TCP Maintenance and Minor Extensions                    R. Scheffenegger
(tcpm)                                                      NetApp, Inc.
Internet-Draft                                             M. Kuehlewind
Updates: 1323 (if approved)                      University of Stuttgart
Intended status: Experimental                                B. Trammell
Expires: April 25, 2013                                       ETH Zurich
                                                        October 22, 2012

        Additional negotiation in the TCP Timestamp Option field
                        during the TCP handshake


   A number of TCP enhancements in diverse fields as congestion control,
   loss recovery or side-band signaling could be improved by allowing
   both ends of a TCP session to interpret the value carried in the
   Timestamp option.  Further enhancements are enabled by changing the
   receiver side processing of timestamps in the presence of Selective

   This document updates RFC1323 and specifies a backward-compatible
   method for negotiating for additional capabilities for the Timestamp
   option, and lists a number of benefits and drawbacks of this

Status of this Memo

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

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on April 25, 2013.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2012 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
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   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  Terminology  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   3.  Overview of the TCP Timestamp Option . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   4.  Extended Timestamp Capabilities  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
     4.1.  Description  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
     4.2.  Timestamp echo update for Selective Acknowledgments  . . .  9
   5.  Timestamp capability signaling and negotiation . . . . . . . . 10
     5.1.  Capability Flags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     5.2.  Timestamp clock interval encoding  . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
     5.3.  Negotiation error detection and recovery . . . . . . . . . 12
     5.4.  Interaction with Selective Acknowledgment  . . . . . . . . 14
       5.4.1.  Interaction with the Retransmission Timer  . . . . . . 15
       5.4.2.  Interaction with the PAWS test . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
     5.5.  Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
   6.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
   7.  Updates to Existing RFCs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
   8.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
   9.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   10. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
     10.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
     10.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   Appendix A.  Possible use cases  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     A.1.  Timestamp clock rate exposure  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     A.2.  Early spurious retransmit detection  . . . . . . . . . . . 22
     A.3.  Early lost retransmission detection  . . . . . . . . . . . 23
     A.4.  Integrity of the Timestamp value . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
     A.5.  Disambiguation with slow Timestamp clock . . . . . . . . . 25
     A.6.  Masked timestamps as segment digest  . . . . . . . . . . . 26
   Appendix B.  Open Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
   Appendix C.  Revision history  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
   Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

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1.  Introduction

   The Timestamp option originally introduced in [RFC1323] was designed
   to support only two very specific mechanisms, round trip time
   measurement (RTTM), and protection against wrapped sequence numbers
   (PAWS), assuming a particular TCP algorithm (Reno).  The current
   semantics inhibit the use of the Timestamp option for other uses.
   Taking advantage of developments since TCP Reno, in particular
   Selective Acknowledgements (SACK) [RFC2018] allow different
   semantics, which in turn enable new uses for the Timestamp option,
   either for timing purposes (e.g. one-way delay variation measurement
   in the context of congestion control), or as unique token (e.g. for
   improved loss recovery).

   This specification defines a protocol for the two ends of a TCP
   session to negotiate alternative semantics of the Timestamp option
   fields they will exchange during the rest of the session.  It updates
   RFC1323 but it is backwards compatible with implementations of
   RFC1323 Timestamp options, and allows gradual deployment.

   The RFC1323 timestamp protocol presents the following problems when
   trying to extend it for alternative uses:

   a.  Unclear meaning of the value in a timestamp.

       *  A timestamp value (TSval) as defined in [RFC1323] is
          deliberately only meaningful to the end that sends it.  The
          other end is merely meant to echo the value without
          understanding it.  This is fine if one end is trying to
          measure two-way delay (round trip time).  However, to measure
          one-way delay variation, timestamps from both ends need to be
          compared by one end, which needs to relate the values in
          timestamps from both ends to a notion of the passage of time
          that both ends share.

   b.  No control over which timestamp to echo.

       *  A host implementing [RFC1323] is meant to echo the timestamp
          value of the most recent in-order segment received.  This was
          fine for TCP Reno, but it is not the best choice for TCP
          sessions using selective acknowledgement (SACK) [RFC2018].

       *  A [RFC1323] host is meant to echo the timestamp value of the
          earliest unacknowledged segment, e.g. if a host delays ACKs
          for one segment, it echoes the first timestamp not the second.
          It is desirable to include delay due to ACK withholding when a
          host is conservatively measuring RTT.  However, is not useful
          to include the delay due to ACK withholding when measuring

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          one-way delay variation.

   c.  Alternative protection against wrapped sequence numbers.

       *  [RFC1323] also points out that the timestamps it specifies
          will always strictly monotonically increase in each window so
          they can be used to protect against wrapped sequence numbers
          (PAWS).  If the endpoints negotiate an alternative timestamp
          scheme in which timestamps may not monotonically increase per
          window, then it needs to be possible to negotiate alternative
          protection against wrapped sequence numbers.

   To solve these problems this specification changes the wire protocol
   of the TCP timestamp option in two main ways:

   1.  It updates [RFC1323] to add the ability to negotiate the
       semantics of timestamp options.  The initiator of a TCP session
       starts the negotiation in the TSecr field in the first <SYN>,
       which is currently unused.  This specification defines the
       semantics of the TSecr field in a segment with the SYN flag set.
       A version number is included to allow further extension of
       capability negotiation in future.

   2.  A version independent ability to mask a specified number of the
       lower significant bits of the timestamp values is present.  These
       masked bits are not considered for timestamp calculations, or in
       an algorithm to protect against wrapped sequence numbers.  Future
       extensions can thereby change the timestamp signaling without
       changing the modified treatment on the receiver side.

   3.  It updates [RFC1323] to define version 0 of timestamp
       capabilities to include:

       *  the duration in seconds of a tick of the timestamp clock using
          a time interval representation defined in

       *  agreement that both ends will echo the timestamp on the most
          recently received segment, rather than the one that would be
          echoed by an [RFC1323] host.  There is no specific option to
          request this behavior, however it is implied by successful
          negotiation of both SACK and timestamp capabilities.

