Internet Engineering Task Force                       K. K. Ramakrishnan
INTERNET DRAFT                                        AT&T Labs Research
draft-kksjf-ecn-01.txt                                       Sally Floyd
                                                               July 1998
                                                  Expires:  January 1999

    A Proposal to add Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP

                          Status of this Memo

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   This note describes a proposed addition of ECN (Explicit Congestion
   Notification) to IP.  TCP is currently the dominant transport
   protocol used in the Internet. We begin by describing TCP's use of
   packet drops as an indication of congestion.  Next we argue that with
   the addition of active queue management (e.g., RED) to the Internet
   infrastructure, where routers detect congestion before the queue
   overflows, routers are no longer limited to packet drops as an
   indication of congestion, but could instead set a Congestion
   Experienced (CE) bit in the packet header, for ECN-capable transport
   protocols.  We describe when the CE bit would be set in the routers,
   and describe what modifications would be needed to TCP to make it
   ECN-capable.  Modifications to other transport protocols (e.g.,
   unreliable unicast or multicast, reliable multicast, other reliable
   unicast transport protocols) could be considered as those protocols

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   are developed and advance through the standards process.

1. Introduction

   TCP's congestion control and avoidance algorithms are based on the
   notion that the network is a black-box [Jacobson88, Jacobson90].  The
   network's state of congestion or otherwise is determined by end-
   systems probing for the network state, by gradually increasing the
   load on the network (by increasing the window of packets that are
   outstanding in the network) until the network becomes congested and a
   packet is lost.  Treating the network as a "black-box" and treating
   loss as an indication of congestion in the network is appropriate for
   pure best-effort data carried by TCP which has little or no
   sensitivity to delay or loss of individual packets.  In addition,
   TCP's congestion management algorithms have techniques built-in (such
   as Fast Retransmit and Fast Recovery) to minimize the impact of
   losses from a throughput perspective.

   However, these mechanisms are not intended to help applications that
   are in fact sensitive to the delay or loss of one or more individual
   packets.  Interactive traffic such as telnet, web-browsing, and
   transfer of audio and video data can be sensitive to packet losses
   (using an unreliable data delivery transport such as UDP) or to the
   increased latency of the packet caused by the need to retransmit the
   packet after a loss (for reliable data delivery such as TCP).

   Since TCP determines the appropriate congestion window to use by
   gradually increasing the window size until it experiences a dropped
   packet, this causes the queues at the bottleneck router to build up.
   With most packet drop policies at the router that are not sensitive
   to the load placed by each individual flow, this means that some of
   the packets of latency-sensitive flows are going to be dropped.
   Active queue management mechanisms detect congestion before the queue
   overflows, and provide an indication of this congestion to the end
   nodes.  The advantages of active queue management are discussed in
   RFC 2309 [RFC2309].  Active queue management avoids some of the bad
   properties of dropping on queue overflow, including the undesirable
   synchronization of loss across multiple flows.  More importantly,
   active queue management means that transport protocols with
   congestion control (e.g., TCP) do not have to rely on buffer overflow
   as the only indication of congestion.  This can reduce unnecessary
   queueing delay for all traffic sharing that queue.

   Active queue management mechanisms may use one of several methods for
   indicating congestion to end-nodes. One is to use packet drops, as is
   currently done. However, active queue management allows the router to
   separate policies of queueing or dropping packets from the policies
   for indicating congestion. Thus, active queue management allows

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   routers to use the Congestion Experienced (CE) bit in a packet header
   as an indication of congestion, instead of relying solely on packet

2. Assumptions and General Principles

   In this section, we describe some of the important design principles
   and assumptions that guided the design choices in this proposal.

   (1) Congestion may persist over different time-scales. The time
   scales that we are concerned with are congestion events that may last
   longer than a round-trip time.
   (2) The number of packets in an individual flow (e.g., TCP connection
   or an exchange using UDP) may range from a small number of packets to
   quite a large number. We are interested in managing the congestion
   caused by flows that send enough packets so that they are still
   active when network feedback reaches them.
   (3) New mechanisms for congestion control and avoidance need to co-
   exist and cooperate with existing mechanisms for congestion control.
   In particular, new mechanisms have to co-exist with TCP's current
   methods of adapting to congestion and with routers' current practice
   of dropping packets in periods of congestion.
   (4) Because ECN is likely to be adopted gradually, accommodating
   migration is essential. Some routers may still only drop packets to
   indicate congestion, and some end-systems may not be ECN-capable. The
   most viable strategy is one that accommodates incremental deployment
   without having to resort to "islands" of ECN-capable and non-ECN-
   capable environments.
   (5) Asymmetric routing is likely to be a normal occurrence in the
   Internet. The path (sequence of links and routers) followed by data
   packets may be different from the path followed by the acknowledgment
   packets in the reverse direction.
   (6) Routers process the "regular" headers in IP packets more
   efficiently than they process the header information in IP options.
   This suggests keeping congestion experienced information in the
   regular headers of an IP packet.
   (7) It must be recognized that not all end-systems will cooperate in
   mechanisms for congestion control. However, new mechanisms shouldn't
   make it easier for TCP applications to disable TCP congestion
   control. The benefit of lying about participating in new mechanisms
   such as ECN-capability should be small.

