12:45PM, Thursday, October 14th 2004.
Gates 104

 Sizing Router Buffers


Guido Appenzeller
Stanford University

About the talk:
From Guido's SIGCOMM'04 paper:

All Internet routers contain buffers to hold packets during times of congestion. Today, the size of the buffers is determined by the dynamics of TCP's congestion control algorithm. In particular, the goal is to make sure that when a link is congested, it is busy 100% of the time; which is equivalent to making sure its buffer never goes empty. A widely used rule-of-thumb states that each link needs a buffer of size B = RTT * C, where RTT is the average round-trip time of a flow passing across the link, and C is the data rate of the link. For example, a 10Gb/s router linecard needs approximately 250ms * 10Gb/s = 2.5Gbits of buffers; and the amount of buffering grows linearly with the line-rate. Such large buffers are challenging for router manufacturers, who must use large, slow, off-chip DRAMs. And queueing delays can be long, have high variance, and may destabilize the congestion control algorithms.  In this paper we argue that the rule-of-thumb (B = RTT *C) is now outdated and incorrect for backbone routers. This is because of the large number of flows (TCP connections) multiplexed together on a single backbone link. Using theory, simulation and experiments on a network of real routers, we show that a link with n flows requires no more than B = (RTT * C)/pn, for long-lived or short-lived TCP flows. The consequences on router design are enormous: A 2.5Gb/s link carrying 10,000 flows could reduce its buffers by 99% with negligible difference in throughput; and a 10Gb/s link carrying 50,000 flows requires only 10Mbits of buffering, which can easily be implemented using fast, on-chip SRAM.

About the speaker:
Guido Appenzeller is a Ph.D. Candidate with the High Performance Networking Group.