   With this new wire protocol, a number of new use-cases for the TCP
   timestamp option become possible.  Appendix A gives some examples.
   Further extensions might be required in future.  Two possible ways to
   extend the negotiation capabilities are mentioned, one maintaining
   some of the semantics specified herein, and a incompatible extension

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   to allow for other semantics.

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2.  Terminology

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

   The reader is expected to be familiar with the definitions given in

   Further terminology used within this document:

   Timestamp option
       This refers to the entire TCP timestamp option, including both
       TSval and TSecr fields.

   Timestamp capabilities
       Refers only to the values and bits carried in the TSecr field of
       <SYN> and <SYN,ACK> segments during a TCP handshake.  For
       signaling purposes, the timestamp capabilities are sent in clear
       with the <SYN> segment, and in an encoded form (see Section 5 for
       details) in the <SYN,ACK> segment.

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3.  Overview of the TCP Timestamp Option

   The TCP Timestamp option (TSopt) provides timestamp echoing for
   round-trip time (RTT) measurements.  TSopt is widely deployed and
   activated by default in many systems.  [RFC1323] specifies TSopt the
   following way:

         Kind: 8

         Length: 10 bytes

         |Kind=8 |  10   |   TS Value (TSval)  |TS Echo Reply (TSecr)|
             1       1              4                     4

                          Figure 1: RFC1323 TSopt

      "The Timestamps option carries two four-byte timestamp fields.
      The Timestamp Value field (TSval) contains the current value of
      the timestamp clock of the TCP sending the option.

      The Timestamp Echo Reply field (TSecr) is only valid if the ACK
      bit is set in the TCP header; if it is valid, it echos a times-
      tamp value that was sent by the remote TCP in the TSval field of a
      Timestamps option.  When TSecr is not valid, its value must be
      zero.  The TSecr value will generally be from the most recent
      Timestamp option that was received; however, there are exceptions
      that are explained below.

      A TCP may send the Timestamps option (TSopt) in an initial <SYN>
      segment (i.e., segment containing a SYN bit and no ACK bit), and
      may send a TSopt in other segments only if it received a TSopt in
      the initial <SYN> segment for the connection."

   The comparison of the timestamp in the TSecr field to the current
   timestamp clock gives an estimation of the two-way delay (RTT).  With
   [RFC1323] the receiver is not supposed to interpret the TSval field
   for timing purposes, e.g. one-way delay variation measurements, but
   only to echo the content in the TSecr field.  [RFC1323] specifies
   various cases when more than one timestamp is available to echo.  The
   only property exposed to a receiver is a strict monotonic increase in
   value, for use with the protection against wrapped sequence numbers
   (PAWS) test.  The approach taken by [RFC1323] is not always be the
   best choice, i.e. when the TCP Selective Acknowledgment option (SACK)
   is used in conjunction on the same session.

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4.  Extended Timestamp Capabilities

4.1.  Description

   Timestamp values are carried in each segment if negotiated for.
   However, the content of these values is to be treated as an unmutable
   and largely uninterpreted entity by the receiver.  The timestamp
   negotiation should allow for following criteria:

   o  Allow to state timing information explicitly during the initial
      handshake, avoiding the proliferation of ad-hoc heuristics to
      determine this information via some other means.  Heuristics that
      simply assume a specific timestamp clock intervals, or try to
      learn the clock interval used by the partner during a training
      phase extending beyond the initial handshake can thereby avoided.
      This is discussed further in

   o  Indicate the (approximate) timestamp clock interval used by the
      sender in a wide range.  The longest interval should be around 10
      seconds, while the shorted interval should allow unique timestamps
      per segment, even at extremely high link speeds.  A negotiation-
      method-independent representation for timestamp intervals is given
      in [I-D.trammell-tcpm-timestamp-interval].

   o  Allow for timestamps that are not directly related to real time
      (i.e. segment counting, or use of the timestamp value as a true
      extension of sequence numbers).

   o  Provide means to prevent or at least detect tampering with the
      echoed timestamp value, allowing for basic integrity and
      consistency checks.

   o  Allow for future extensions that may use some of the timestamp
      value bits for other signaling purposes during the remainder of
      the session.

   o  Signaling must be backwards compatible with existing TCP stacks
      implementing basic [RFC1323] timestamps.  Current methods for
      timestamp value generation must be supported.

   o  Allow for a means to disambiguate between retransmitted and
      delayed <SYN> segments.

   o  Cater for broken implementations of [RFC1323], that either send a
      non-zero TSecr value in the initial <SYN>, or a zero TSecr value
      in <SYN,ACK>.

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   o  Provide flexibility to extend the negotiation protocol.
      Backwards-compatible and incompatible extensions of using
      timestamps should be available.

4.2.  Timestamp echo update for Selective Acknowledgments

   In [RFC1323], timing information is only considered in relation to
   calculating a (conservative) estimate of the round trip time, in
   order to arrive at a reasonable retransmission timeout (RTO).  A
   retransmission timeout is a very expensive event in TCP, in terms of
   lost throughput and other metrics.  For this reason, a receiver had
   to follow special rules in what timestamp to echo.  This was to never
   underestimate the actual RTT, even during periods of loss or
   reordering on either the forward or return path.  No other explicit
   signal could convey the presence of such events back to the sender at
   the time [RFC1323] was defined.  Therefore a receiver had to make
   sure than at best, the timestamp of the last in-sequence segment
   would be echoed to the sender.

   Receivers conforming to [RFC1323] are required to only reflect the
   timestamp of the last segment that was received in order, or the
   timestamp of the last not yet acknowledged segment in the case of
   delayed acknowledgments.

   When selective acknowledgment (SACK) is enabled on a session, the
   presence of a SACK option will explicitly signal reordering or loss
   to the sender.  This information can be used to suspend the
   calculation of updated RTT estimates.  As the SACK option will be
   present in multiple ACKs, this also prevents increasing RTT
   artificially when some of the ACKs, indicating loss, are dropped on
   the return path.