3. Random Early Detection (RED)

   Random Early Detection (RED) is a mechanism for active queue
   management that has been proposed to detect incipient congestion
   [FJ93], and is currently being deployed in the Internet backbone
   [RFC2309].  Although RED is meant to be a general mechanism using one

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   of several alternatives for congestion indication, in the current
   environment of the Internet RED is restricted to using packet drops
   as a mechanism for congestion indication.  RED drops packets based on
   the average queue length exceeding a threshold, rather than only when
   the queue overflows.  However, when RED drops packets before the
   queue actually overflows, RED is not forced by memory limitations to
   discard the packet.

   RED could set a Congestion Experienced (CE) bit in the packet header
   instead of dropping the packet, if such a bit was provided in the IP
   header and understood by the transport protocol.  The use of the CE
   bit would allow the receiver(s) to receive the packet, avoiding the
   potential for excessive delays due to retransmissions after packet
   losses.  We use the term 'CE packet' to denote a packet that has the
   CE bit set.

4. Explicit Congestion Notification in IP

   We propose that the Internet provide a congestion indication for
   incipient congestion (as in RED and earlier work [RJ90]) where the
   notification can sometimes be through marking packets rather than
   dropping them.  This would require an ECN field in the IP header with
   two bits.  The ECN-Capable Transport (ECT) bit would be set by the
   data sender to indicate that the end-points of the transport protocol
   are ECN-capable.  The CE bit would be set by the router to indicate
   congestion to the end nodes.  Routers that have a packet arriving at
   a full queue would drop the packet, just as they do now.

   Upon the receipt by an ECN-Capable transport of a single CE packet,
   the congestion control algorithms followed at the end-systems MUST be
   essentially the same as the congestion control response to a *single*
   dropped packet.  For example, for TCP the source TCP halves its
   congestion window "cwnd" in response to an ECN indication received by
   the data receiver.

   One reason for requiring that the congestion-control response to the
   CE packet be essentially the same as the response to a dropped packet
   is to accommodate the incremental deployment of ECN in both end-
   systems and in routers.  Some routers may drop ECN-Capable packets
   (e.g., using the same RED policies for congestion detection) while
   other routers set the CE bit, for equivalent levels of congestion.
   Similarly, a router might drop a non-ECN-Capable packet but set the
   CE bit in an ECN-Capable packet, for equivalent levels of congestion.
   Different congestion control responses to a CE bit indication and to
   a packet drop could result in unfair treatment for different flows.

   An additional requirement is that the end-systems should react to
   congestion at most once per window of data (i.e., at most once per

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   roundtrip time), to avoid reacting multiple times to multiple
   indications of congestion within a roundtrip time.

   For a router, the CE bit of an ECN-Capable packet should only be set
   if the router would otherwise have dropped the packet as an
   indication of congestion to the end nodes. When the router's buffer
   is not yet full and the router is prepared to drop a packet to inform
   end nodes of incipient congestion, the router should first check to
   see if the ECT bit is set in that packet's IP header.  If so, then
   instead of dropping the packet, the router MAY instead set the CE bit
   in the IP header.

   An environment where all end nodes were ECN-Capable could allow new
   criteria to be developed for setting the CE bit, and new congestion
   control mechanisms for end-node reaction to CE packets.  However,
   this is a research issue, and as such is not addressed in this

   When a CE packet is received by a router, the CE bit is left
   unchanged, and the packet transmitted as usual. When severe
   congestion has occurred and the router's queue is full, then the
   router has no choice but to drop some packet when a new packet
   arrives.  We anticipate that such packet losses will become
   relatively infrequent when a majority of end-systems become ECN-
   Capable and participate in TCP or other compatible congestion control
   mechanisms. In an adequately-provisioned network in such an ECN-
   Capable environment, packet losses should occur primarily during
   transients or in the presence of non-cooperating sources.

