other values
   derived from the PMTU.  It may be simpler to receive asynchronous
   notification when the PMTU changes, so that these variables may be

   A TCP implementation must also store the MSS value received from its
   peer, and must not send any segment larger than this MSS, regardless
   of the PMTU.  In 4.xBSD-derived implementations, this may require
   adding an additional field to the TCP state record.

   The value sent in the TCP MSS option is independent of the PMTU.
   This MSS option value is used by the other end of the connection,
   which may be using an unrelated PMTU value.  See [IPv6-SPEC] sections
   "Packet Size Issues" and "Maximum Upper-Layer Payload Size" for
   information on selecting a value for the TCP MSS option.  When a
   Packet Too Big message is received, it implies that a packet was
   dropped by the node that sent the ICMP message.  It is sufficient to
   treat this as any other dropped segment, and wait until the
   retransmission timer expires to cause retransmission of the segment.
   If the Path MTU Discovery process requires several steps to find the
   PMTU of the full path, this could delay the connection by many round-
   trip times.

   @@@ Add IPv4 text

   [@@@deprecate?  Alternatively, the retransmission could be done in
   immediate response to a notification that the Path MTU has changed,
   but only for the specific connection specified by the Packet Too Big
   message.  The packet size used in the retransmission should be no
   larger than the new PMTU. ]

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      Note: A packetization layer must not retransmit in response to
      every Packet Too Big message, since a burst of several oversized
      segments will give rise to several such messages and hence several
      retransmissions of the same data.  If the new estimated PMTU is
      still wrong, the process repeats, and there is an exponential
      growth in the number of superfluous segments sent.

      This means that the TCP layer must be able to recognize when a
      Packet Too Big notification actually decreases the PMTU that it
      has already used to send a packet on the given connection, and
      should ignore any other notifications.

   Many TCP implementations incorporate "congestion avoidance" and
   "slow-start" algorithms to improve performance [CONG].  Unlike a
   retransmission caused by a TCP retransmission timeout, a
   retransmission caused by a Packet Too Big message should not change
   the congestion window.  It should, however, trigger the slow-start
   mechanism (i.e., only one segment should be retransmitted until
   acknowledgments begin to arrive again).

   TCP performance can be reduced if the sender‚ÇÖs maximum window size is
   not an exact multiple of the segment size in use (this is not the
   congestion window size, which is always a multiple of the segment
   size).  In many systems (such as those derived from 4.2BSD), the
   segment size is often set to 1024 octets, and the maximum window size
   (the "send space") is usually a multiple of 1024 octets, so the
   proper relationship holds by default.  If Path MTU Discovery is used,
   however, the segment size may not be a sub-multiple of the send
   space, and it may change during a connection; this means that the TCP
   layer may need to change the transmission window size when Path MTU
   Discovery changes the PMTU value.  The maximum window size should be
   set to the greatest multiple of the segment size that is less than or
   equal to the sender‚ÇÖs buffer space size.

5.11.  Issues for other transport protocols

   Some transport protocols (such as ISO TP4 [ISOTP]) are not allowed to
   repacketize when doing a retransmission.  That is, once an attempt is
   made to transmit a segment of a certain size, the transport cannot
   split the contents of the segment into smaller segments for
   retransmission.  In such a case, the original segment can be
   fragmented by the IP layer during retransmission.  Subsequent
   segments, when transmitted for the first time, should be no larger
   than allowed by the Path MTU.

   The Sun Network File System (NFS) uses a Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
   protocol [RPC] that, when used over UDP, in many cases will generate
   payloads that must be fragmented even for the first-hop link.  This

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   might improve performance in certain cases, but it is known to cause
   reliability and performance problems, especially when the client and
   server are separated by routers.

   It is recommended that NFS implementations use Path MTU Discovery
   whenever routers are involved.  Most NFS implementations allow the
   RPC datagram size to be changed at mount-time (indirectly, by
   changing the effective file system block size), but might require
   some modification to support changes later on.

   Also, since a single NFS operation cannot be split across several UDP
   datagrams, certain operations (primarily, those operating on file
   names and directories) require a minimum payload size that if sent in
   a single packet would exceed the PMTU.  NFS implementations should
   not reduce the payload size below this threshold, even if Path MTU
   Discovery suggests a lower value.  In this case the payload will be
   fragmented by the IP layer.

5.12.  Issues for tunnels

   @@@ to be written

   5.13.  Diagnostic tools

   All implementations MUST include a mechanism to implement diagnostic
   tools that do not rely on the operating systems implementation of
   path MTU discovery.   This requires an mechanism where an application
   can send oversized packets that are not subjected to the operating
   systems notion of the current path MTU, up to the physical MTU limit
   as supported by the network interface, as well as a mechanism to
   collect any Packet Too Big Messages.

5.14.  Management interface

   It is suggested that an implementation provide a way for a system
   utility program to:

   - Specify that Path MTU Discovery not be done on a given path.

   - Change the PMTU value associated with a given path.

   - Global controls on ICMP processing

   - Per connection or per application controls on ICMP processing

   The former can be accomplished by associating a flag with the path;
   when a packet is sent on a path with this flag set, the IP layer does
   not send packets larger than the IPv6 minimum link MTU.

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   These features might be used to work around an anomalous situation,
   or by a routing protocol implementation that is able to obtain Path
   MTU values.

   The implementation should also provide a way to change the timeout
   period for aging stale PMTU information.

6. Normative references

 [RFC1191]  Path MTU discovery. J.C. Mogul, S.E. Deering. Nov-01-1990.
            (Format: TXT=47936 bytes) (Obsoletes RFC1063) (Status: DRAFT

 [RFC1981]  Path MTU Discovery for IP version 6. J. McCann, S. Deering,
            J. Mogul. August 1996. (Status: PROPOSED STANDARD)

 [RFC2119]  Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. S.
            Bradner.  March 1997. (Status: BEST CURRENT PRACTICE)

7. Informative references

 [RFC1063]  IP MTU discovery options. J.C. Mogul, C.A. Kent, C. Par-
            tridge, K. McCloghrie. Jul-01-1988. (Obsoleted by RFC1191)

 [RFC1435]  IESG Advice from Experience with Path MTU Discovery. S.
            Knowles. March 1993. (Format: TXT=2708 bytes) (Status:

 [RFC1626]  Default IP MTU for use over ATM AAL5. R. Atkinson. May 1994.
            (Status: PROPOSED STANDARD)

 [RFC1791]  TCP And UDP Over IPX Networks With Fixed Path MTU. T. Sung.
            April 1995. (Status: EXPERIMENTAL)

 [RFC2923]  TCP Problems with Path MTU Discovery. K. Lahey. September
            2000. (Status: INFORMATIONAL)

8. Security considerations

   Since the MTU reported in the ICMP messages is constrained to be
   between the old MTU and the candidate MTU, this algorithm is more

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   difficult to attack through fraudulent ICMP messages.

   Furthermore, since this algorithm can function properly without ICMP
   messages that part of the algorithm can be disabled for additional
   robustness in hostile environments.

9. IANA considerations

10. Contributors

11. Acknowledgements

   Matt Mathis and John Heffner are supported by a grant from Cisco Sys-
   tems, Inc.

12. Authors‚ÇÖ addresses

   Please send comments and suggestions to

   Matt Mathis and John Heffner
   Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
   4400 Fifth Ave.
   Pittsburgh, PA 15213

   Kevin Lahey

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   general license or permission for the use of such proprietary rights
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