   A receiver supporting the timestamp negotiation mechanism defined in
   this document MUST immediately reflect the value of TSval in the
   segment triggering an ACK, when the same session also supports SACK.

   The rules to update the state variable TS.recent remain the identical
   to [RFC1323], and TS.recent must be evaluated when performing the
   PAWS test on the receiver side.

   By this change of semantics when using the timestamps and selective
   acknowledgments [RFC2018] in the same session, enhancements in loss
   recovery are possible by removing any remaining retransmission and
   acknowledgment ambiguity.  See Appendix A for a more detailed
   discussion.  Through the modification to the handling of which
   timestamp to echo in the receiver, timestamps fulfill the properties
   of the "token", as described in [I-D.sabatini-tcp-sack].

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5.  Timestamp capability signaling and negotiation

   In order to signal the supported capabilities, both the sender and
   the receiver will independently generate a timestamp capability
   negotiation field, as indicated below.  The TSecr value field of the
   [RFC1323] TSopt is overloaded with the following flags and fields
   during the initial <SYN> and <SYN,ACK> segments.  The connection
   initiator will send the timestamp capabilities in plain, as with
   [RFC1323] the TSecr is not used in the initial <SYN>.  The receiver
   will XOR the local timestamp capabilities with the TSval received
   from the sender and send the result in the TSecr field.  The
   initiating host of a session with timestamp capability negotiation
   has to keep minimal state to decode the returned capabilities XOR'ed
   with the sent TSval.

5.1.  Capability Flags

       Kind: 8

       Length: 10 bytes

       |Kind=8 |  10   |   TS Value (TSval)  |TS Echo Reply (TSecr)|
           1       1              4          |           4         |
                                            /                      |
       .-----------------------------------'                       |
      /                                                             \
     |                                                               |
     |E|   |         #                                               |
     |X|VER|   MSK   #           version specific contents           |
     |O|   |         #                                               |

                   Figure 2: Timestamp Capability flags

   Common fields to all versions:

   EXO - Extended Options (1 bit)
       Indicates that the sender supports extended timestamp
       capabilities as defined by this document, and MUST be set to one
       by a compliant implementation.  This flag also enables the
       immediate echoing of the TSval with the next ACK, if both
       timestamp capabilities and selective acknowledgement [RFC2018]
       are successful negotiated during the initial handshake (see
       Section 4.2, and Section 5.4).  This change in semantics is
       independent of the version in the signaled timestamp

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   VER - Version (2 bits)
       Version of the capabilities fields definition.  This document
       specifies codepoint 0 (00b).  With the exception of the immediate
       mirroring - simplifying the receiver side processing - and the
       masking of some LSB bits before performing the Protection Against
       Wrapped Sequence Numbers (PAWS) test, hosts must not interpret
       the received timestamps and not use a timestamp value as input
       into advanced heuristics, if the version received is not
       supported.  This is an identical requirement as with current
       [RFC1323] compliant implementations.
       The lower 3 octets of the timestamp capability flags MUST be
       ignored if an unsupported version is received.  It is expected,
       that a host will implement at least version 0.  A receiver MUST
       respond with the appropriate (equal or version 0) version when
       responding to a new session request.

   MSK - Mask Timestamps (5 bits)
       The MaSK field indicates how many least significant bits should
       be excluded by the receiver, before further processing the
       timestamp (i.e.  PAWS, or for timing purposes).  The unmasked
       portion of a TSval has to comply with the constraints imposed by
       [RFC1323] on the generation of valid timestamps, e.g. must be
       monotone increasing between segments, and strict monotone
       increasing for each TCP window.
       Note that this does not impact the reflected timestamp in any way
       - TSecr will always be equal to an appropriate TSval.  This field
       MUST be present in all future version of timestamp capability
       fields.  A value of 31 (all bits set) MUST be interpreted by a
       receiver that the full TSval is to be ignored by any legacy
       heuristics, e.g. disabling PAWS.  For PAWS to be effective, at
       least two not masked bits are required to discriminate between an
       increase (and roll-over) versus outdated segments.

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5.2.  Timestamp clock interval encoding

       Kind: 8

       Length: 10 bytes

       |Kind=8 |  10   |   TS Value (TSval)  |TS Echo Reply (TSecr)|
           1       1              4          |           4         |
                                            /                      |
       .-----------------------------------'                       |
      /                                                             \
     |                                                               |
     |E|   |         #               |                               |
     |X|VER|   MSK   #  reserved (0) |            interval           |
     |O|   |         #               |                               |

             Figure 3: Timestamp Capability flags - version 0

   reserved (8 bits)
       Reserved for future use, and MUST be zero ("0") with version 0.
       If timestamp capabilities are received with version set to 0, but
       some of these bits set, the receiver MUST ignore the extended
       options field and react as if the TSecr was zero (compatibility

   interval (16 bits)
       The interval of the timestamp clock, as defined in

5.3.  Negotiation error detection and recovery

   During the initial TCP three-way handshake, timestamp capabilities
   are negotiated using the TSecr field.  Timestamp capabilities MAY
   only be negotiated in TSecr when the SYN bit is set.  A host detects
   the presence of timestamp capability flags when the EXO bit is set in
   the TSecr field of the received <SYN> segment.  When receiving a
   session request (<SYN> segment with timestamp capabilities), a
   compliant TCP receiver is required to XOR the received TSval with the
   receivers timestamp capabilities.  The resulting value is then sent
   in the <SYN,ACK> response.

   To support these design goals stated in Section 4, only the TSecr
   field in the initial <SYN> can be used directly.  The response from

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   the receiver has to be encoded, since no unused field is available in
   the <SYN,ACK>.  The most straightforward encoding is a XOR with a
   value that is known to the sender.  Therefore, the receiver also uses
   TSecr to indicate its capabilities, but calculates the XOR sum with
   the received TSval.  This allows the receiver to remain stateless and
   functionality like SYN Cache (see [RFC4987]) can be maintained with
   no change.