   We expect that routers will set the CE bit in response to incipient
   congestion as indicated by the average queue size, using the RED
   algorithms suggested in [FJ93, RFC2309].  To the best of our
   knowledge, this is the only proposal currently under discussion in
   the IETF for routers to drop packets proactively, before the buffer
   overflows.  However, this document does not attempt to specify a
   particular mechanism for active queue management, leaving that
   endeavor, if needed, to other areas of the IETF.  While ECN is
   inextricably tied up with active queue management at the router, the
   reverse does not hold; active queue management mechanisms have been
   developed and deployed independently from ECN, using packet drops as
   indications of congestion in the absence of ECN in the IP

5. Support from the Transport Protocol

   ECN requires support from the transport protocol, in addition to the
   functionality given by the ECN field in the IP packet header. The
   transport protocol might require negotiation between the endpoints

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   during setup to determine that all of the endpoints are ECN-capable,
   so that the sender can set the ECT bit in transmitted packets.
   Second, the transport protocol must be capable of reacting
   appropriately to the receipt of CE packets.  This reaction could be
   in the form of the data receiver informing the data sender of the
   received CE packet (e.g., TCP), of the data receiver unsubscribing to
   a layered multicast group (e.g., RLM [MJV96]), or of some other
   action that ultimately reduces the arrival rate of that flow to that

   This document only addresses the addition of ECN Capability to TCP,
   leaving issues of ECN and other transport protocols to further
   research.  For TCP, ECN requires three new mechanisms:  negotiation
   between the endpoints during setup to determine if they are both
   ECN-capable; an ECN-Echo flag in the TCP header so that the data
   receiver can inform the data sender when a CE packet has been
   received; and a Congestion Window Reduced (CWR) flag in the TCP
   header so that the data sender can inform the data receiver that the
   congestion window has been reduced. The support required from other
   transport protocols is likely to be different, particular for
   unreliable or reliable multicast transport protocols, and will have
   to be determined as other transport protocols are brought to the IETF
   for standardization.

5.1. TCP

   The following sections describe in detail the proposed use of ECN in
   TCP.  This proposal is described in essentially the same form in
   [Floyd94]. We assume that the source TCP uses the standard congestion
   control algorithms of Slow-start, Fast Retransmit and Fast Recovery
   [RFC 2001].

5.1.1.  TCP Initialization

   In the TCP connection setup phase, the source and destination TCPs
   exchange information about their desire and/or capability to use ECN.
   As a result of the negotiation, the TCP sender sets the ECT bit in
   the IP header to indicate to the network that the transport is
   capable and willing to participate in ECN for this packet. This will
   indicate to the routers that they may mark this packet with the CE
   bit, if they would like to use that as a method of congestion
   notification. If the TCP connection does not wish to use ECN
   notification for a particular packet, the sending TCP sets the ECT
   bit equal to 0 (i.e., not set), and the TCP receiver ignores the CE
   bit in the received packet.

   The TCP mechanism for negotiating ECN-Capability uses the ECN-Echo
   flag in the TCP header.  (This was called the ECN Notify flag in some

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   earlier documents.) Bit 9 in the Reserved field of the TCP header is
   assigned to the ECN-Echo flag.

   When a node sends a TCP SYN packet, it may set the ECN-Echo flag in
   the TCP header.  For a SYN packet, the ECN-Echo flag is defined as an
   indication that the sending TCP is ECN-Capable, rather than as a
   return indication of congestion. More precisely, a SYN packet with
   the ECN-Echo flag set indicates that that sending TCP implementation
   will respond to incoming data packets that have the CE bit set in the
   IP header by setting the ECN-Echo flag in outgoing TCP
   Acknowledgement (ACK) packets.

   Similarly, for a SYN-ACK packet, the ECN-Echo flag in the TCP header
   is defined as an indication that the TCP transmitting the SYN-ACK
   packet is ECN-Capable.

5.1.2.  The TCP Sender

   For a TCP connection using ECN, data packets are transmitted with the
   ECT bit set in the IP header (set to a "1").  If the sender receives
   an ECN-Echo ACK packet (that is, an ACK packet with the ECN-Echo flag
   set in the TCP header), then the sender knows that congestion was
   encountered in the network on the path from the sender to the
   receiver.  The indication of congestion should be treated just as a
   congestion loss in non-ECN-Capable TCP. That is, the TCP source
   halves the congestion window "cwnd" and reduces the slow start
   threshold "ssthresh".  The sending TCP does NOT increase the
   congestion window in response to the receipt of an ECN-Echo ACK

   A critical condition is that TCP does not react to congestion
   indications more than once every window of data (or more loosely,
   more than once every round-trip time). That is, the TCP sender's
   congestion window should be reduced only once in response to a series
   of dropped and/or CE packets from a single window of data,

   The recommended method for implementing this is as follows.  Assume
   that at time "t" the source TCP reacts to an ECN-Echo ACK packet by
   reducing its congestion window.  The source TCP notes the packets
   that are outstanding at that time (i.e., packets that have not yet
   been acknowledged).  Until all these packets are acknowledged, the
   source TCP does not react to another ECN indication of congestion.
   However, if during this period a packet is retransmitted as a result
   of a retransmission timeout or the receipt of the required number
   (e.g., 3) of duplicate acknowledgments, then the source TCP will
   react to subsequent ECN indications of congestion.