   If a sender has to retransmit the <SYN>, this encoding also allows to
   detect which segment was received and responded to.  This is possible
   by changing the timestamp clock offset between retransmissions in
   such a way, that the decoding on the sender side would result in an
   invalid timestamp capability negotiation field (e.g. some RES bits
   are set).  If the sender does not require the capability to
   differentiate which <SYN> was received, the timestamp clock offset
   for each new <SYN> can be set in such a way, that the TSopt of the
   <SYN> is identical for each retransmission.

   As a receiver MAY report back a zero value at any time, in particular
   during the <SYN,ACK>, the sender is slightly constrained in its
   selection of an initial Timestamp value.  The Timestamp value sent in
   the <SYN> should be selected in such a way, that it does not resemble
   a valid Timestamp capabilities field.  One approach to ensure this
   property is that the sender makes sure that at least one bit of the
   RES field is set.  This prevents a compliant sender to erroneously
   detect a compliant receiver, if the returned TSecr value is zero.

   A host initiating a TCP session must verify if the partner also
   supports timestamp capability negotiation and a supported version,
   before using enhanced algorithms.  Note that this change in semantics
   does not necessarily change the signaling of timestamps on the wire
   after initial negotiation.

   To mitigate the effect from misbehaving TCP senders appearing to
   negotiate for timestamp capabilities, a receiver MUST verify that one
   specific bit (EXO) is set, and any reserved bits (currently 8, RES
   field) are cleared.  This limits the chance for a receiver to
   mistakenly negotiate for version 0 capabilities in the presence of a
   misbehaving sender to around 0.05%.  The prevalence of misbehaving
   senders, and distribution of observed TSecr values, limits this to
   less than 1 in 6 million.  The modifications described in
   [I-D.ietf-tcpm-1323bis] and implemented in a receiver would further
   decrease the false negotiation to less then 10^-7.

   However, as a receiver has to use changed semantics when reflecting
   TSval also for higher values in the version field, a misbehaving
   sender negotiating for SACK, but not properly clearing TSecr, may
   have a 37.5% chance of receiving timestamp values with modified

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   receiver behavior (from an approximate population of 0.00036% of
   sessions being started without a cleared TSecr).  This may lead to an
   increased number of spurious retransmission timeouts, putting such a
   session from a misbehaving TCP sender to a disadvantage.

   Once timestamp capabilities are successfully negotiated, the receiver
   MUST ignore an indicated number of masked, low-order bits, before
   applying the heuristics defined in [RFC1323].  The monotonic increase
   of the timestamp value for each new segment could be violated if the
   full 32 bit field, including the masked bits, are used.  This
   conflicts with the constraints imposed by PAWS.

   The presented distribution of the common three fields, EXO, VER and
   MASK, that MUST be present regardless of which version is implemented
   in a compliant TCP stack, is a result of the previously mentioned
   design goals.  The lower three octets MAY be redefined freely with
   subsequent versions of the timestamp capability negotiation protocol.
   This allows a future version to be implemented in such a way, that a
   receiver can still operate with the modified behavior, and a minimum
   amount of processing (PAWS)

5.4.  Interaction with Selective Acknowledgment

   If both Timestamp capabilities and Selective Acknowledgement options
   [RFC2018] are negotiated (both hosts send these options in their
   respective handshake segments), both hosts MUST echo the timestamp
   value of the last received segment, irrespective of the order of
   delivery.  Note that this is in conflict with [RFC1323], where only
   the timestamp of the last segment received in sequence is mirrored.
   As SACK allows discrimination of reordered or lost segments, the
   reflected timestamp is not required to convey the most conservative
   information.  If SACK indicates lost or reordered packets at the
   receiver, the sender MUST take appropriate action such as ignoring
   the received timestamps for calculating the round trip time, or
   assuming a delayed packet (with appropriate handling).  An updated
   algorithm to calculate the retransmission timeout timer (RTO) is
   beyond the scope of this document.

   The immediate echoing of the last received timestamp value allowed by
   the simultaneous use of the timestamp option with the SACK option
   enables enhancements to improve loss recovery, round trip time (RTT)
   and one-way delay (OWD) variation measurements (see Appendix A) even
   during loss or reordering episodes.  This is enabled by removing any
   retransmission ambiguity using unique timestamps for every
   retransmission, while simultaneously the SACK option indicates the
   ordering of received segments even in the presence of ACK loss or

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   For legacy applications of the timestamp option such as RTTM and
   PAWS, the presence of the SACK option gives a clear indication of
   loss or reordering.  Under these circumstances, RTTM should not be
   invoked even under [RFC1323], but often is, due to separate handling
   of timestamp and SACK options).

   The use of RTT and OWD measurements during loss episodes is an open
   research topic.  A sender has to accommodate for the changed
   timestamp semantics in order to maintain a conservative estimate of
   the Retransmission Timer as defined in [RFC6298], when a TCP sender
   has negotiated for an immediate reflection of the timestamp
   triggering an ACK (i.e. both timestamp capability negotiation and
   Selective Acknowledgements are enabled for the session).  As the
   presence of a SACK option in an ACK signals an ongoing reordering or
   loss episode, timestamps conveyed in such segments MUST NOT be used
   to update the retransmission timeout.  Also note that the presence of
   a SACK option alleviates the need of the receiver to reflect the last
   in-order timestamp, as lost ACKs can no longer cause erroneous
   updates of the retransmission timeout.

5.4.1.  Interaction with the Retransmission Timer

   The above stated rule, to ignore timestamps as soon as a SACK option
   is present, is fully consistent with the guidance given in [RFC1323],
   even though most implementations skip over such an additional
   verification step in the presence of the SACK option.

   To address the additional delay imposed by delayed ACKs, a compliant
   sender SHOULD modify the update procedure when receiving normal, in-
   sequence ACKs that acknowledge more than SMSS bytes, so that the
   input (denoted R in [RFC6298]) is calculated as

   R = RTT * ( 1 + 1/(cwnd/smss) )

   If RTT (as measured in units of the timestamp clock) is smaller than
   the congestion window measured in full sized segments, the above
   heuristic MAY be bypassed before updating the retransmission timeout

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5.4.2.  Interaction with the PAWS test

   The PAWS test as defined in [RFC1323] requires constant monotonic
   increasing values at the receiver side.  As TS.Recent is no longer
   used to track which timestamp to echo, this variable can be reused.
   Instead of tracking the timestamp sent in the most recent ACK, a more
   strict update rule could be used:

      "For example, we might save the timestamp from the segment that
      last advanced the left edge of the receive window, i.e., the most
      recent in-sequence segment."

   TS.Recent is only to be updated whenever the left window advances,
   but no longer has to consider delayed ACKs.

5.5.  Discussion

   RTT and OWD variation during loss episodes is not deeply researched.
   Current heuristics ([RFC1122], [RFC1323], Karn's algorithm [RFC2988])
   explicitly exclude (and prevent) the use of RTT samples when loss
   occurs.  However, solving the retransmission ambiguity problem - and
   the related reliable ACK delivery problem - would enable new
   functionality to improve TCP processing.  Also, having an immediate
   echo of the last received timestamp value would enable new research
   to distinguish between corruption loss (assumed to have no RTT / OWD
   impact) and congestion loss (assumed to have RTT / OWD impact).
   Research into this field appears to be rather neglected, especially
   when it comes to large scale, public internet investigations.  Due to
   the very nature of this, passive investigations without signals
   contained within the headers are only of limited use in empirical

   Retransmission ambiguity detection during loss recovery would allow
   an additional level of loss recovery control without reverting to
   timer-based methods.  As with the deployment of SACK, separating
   "what" to send from "when" to send it could be driven one step
   further.  In particular, less conservative loss recovery schemes
   which do not trade principles of packet conservation against
   timeliness, require a reliable way of prompt and best possible
   feedback from the receiver about any delivered segment and their
   ordering.  [RFC2018] SACK alone goes quite a long way, but using
   timestamp information in addition could remove any ambiguity.
   However, the current specs in [RFC1323] make that use impossible,
   thus a modified semantic (receiver behavior) is a necessity.

   A change in signaling with immediate timestamp value echoes would
   however break some legacy, per-packet RTT measurements.  The reason
   is, that delayed ACKs would not be covered.  Research has shown, that

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   per-packet updates of the RTT estimation (for the purpose of
   calculating a reasonable RTO value) are only of limited benefit (see
   [Path99], and [PH04]).  This is the most serious implication of the
   proposed signaling scheme with directly echoing the timestamp value
   of the segment triggering the ACK, when the SACK options is also
   negotiated for.  Even when using the directly reflected timestamp
   values in an unmodified RTT estimator, the immediate impact would be
   limited to causing premature RTOs when the sending rate suddenly
   drops below two segments per RTT.  That is, assuming the receiver
   implements delayed ACK and sending one ACK for every other data
   segment received.  If the receiver has also D-SACK [RFC2883] enabled,
   such premature RTOs can be detected and mitigated by the sender (for
   example, by increasing minRTO for low bandwidth flows).

   Allowing timestamps to play a more important role in TCP signaling
   also gives rise to concerns.  When the timestamp is used for
   congestion control purposes, this gives an incentive for malicious
   receivers to reflect tampered timestamps.  During the early phases of
   the introduction of Cubic, such modifications where shown to result
   in unfair advantages to malicious receivers, that selectively alter
   the reflected timestamp values (see [CUBIC]).  For that very reason,
   this document introduces the explicit possibility to include a signal
   in the timestamp values that is excluded from any processing by the
   receiver.  A sender can then decide how to make use of this
   capability, e.g. for use as additional security information,
   improvements of loss recovery or other, yet unknown, means.

6.  Acknowledgements

   The authors would like to thank Dragana Damjanovic for some initial
   thoughts around Timestamps and their extended potential use.

   We would like to thank Bob Briscoe for his insightful comments, and
   the gratuitous donation of text, that have resulted in a
   substantially improved document.

   We further want to thank Michael Welzl for his input and discussion.

7.  Updates to Existing RFCs

   Care has been taken to make sure the updates in this specification
   can be deployed incrementally.

   Updates to existing [RFC1323] implementations are only REQUIRED if
   they do not clear the TSecr value in the initial <SYN> segment.  This
   is a misinterpretation of [RFC1323] and may leak data anyway (see

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   [I-D.ietf-tcpm-tcp-security]).  Also see [I-D.ietf-tcpm-1323bis], as
   this stipulates, that the TSval sent in a <RST> should be zeroed,
   further reducing the chance for a false positive.  It is expected,
   that these changes are implemented in stacks making use of timestamp
   negotiation.  Otherwise, there will be no need to update an RFC1323-
   compliant TCP stack unless the timestamp capabilities negotiation is
   to be used.

   Implementations compliant with the definitions in this document shall
   be prepared to encounter misbehaving senders, that don't clear TSecr
   in their initial <SYN>.  It is believed, that checking the reserved
   bits to be all zero provides enough protection against misbehaving

   In the unlikely case of an erroneous negotiation of timestamp
   capabilities between a compliant receiver, and a misbehaving sender,
   the proposed semantic changes will trigger a higher rate of spurious
   retransmissions, while time-based heuristics on the receiver side may
   further negatively impact congestion control decisions.  Overall,
   misbehaving receivers will suffer from self-inflicted reductions in
   TCP performance.

8.  IANA Considerations

   With this document, the IANA is requested to establish a new registry
   to record the timestamp capability flags defined with future versions
   (codepoints 1, 2 and 3).

   The lower 24 bits (3 octets) of the timestamp capabilities field may
   be freely assigned in future versions.  The first octet must always
   contain the EXO, VER and MASK fields for compatibility, and the MASK
   field MUST be set to allow interoperation with a version 0 receiver.

   This document specifies version 0 and the use of the last three
   octets to signal the senders timestamp clock interval to the

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9.  Security Considerations

   The algorithm presented in this paper shares security considerations
   with [RFC1323] (see [I-D.ietf-tcpm-tcp-security]).