   [Floyd94] discusses this further, and [Floyd98] includes a validation

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   test illustrating a wide range of ECN scenarios. These scenarios
   include the following: an ECN followed by another ECN, a Fast
   Retransmit, or a Retransmit Timeout; and a Retransmit Timeout or a
   Fast Retransmit followed by an ECN.

   When the TCP sender reduces its congestion window in response to an
   ECN-Echo ACK packet, there is no need for the sender to slow-start
   (as in Tahoe TCP in response to a packet drop) or to stop sending
   packets for a period of time to allow the queue to dissipate (as in
   Reno TCP for roughly half a round-trip time during Fast Recovery).
   The CE packet in the forward direction does not indicate the imminent
   possibility of buffer overflow requiring an urgent source action to
   reduce the load dramatically.  Incoming acknowledgements that
   continue to arrive can "clock out" outgoing packets as allowed by the
   reduced congestion window.

   TCP follows existing algorithms for sending data packets in response
   to incoming ACKs, multiple duplicate acknowledgements, or retransmit
   timeouts [RFC2001].

5.1.3.  The TCP Receiver

   When TCP receives a CE data packet at the destination end-system, the
   TCP data receiver sets the ECN-Echo flag in the TCP header of the
   subsequent ACK packet.  If there is any ACK withholding implemented,
   as in current "delayed-ACK" TCP implementations where the TCP
   receiver can send an ACK for two arriving data packets, then the
   ECN-Echo flag in the ACK packet will be set to the OR of the CE bits
   of all of the data packets being acknowledged.  That is, if any of
   the received data packets are CE packets, then the returning ACK has
   the ECN-Echo flag set.

   To provide robustness against the possibility of a dropped ACK packet
   carrying an ECN-Echo flag, the TCP receiver must set the ECN-Echo
   flag in a series of ACK packets.  To enable the TCP receiver to
   determine when to stop setting the ECN-Echo flag, we introduce a
   second new flag in the TCP header, the Congestion Window Reduced
   (CWR) flag.  The CWR flag is assigned to Bit 8 in the Reserved field
   of the TCP header.

   When an ECN-Capable TCP reduces its congestion window for any reason
   (because of a retransmit timeout, a Fast Retransmit, or in response
   to an ECN Notification), the TCP sets the CWR flag in the TCP header
   of the first data packet sent after the window reduction.  If that
   data packet is dropped in the network, then the sending TCP will have
   to reduce the congestion window again and retransmit the dropped
   packet.  Thus, the Congestion Window Reduced message is reliably
   delivered to the data receiver.

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   After a TCP receiver sends an ACK packet with the ECN-Echo bit set,
   that TCP receiver continues to set the ECN-Echo flag in ACK packets
   until it receives a CWR packet (a packet with the CWR flag set).
   After the receipt of the CWR packet, acknowledgements for subsequent
   non-CE data packets do not have the ECN-Echo flag set. If another CE
   packet is received by the data receiver, the receiver would once
   again send ACK packets with the ECN-Echo flag set.  While the receipt
   of a CWR packet does not guarantee that the data sender received the
   ECN-Echo message, this does guarantee that the data sender reduced
   its congestion window at some point *after* it sent the data packet
   for which the CE bit was set.

   We have already specified that a TCP sender reduces its congestion
   window at most once per window of data.  This mechanism requires some
   care to make sure that the sender reduces its congestion window at
   most once per ECN indication, and that multiple ECN messages over
   several successive windows of data are properly reported to the ECN
   sender.  This is discussed further in [Floyd98].

5.1.4. Congestion on the ACK-path

   For the current generation of TCP congestion control algorithms, pure
   acknowledgement packets (e.g., packets that do not contain any
   accompanying data) should be sent with the ECN-capable bit off.
   Current TCP receivers have no mechanisms for reducing traffic on the
   ACK-path in response to congestion notification.  Mechanisms for
   responding to congestion on the ACK-path can be relegated as an area
   for future research.  (One simple possibility would be for the sender
   to reduce its congestion window when it receives a pure ACK packet
   with the CE bit set). For current TCP implementations, a single
   dropped ACK generally has only a very small effect on the TCP's
   sending rate.

6. Summary of changes required in IP and TCP

   Two bits need to be specified in the IP header, the ECN-Capable
   Transport (ECT) bit and the Congestion Experienced (CE) bit.  The ECT
   bit set to "0" indicates that the transport protocol will ignore the
   CE bit.  This is the default value for the ECT bit.  The ECT bit set
   to "1" indicates that the transport protocol is willing and able to
   participate in ECN.

   The default value for the CE bit is "0".  The router sets the CE bit
   to "1" to indicate congestion to the end nodes.  The CE bit in a
   packet header should never be reset by a router from "1" to "0".

   TCP requires three changes, a negotiation phase during setup to
   determine if both end nodes are ECN-capable, and two new flags in the

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   TCP header, from the "reserved" flags in the TCP flags field.  The
   ECN-Echo flag is used by the data receiver to inform the data sender
   of a received CE packet.  The Congestion Window Reduced flag is used
   by the data sender to inform the data receiver that the congestion
   window has been reduced.