   An implementation can address the vulnerabilities of [RFC1323], by
   dedicating a few low-order bits of the timestamp fields for use with
   a (secure) hash, that protects against malicious modification of
   returned timestamp value by the receiver.  A MASK field has been
   provided to explicitly notify the receiver about that alternate use
   of low-order bits.  This allows the use of timestamps for purposes
   requiring higher integrity and security while allowing the receiver
   to extract useful information nevertheless.

10.  References

10.1.  Normative References

              Scheffenegger, R., Kuehlewind, M., and B. Trammell,
              "Exposure of Time Intervals for the TCP Timestamp Option",
              draft-trammell-tcpm-timestamp-interval-00 (work in
              progress), October 2012.

   [RFC1323]  Jacobson, V., Braden, B., and D. Borman, "TCP Extensions
              for High Performance", RFC 1323, May 1992.

   [RFC2018]  Mathis, M., Mahdavi, J., Floyd, S., and A. Romanow, "TCP
              Selective Acknowledgment Options", RFC 2018, October 1996.

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

10.2.  Informative References

   [BSD10]    Hayes, D., "Timing enhancements to the FreeBSD kernel to
              support delay and rate based TCP mechanisms", Feb 2010, <h

   [CUBIC]    Rhee, I., Ha, S., and L. Xu, "CUBIC: A New TCP-Friendly
              High-Speed TCP Variant", Feb 2005, <http://

   [Cho08]    Cho, I., Han, J., and J. Lee, "Enhanced Response Algorithm
              for Spurious TCP Timeout (ER-SRTO)", Jan 2008, <http://

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              Blanton, E., Dimond, R., and M. Allman, "Practices for TCP
              Senders in the Face of Segment Reordering",
              draft-blanton-tcp-reordering-00 (work in progress),
              February 2003.

              Borman, D., Braden, R., Jacobson, V., and R.
              Scheffenegger, "TCP Extensions for High Performance",
              draft-ietf-tcpm-1323bis-04 (work in progress),
              August 2012.

              Biswas, A., "Support for Stronger Error Detection Codes in
              TCP for Jumbo Frames",
              draft-ietf-tcpm-anumita-tcp-stronger-checksum-00 (work in
              progress), May 2010.

              Gont, F., "Survey of Security Hardening Methods for
              Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) Implementations",
              draft-ietf-tcpm-tcp-security-03 (work in progress),
              March 2012.

              Sabatini, A., "Highly Efficient Selective Acknowledgement
              (SACK) for TCP", draft-sabatini-tcp-sack-01 (work in
              progress), August 2012.

   [Linux]    Sarolahti, P., "Linux TCP", Apr 2007,

   [PH04]     Eckstroem, H. and R. Ludwig, "The Peak-Hopper: A New End-
              to-End Retransmission Timer for Reliable Unicast
              Transport", Apr 2004, <

   [Path99]   Allman, M. and V. Paxson, "On Estimating End-to-End
              Network Path Properties", Sep 1999,

   [RFC1122]  Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -
              Communication Layers", STD 3, RFC 1122, October 1989.

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   [RFC2883]  Floyd, S., Mahdavi, J., Mathis, M., and M. Podolsky, "An
              Extension to the Selective Acknowledgement (SACK) Option
              for TCP", RFC 2883, July 2000.

   [RFC2988]  Paxson, V. and M. Allman, "Computing TCP's Retransmission
              Timer", RFC 2988, November 2000.

   [RFC3522]  Ludwig, R. and M. Meyer, "The Eifel Detection Algorithm
              for TCP", RFC 3522, April 2003.

   [RFC4015]  Ludwig, R. and A. Gurtov, "The Eifel Response Algorithm
              for TCP", RFC 4015, February 2005.

   [RFC4987]  Eddy, W., "TCP SYN Flooding Attacks and Common
              Mitigations", RFC 4987, August 2007.

   [RFC6013]  Simpson, W., "TCP Cookie Transactions (TCPCT)", RFC 6013,
              January 2011.

   [RFC6247]  Eggert, L., "Moving the Undeployed TCP Extensions RFC
              1072, RFC 1106, RFC 1110, RFC 1145, RFC 1146, RFC 1379,
              RFC 1644, and RFC 1693 to Historic Status", RFC 6247,
              May 2011.

   [RFC6298]  Paxson, V., Allman, M., Chu, J., and M. Sargent,
              "Computing TCP's Retransmission Timer", RFC 6298,
              June 2011.

Appendix A.  Possible use cases

A.1.  Timestamp clock rate exposure

   Today, each TCP host may use an arbitrary, locally defined clock
   source to derive the timestamp value from.  Even though only a
   handful of typically used clock rates are implemented in common TCP
   stacks, this does not guarantee that any future stack will choose the
   same clock rate.  This poses a problem for current state of the art
   heuristics, which try to determine the senders timestamp clock rate
   by pure passive observation of the TCP stream, and affects both
   advanced heuristics in the partner host of a TCP session, or
   arbitrarily located passive observation points to estimate TCP
   session parameters.

   The proposed mechanism would reveal this information explicitly, even
   though other environmental factors, such as the operation of a TCP
   stack in a virtualized environment, may result in some deviations in
   the actually used clock rate.

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   High-speed and real-time stacks would be expected to operate with
   higher clock rates, while the observed variance in (known) timestamp
   clock vs. reference clock could help in determining between physical
   and virtual end hosts, for example.

A.2.  Early spurious retransmit detection

   Using the provided timestamp negotiation scheme, clients utilizing
   slow running timestamp clocks can set aside a small number of least
   significant bits in the timestamps.  These bits can be used to
   differentiate between original and retransmitted segments, even
   within the same timestamp clock tick (i.e. when RTT is shorter than
   the TCP timestamp clock interval).  It is recommended to use only a
   single bit (mask = 1), unless the sender can also perform lost
   retransmission detection.  Using more than 2 bits for this purpose is
   discouraged due to the diminishing probability of loosing
   retransmitted packets more than one time.  A simple scheme could send
   out normal data segments with the so masked bits all cleared.  Each
   advance of the timestamp clock also clears those bits again.  When a
   segment is retransmitted without the timestamp clock increasing,
   these bits increased by one for each consecutive retry of the same
   segment, until the maximum value is reached.  Newly sent segments
   (during the same clock interval) should maintain these bits, in order
   to maintain monotonically increasing values, even though compliant
   end hosts do not require this property.  This scheme maintains
   monotonically increasing timestamp values - including the masked
   bits.  Even without negotiating the immediate mirroring of timestamps
   (done by simultaneously doing timestamp capabilities negotiation, and
   selective acknowledgments), this extends the use of the Eifel
   Detection [RFC3522] and Eifel Response [RFC4015] algorithm to detect
   and react to spurious retransmissions under all circumstances.  Also,
   currently experimental schemes such as ER-SRTO [Cho08] could be
   deployed without requiring the receiver to explicitly support that

                  Seg0 Seg1 Seg2 Seg3 Seg4
                  TS00 TS00 TS00 TS00 TS00

                       Seg1                Seg5
                       TS01                TS01

                                                Seg6 Seg7
                                                TS01 TS10

           Figure 4: timestamp for spurious retranmit detection

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   Masked bits are the 2nd digit, the timestamp value is represented by
   the first digit.  The timestamp clock "ticks" between segment 6 and

A.3.  Early lost retransmission detection

   During phases where multiple segments in short succession (but not
   necessarily successive segments) are lost, there is a high likelihood
   that at least one segment is retransmitted, while the cause of loss
   (i.e. congestion, fading) is still persisting.  The best current
   algorithms can recover such a lost retransmission with a few
   constraints, for example, that the session has to have at least
   DupThresh more segments to send beyond the current recovery phase.
   During loss recovery, when a retransmission is lost again, currently
   the timestamp can also not be used as means of conveying additional
   information, to allow more rapid loss recovery while maintaining
   packet conservation principles.  Only the timestamp of the last
   segment preceding the continuous loss will be reflected.  Using the
   extended timestamp option negotiation together with selective
   acknowledgements, the receiver will immediately reflect the timestamp
   of the last seen segment.  Using both SACK and TS information in
   conjunction with each other, a sender can infer the exact order in
   which original and retransmitted segments are received.  This allows
   faster recovery from lost retransmissions while maintaining the
   principle of packet conservations and avoiding costly retransmission

   The implementation can be done in combination with the masked bit
   approach described in the previous paragraph, or without.  However,
   if the timestamp clock interval is lower than 1/2 RTT, both the
   original and the retransmitted segment may carry an identical
   timestamp.  If the sender cannot discriminate between the original
   and the retransmitted segments, is must refrain from taking any
   action before such a determination can be made.

   In this example, masked bits are used, with a simple marking method.
   As the timestamp value of the retransmission itself is already
   different from the original segments, such an additional
   discrimination would not strictly be required here.  The timestamp
   clock ticks in the first digit and the dupthresh value is 3.

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             Seg0 Seg1 Seg2 Seg3 Seg4 Seg5 Seg6 Seg7
             TS00 TS00 TS00 TS10 TS10 TS10 TS10 TS20
                    X    X    X    *

                  Seg1 Seg2 Seg3 Seg4
                  TS21 TS30 TS30 TS30

                  Seg1                               Seg8 Seg9
                  TS31                               TS31 TS40

                      Figure 5: timestamp under loss

   If Seg1,TS00 is lost twice, and Seg4,TS10 is also lost, the sender
   could resend Seg1 once more after observing dupthresh number of
   segments sent after the first retransmission of Seg1 being received
   (ie, when Seg4 is SACKed).  However, there is an ambiguity between
   retransmitted segments and original segments, as the sender cannot
   know, if a SACK for one particular segment was due to the
   retransmitted segment, or a delayed original segment.  The timestamp
   value will not help in this case, as per RFC1323 it will be held at
   TS00 for the entire loss recovery episode.  Therefore, currently a
   sender has to assume that any SACKed segments may be due to delayed
   original sent segments, and can only resolve this conflict by
   injecting additional, previously unsent segments.  Once dupthresh
   newly injected segments are SACKed, continuous loss (and not further
   delay) of Seg1 can safely be assumed, and that segment be resent.
   This approach is conservative but constrained by the requirement that
   additional segments can be sent, and thereby delayed in the response.

   With the simultaneous use of timestamp extended options together with
   selective acknowledgments, the receiver would immediately reflect
   back the timestamp of the last received segment.  This allows the
   sender to discriminate between a SACK due to a delayed Seg4,TS10, or
   a SACK because of Seg4,TS30.  Therefore, the appropriate decision
   (retransmission of Seg1 once more, or addressing the observed
   reordering/delay accordingly [I-D.blanton-tcp-reordering] can be
   taken with high confidence.

A.4.  Integrity of the Timestamp value

   If the timestamp is used for congestion control purposes, an
   incentive exists for malicious receivers to reflect tampered
   timestamps, as demonstrated with some exploits [CUBIC].

   One way to address this is to not use timestamp information directly,
   but to keep state in the sender for each sent segment, and track the
   round trip time independent of sent timestamps.  Such an approach has

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   the drawback, that it is not straightforward to make it work during
   loss recovery phases for those segments possibly lost (or reordered).
   In addition there is processing and memory overhead to maintain
   possibly extensive lists in the sender that need to be consulted with
   each ACK.  Despite these drawbacks, this approach is currently
   implemented due to lack of alternatives (see [Linux], and [BSD10]).

   The preferred approach is that the sender MAY choose to protect
   timestamps from such modifications by including a fingerprint (secure
   hash of some kind) in some of the least significant bits.  However,
   doing so prevents a receiver from using the timestamp for other
   purposes, unless the receiver has prior knowledge about this use of
   some bits in the timestamp value.  Furthermore, strict monotonic
   increasing values are still to be maintained.  That constraint
   restricts this approach somewhat and limits or inhibits the use of
   timestamp values for direct use by the receiver (i.e. for one-way
   delay variation measurement, as the hash bits would look like random
   noise in the delay measurement).