7. Non-relationship to ATM's EFCI indicator or Frame Relay's FECN

   Since the ATM and Frame Relay mechanisms for congestion indication
   have typically been defined without any notion of average queue size
   as the basis for determining that an intermediate node is congested,
   we believe that they provide a very noisy signal. The TCP-sender
   reaction specified in this draft for ECN is NOT the appropriate
   reaction for such a noisy signal of congestion notification. It is
   our expectation that ATM's EFCI and Frame Relay's FECN mechanisms
   would be phased out over time within the ATM network.  However, if
   the routers that interface to the ATM network have a way of
   maintaining the average queue at the interface, and use it to come to
   a reliable determination that the ATM subnet is congested, they may
   use the ECN notification that is defined here.

8. Non-compliance by the End Nodes

   This section discusses concerns about the vulnerability of ECN to
   non-compliant end-nodes (i.e., end nodes that set the ECT bit in
   transmitted packets but do not respond to received CE packets).  We
   argue that the addition of ECN to the IP architecture would not
   significantly increase the current vulnerability of the architecture
   to unresponsive flows.

   Even for non-ECN environments, there are serious concerns about the
   damage that can be done by non-compliant or unresponsive flows (that
   is, flows that do not respond to congestion control indications by
   reducing their arrival rate at the congested link).  For example, an
   end-node could "turn off congestion control" by not reducing its
   congestion window in response to packet drops. This is a concern for
   the current Internet.  It has been argued that routers will have to
   deploy mechanisms to detect and differentially treat packets from
   non-compliant flows.  It has also been argued that techniques such as
   end-to-end per-flow scheduling and isolation of one flow from
   another, differentiated services, or end-to-end reservations could
   remove some of the more damaging effects of unresponsive flows.

   It has been argued that dropping packets in itself may be an adequate
   deterrent for non-compliance, and that the use of ECN removes this
   deterrent.  We would argue in response that (1) ECN-capable routers
   preserve packet-dropping behavior in times of high congestion; and
   (2) even in times of high congestion, dropping packets in itself is

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   not an adequate deterrent for non-compliance.

   First, ECN-Capable routers will only mark packets (as opposed to
   dropping them) when the packet marking rate is reasonably low. During
   periods where the average queue size exceeds an upper threshold, and
   therefore the potential packet marking rate would be high, our
   recommendation is that routers drop packets rather then set the CE
   bit in packet headers.

   During the periods of low or moderate packet marking rates when ECN
   would be deployed, there would be little deterrent effect on
   unresponsive flows of dropping rather than marking those packets. For
   example, delay-insensitive flows using reliable delivery might have
   an incentive to increase rather than to decrease their sending rate
   in the presence of dropped packets.  Similarly, delay-sensitive flows
   using unreliable delivery might increase their use of FEC in response
   to an increased packet drop rate, increasing rather than decreasing
   their sending rate.  For the same reasons, we do not believe that
   packet dropping itself is an effective deterrent for non-compliance
   even in an environment of high packet drop rates.

   Several methods have been proposed to identify and restrict non-
   compliant or unresponsive flows. The addition of ECN to the network
   environment would not in any way increase the difficulty of designing
   and deploying such mechanisms. If anything, the addition of ECN to
   the architecture would make the job of identifying unresponsive flows
   slightly easier.  For example, in an ECN-Capable environment routers
   are not limited to information about packets that are dropped or have
   the CE bit set at that router itself; in such an environment routers
   could also take note of arriving CE packets that indicate congestion
   encountered by that packet earlier in the path.

9. Non-compliance in the Network

   The breakdown of effective congestion control could be caused not
   only by a non-compliant end-node, but also by the loss of the
   congestion indication in the network itself.  As one example, a rogue
   or broken router could "erase" the CE bit in arriving CE packets,
   thus preventing that indication of congestion from reaching
   downstream receivers.  This could result in the failure of congestion
   control for that flow and a resulting increase in congestion in the
   network, ultimately resulting in subsequent packets dropped for this
   flow as the average queue size increased at the congested gateway.
   Concerns regarding the loss of congestion indications from
   encapsulated, dropped, or corrupted packets are discussed below.

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9.1. Encapsulated packets

   Some care is required to handle the CE and ECT bits appropriately
   when packets are encapsulated and de-encapsulated for tunnels.  When
   a packet is encapsulated, the following rules apply regarding the ECT
   bit.  First, if the ECT bit in the encapsulated ('inside') header is
   a 0, then the ECT bit in the encapsulating ('outside') header MUST be
   a 0.  If the ECT bit in the inside header is a 1, then the ECT bit in
   the outside header SHOULD be a 1.

   When a packet is de-encapsulated, the following rules apply regarding
   the CE bit.  If the ECT bit is a 1 in both the inside and the outside
   header, then the CE bit in the outside header MUST be ORed with the
   CE bit in the inside header.  (That is, in this case a CE bit of 1 in
   the outside header must be copied to the inside header.) If the ECT
   bit in either header is a 0, then the CE bit in the outside header is

9.2.  Dropped or Corrupted Packets

   An additional issue concerns a packet that has the CE bit set at one
   router and is dropped by a subsequent router.  For the proposed use
   for ECN in this paper (that is, for a transport protocol such as TCP
   for which a dropped data packet is an indication of congestion), end
   nodes detect dropped data packets, and the congestion response of the
   end nodes to a dropped data packet is at least as strong as the
   congestion response to a received CE packet.

   However, transport protocols such as TCP do not necessarily detect
   all packet drops, such as the drop of a "pure" ACK packet; for
   example, TCP does not reduce the arrival rate of subsequent ACK
   packets in response to an earlier dropped ACK packet.  Any proposal
   for extending ECN-Capability to such packets would have to address
   concerns raised by CE packets that were later dropped in the network.

   Similarly, if a CE packet is dropped later in the network due to
   corruption (bit errors), the end nodes should still invoke congestion
   control, just as TCP would today in response to a dropped data
   packet. This issue of corrupted CE packets would have to be
   considered in any proposal for the network to distinguish between
   packets dropped due to corruption, and packets dropped due to
   congestion or buffer overflow.

10. A summary of related work.

   [Floyd94] considers the advantages and drawbacks of adding ECN to the
   TCP/IP architecture.  As shown in the simulation-based comparisons,
   one advantage of ECN is to avoid unnecessary packet drops for short

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   or delay-sensitive TCP connections.  A second advantage of ECN is in
   avoiding some unnecessary retransmit timeouts in TCP.  This paper
   discusses in detail the integration of ECN into TCP's congestion
   control mechanisms.  The possible disadvantages of ECN discussed in
   the paper are that a non-compliant TCP connection could falsely
   advertise itself as ECN-capable, and that a TCP ACK packet carrying
   an ECN-Echo message could itself be dropped in the network.  The
   first of these two issues is discussed in Section 8 of this document,
   and the second is addressed by the proposal in Section 5.1.3 for a
   CWR flag in the TCP header.

   [CKLTZ97] reports on an experimental implementation of ECN in IPv6.
   The experiments include an implementation of ECN in an existing
   implementation of RED for FreeBSD.  A number of experiments were run
   to demonstrate the control of the average queue size in the router,
   the performance of ECN for a single TCP connection as a congested
   router, and fairness with multiple competing TCP connections.  One
   conclusion of the experiments is that dropping a packet from a bulk-
   data transfer degrades performance much more severely than marking a

   Because the experimental implementation in [CKLTZ97] predates some of
   the developments in this document, the implementation does not
   conform to this document in all respects.  For example, in the
   experimental implementation the CWR flag is not used, but instead the
   TCP receiver sends the ECN-Echo bit on a single ACK packet.

   [K98] and [CKLT98] build on [CKLTZ97] to further analyze the benefits
   of ECN for TCP. The conclusions are that ECN TCP gets moderately
   better throughput than non-ECN TCP; that ECN TCP flows are fair
   towards non-ECN TCP flows; and that ECN TCP is robust with two-way
   traffic, congestion in both directions, and with multiple congested
   gateways.  Experiments with many short web transfers show that, while
   most of the short connections have similar transfer times with or
   without ECN, a small percentage of the short connections have very
   high transfer times for the non-ECN experiments as compared to the
   ECN experiments.  This increased transfer time is particularly
   dramatic for those short connections that have their first packet
   dropped in the non-ECN experiments, and that therefore have to wait
   six seconds for the retransmit timer to expire.

   The ECN Web Page [ECN] has pointers to other implementations of ECN
   in progress.

11. Conclusions

   Given the current effort to implement RED, we believe this is the
   right time for router vendors to examine how to implement congestion

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draft-kksjf-ecn          Addition of ECN to IP             November 1997

   avoidance mechanisms that do not depend on packet drops alone.  With
   the increased deployment of applications and transports sensitive to
   the delay and loss of a single packet, depending on packet loss as a
   normal congestion notification mechanism appears to be insufficient
   (or at the very least, non-optimal).

12. Acknowledgements

   A number of people have made contributions to this internet-draft.
   In particular, we would like to thank Kenjiro Cho for the proposal
   for the TCP mechanism for negotiating ECN-Capability, Steve Blake and
   Kevin Fall for the material on IPv4 Header Checksum Recalculation,
   and Steve Bellovin, Jim Bound, Brian Carpenter, Paul Ferguson,
   Stephen Kent, Greg Minshall, and Vern Paxson for discussions of
   security issues.  We also thank the Internet End-to-End Research
   Group for ongoing discussions of these issues.