A.5.  Disambiguation with slow Timestamp clock

   In addition, but somewhat orthogonal to maintaining timestamp value
   integrity, there is a use case when the sender does not support a
   timestamp clock interval that can guarantee unique timestamps for
   retransmitted segments.  This may happen whenever the TCP timestamp
   clock interval is higher than the round-trip time of the path.  For
   unambiguously identifying regular from retransmitted segments, the
   timestamp must be unique for otherwise identical segments.  Reserving
   the least significant bits for this purpose allows senders with slow
   running timestamp clocks to make use of this feature.  However,
   without modifying the receiver behavior, only limited benefits can be
   extracted from such an approach.  Furthermore the use of this option
   has implications in the protection against wrapped sequence numbers
   (PAWS - [RFC1323]), as the more bits are set aside for tamper
   prevention, the faster the timestamp number space cycles.

   Using Timestamp capabilities to explicitly negotiate mask bits, and
   set aside a (low) number of least significant bits for the above
   listed purposes, allows a sender to use more reliable integrity
   checks.  These masked bits are not to be considered part of the
   timestamp value, for the purposes described in [RFC1323] (i.e.  PAWS)
   and subsequent heuristics using timestamp values (i.e.  Eifel
   Detection), thereby lifting the strict requirement of always
   monotonically increasing timestamp values.  However, care should be
   taken to not mask too many bits, for the reasons outlined in
   [RFC1323].  Using a mask value higher than 8 is therefore

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   The reason for having 5 bits for the mask field nevertheless is to
   allow the implementation of this protocol in conjunction with TCP
   cookie transaction (TCPCT) extended timestamps [RFC6013].  That
   allows for nearly a quarter of a 128 bit timestamp to be set aside.

A.6.  Masked timestamps as segment digest

   After making TCP alternate checksums historic (see [RFC6247]), there
   still remains a need to address increased corruption probabilities
   when segment sizes are increased (see

   Utilizing a completely masked TSval field allows the sender to
   include a stronger CRC32, with semantics independent of the fixed TCP
   header fields.  However, such a use would again exclude the use of
   PAWS on the receiver side, and a receiver would need to know the
   specifics of the digest for processing.  It is assumed, that such a
   digest would only cover the data payload of a TCP segment.  In order
   to allow disambiguation of retransmissions, a special TSval can be
   defined (e.g.  TSval=0) which bypasses regular CRC processing but
   allows the identification of retransmitted segments.

   The full semantics of such a data-only CRC scheme are beyond the
   scope of this document, but would require a different version of the
   timestamp capability.  Nevertheless, allowing the full TSval to
   remain unprocessed by the receiver for the purpose of PAWS even in
   version 0 could still allow the successful negotiation of sender-side
   enhancements such as loss recovery improvements (see Appendix A.2,
   and Appendix A.3).

   In effect, the masked portion of the timestamp value represent an
   unreliable out of band signal channel, that could also be used for
   other purposes than solely performing timestamp integrity checks (for
   example, this would allow ER-SRTO algorithms [Cho08]).

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Appendix B.  Open Issues

   o  The split between this draft and
      [I-D.trammell-tcpm-timestamp-interval] is cursory; additional
      separation of timestamp interval export may be necessary.

   o  [bht] suggest changing the "versioning" construct to a
      "capabilities" construct, especially since two bits of versioning
      might as well be none.  The base specification would then define
      the alternate semantics WRT SACK and could use capabilities to
      define further semantics.

   o  [bht] does it make sense to move masking out of the base spec and
      into the 8 "unused" bits in "version 0" (in order to get more
      capabilities bits / "magic bits" to reduce erroneous negotiation)?

   o  [bht] does it make sense to define SACK-echo as version/capability

Appendix C.  Revision history

   This appendix should be removed by the RFC Editor before publishing
   this document as a RFC.

   00 ... initial draft, early submission to meet deadline.

   01 ... refined draft, focusing only on those capabilities that have
   an immediate use case.  Also excluding flags that can be substituted
   by other means (MIR - synergistic with SACK option only, RNG moved to
   appendix A, BIA removed and the exponent bias set to a fixed value.
   Also extended other paragraphs.

   02 ... updated document after IETF80 - referrals to "timestamp
   options" were seen to be ambiguous with "timestamp option", and
   therefore replaced by "timestamp capabilities".  Also, the document
   was reworked to better align with RFC4101.  Removed SGN and increased
   FRAC to allow higher precision.

   03 ... removed references to "opaque" and "transparent". substituted
   "timestamp clock interval" for all instances of rate.  Changed signal
   encoding to resemble a scale/value approach like what is done with
   Window Scaling.  As added benefit, clock quality can be implicitly
   signaled, since multiple representations can map to idential time
   intervals.  Added discussion around resilience against broken RFC1323
   implementations (Win95, Linux 2.3.41+), which deviate from expected
   Timestamp signaling behavior.

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   04 ... removed previous appendix A (range negotiation); minor edit to
   improve wording; moved Section 6 to the Appendix, and removed covert
   channels from the potential uses; added some text to discuss future
   versioning (compatible and incompatible variants); changed document
   structure; added guidance around PAWS; added pseudo-code examples
   (probably to be removed again)

   05 ... added new Open Issues section, added reference to separate
   interval draft, removed content on timestamp interval exposure which
   now appears in the interval draft.  Removed pseudocode examples until
   they can be reworked on finalization of the mechanism, as they refer
   to fields which have changed / moved to the interval draft.

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Authors' Addresses

   Richard Scheffenegger
   NetApp, Inc.
   Am Euro Platz 2
   Vienna,   1120

   Phone: +43 1 3676811 3146

   Mirja Kuehlewind
   University of Stuttgart
   Pfaffenwaldring 47
   Stuttgart  70569


   Brian Trammell
   Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
   Gloriastrasse 35
   8092 Zurich

   Phone: +41 44 632 70 13

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