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13. References

   [CKLTZ97] Chen, C., Krishnan, H., Leung, S., Tang, N., and Zhang, L.,
   "Implementing Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) in TCP over
   IPv6", UCLA Technical Report, December 1997, URL

   [CKLT98] Chen, C., Krishnan, H., Leung, S., Tang, N., and Zhang, L.,
   "Implementing ECN for TCP/IPv6", presentation to the ECN BOF at the
   L.A. IETF, March 1998, URL "".

   [ECN] "The ECN Web Page", URL "http://www-".

   [FJ93] Floyd, S., and Jacobson, V., "Random Early Detection gateways
   for Congestion Avoidance", IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, V.1
   N.4, August 1993, p. 397-413.  URL

   [Floyd94] Floyd, S., "TCP and Explicit Congestion Notification", ACM
   Computer Communication Review, V. 24 N. 5, October 1994, p. 10-23.
   URL "".

   [Floyd97] Floyd, S., and Fall, K., "Router Mechanisms to Support
   End-to-End Congestion Control", Technical report, February 1997.  URL

   [Floyd98] Floyd, S., "The ECN Validation Test in the NS Simulator",
   URL "", test tcl/test/test-all-

   [K98] Krishnan, H., "Analyzing Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)
   benefits for TCP", Master's thesis, UCLA, 1998, URL

   [FRED] Lin, D., and Morris, R., "Dynamics of Random Early Detection",
   SIGCOMM '97, September 1997.  URL

   [Jacobson88] V. Jacobson, "Congestion Avoidance and Control", Proc.
   ACM SIGCOMM '88, pp. 314-329.  URL

   [Jacobson90] V. Jacobson, "Modified TCP Congestion Avoidance
   Algorithm", Message to end2end-interest mailing list, April 1990.
   URL "".

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draft-kksjf-ecn          Addition of ECN to IP             November 1997

   [RFC1141] T. Mallory and A. Kullberg, "Incremental Updating of the
   Internet Checksum", RFC 1141, January 1990.

   [MJV96], S. McCanne, V. Jacobson, and M. Vetterli, "Receiver-driven
   Layered Multicast", SIGCOMM '96, August 1996, pp. 117-130.

   [RFC2001] W. Stevens, "TCP Slow Start, Congestion Avoidance, Fast
   Retransmit, and Fast Recovery Algorithms", RFC 2001, January 1997.

   [RFC2309] B. Braden, D. Clark, J. Crowcroft, B. Davie, S. Deering, D.
   Estrin, S. Floyd, V. Jacobson, G. Minshall, C. Partridge, L.
   Peterson, K. Ramakrishnan, S. Shenker, J. Wroclawski, L. Zhang,
   "Recommendations on Queue Management and Congestion Avoidance in the
   Internet", RFC 2309, April 1998.

   [RJ90] K. K. Ramakrishnan and Raj Jain, "A Binary Feedback Scheme for
   Congestion Avoidance in Computer Networks", ACM Transactions on
   Computer Systems, Vol.8, No.2, pp. 158-181, May 1990.

14. Security Considerations

   Security considerations have been discussed in Section 9.

15. IPv4 Header Checksum Recalculation

   IPv4 header checksum recalculation is an issue with some high-end
   router architectures using an output-buffered switch, since most if
   not all of the header manipulation is performed on the input side of
   the switch, while the ECN decision would need to be made local to the
   output buffer. This is not an issue for IPv6, since there is no IPv6
   header checksum. The IPv4 TOS octet is the last byte of a 16-bit

   RFC 1141 [RFC1141] discusses the incremental updating of the IPv4
   checksum after the TTL field is decremented.  The incremental
   updating of the IPv4 checksum after the CE bit was set would work as
   follows: Let HC be the original header checksum, and let HC' be the
   new header checksum after the CE bit has been set.  Then for header
   checksums calculated with one's complement subtraction, HC' would be
   recalculated as follows:
      HC' = { HC - 1     HC > 1
            { 0x0000     HC = 1
   For header checksums calculated on two's complement machines, HC'
   would be recalculated as follows after the CE bit was set:
       HC' = { HC - 1     HC > 0
             { 0xFFFE     HC = 0

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16. The motivation for the ECT bit.

   The need for the ECT bit is motivated by the fact that ECN will be
   deployed incrementally in an Internet where some transport protocols
   and routers understand ECN and some do not. With the ECT bit, the
   router can drop packets from flows that are not ECN-capable, but can
   **instead** set the CE bit in flows that **are** ECN-capable. Because
   the ECT bit allows an end node to have the CE bit set in a packet
   **instead** of having the packet dropped, an end node might have some
   incentive to deploy ECN.

   If there was no ECT indication, then the router would have to set the
   CE bit for packets from both ECN-capable and non-ECN-capable flows.
   In this case, there would be no incentive for end-nodes to deploy
   ECN, and no viable path of incremental deployment from a non-ECN
   world to an ECN-capable world.  Consider the first stages of such an
   incremental deployment, where a subset of the flows are ECN-capable.
   At the onset of congestion, when the packet dropping/marking rate
   would be low, routers would only set CE bits, rather than dropping
   packets.  However, only those flows that are ECN-capable would
   understand and respond to CE packets. The result is that the ECN-
   capable flows would back off, and the non-ECN-capable flows would be
   unaware of the ECN signals and would continue to open their
   congestion windows.

   In this case, there are two possible outcomes: (1) the ECN-capable
   flows back off, the non-ECN-capable flows get all of the bandwidth,
   and congestion remains mild, or (2) the ECN-capable flows back off,
   the non-ECN-capable flows don't, and congestion increases until the
   router transitions from setting the CE bit to dropping packets.
   While this second outcome evens out the fairness, the ECN-capable
   flows would still receive little benefit from being ECN-capable,
   because the increased congestion would drive the router to packet-
   dropping behavior.

   A flow that advertised itself as ECN-Capable but does not respond to
   CE bits is functionally equivalent to a flow that turns off
   congestion control, as discussed in Sections 8 and 9.

   Thus, in a world when a subset of the flows are ECN-capable, but
   where ECN-capable flows have no mechanism for indicating that fact to
   the routers, there would be less effective and less fair congestion
   control in the Internet, resulting in a strong incentive for end
   nodes not to deploy ECN.

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17. Why use two bits in the IP header?

   Given the need for an ECT indication in the IP header, there still
   remains the question of whether the ECT (ECN-Capable Transport) and
   CE (Congestion Experienced) indications should be overloaded on a
   single bit.  This overloaded-one-bit alternative, explored in
   [Floyd94], would involve a single bit with two values.  One value,
   "ECT and not CE", would represent an ECN-Capable Transport, and the
   other value, "CE or not ECT", would represent either Congestion
   Experienced or a non-ECN-Capable transport.

   There is only one inherent functional difference between the one-bit
   and two-bit implementations.  This functional difference concerns
   packets that traverse multiple congested routers.  Consider a CE
   packet that arrives at a second congested router, and is selected by
   the active queue management at that router for either marking or
   dropping.  In the one-bit implementation, the second congested router
   has no choice but to drop the CE packet, because it cannot
   distinguish between a CE packet and a non-ECT packet.  In the two-bit
   implementation, the second congested router has the choice of either
   dropping the CE packet, or of leaving it alone with the CE bit set.

   Another difference between the one-bit and two-bit implementations
   comes from the fact that with the one-bit implementation, receivers
   in a single flow cannot distinguish between CE and non-ECT packets.
   Thus, in the one-bit implementation an ECN-capable data sender would
   have to unambiguously indicate to the receiver or receivers whether
   each packet had been sent as ECN-Capable or as non-ECN-Capable.  One
   possibility would be for the sender to indicate in the transport
   header whether the packet was sent as ECN-Capable.  A second
   possibility that would involve a functional limitation for the one-
   bit implementation would be for the sender to unambiguously indicate
   that it was going to send *all* of its packets as ECN-Capable or as
   non-ECN-Capable.  For a multicast transport protocol, this
   unambiguous indication would have to be apparent to receivers joining
   an on-going multicast session.

   Another advantage of the two-bit approach is that it is somewhat more
   robust.  The most critical issue, discussed in Section 8, is that the
   default indication should be that of a non-ECN-Capable transport.  In
   a two-bit implementation, this requirement for the default value
   simply means that the ECT bit should be `OFF' by default.  In the
   one-bit implementation, this means that the single overloaded bit
   should by default be in the "CE or not ECT" position.  This is less
   clear and straightforward, and possibly more open to incorrect
   implementations either in the end nodes or in the routers.

   In summary, while the one-bit implementation could be a possible

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   implementation, it has the following significant limitations relative
   to the two-bit implementation.  First, the one-bit implementation has
   more limited functionality for the treatment of CE packets at a
   second congested router.  Second, the one-bit implementation requires
   either that extra information be carried in the transport header of
   packets from ECN-Capable flows (to convey the functionality of the
   second bit elsewhere, namely in the transport header), or that
   senders in ECN-Capable flows accept the limitation that receivers
   must be able to determine a priori which packets are ECN-Capable and
   which are not ECN-Capable. Third, the one-bit implementation is
   possibly more open to errors from faulty implementations that choose
   the wrong default value for the ECN bit.  We believe that the use of
   the extra bit in the IP header for the ECT-bit is extremely valuable
   to overcome these limitations.


   K. K. Ramakrishnan
   AT&T Labs. Research
   Phone: +1 (973) 360-8766

   Sally Floyd
   Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
   Phone: +1 (510) 486-7518

   This draft was created in July 1998.
   It expires January 1999.

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