[e2e] Question about propagation and queuing delays

Fred Baker fred at cisco.com
Mon Aug 22 14:50:52 PDT 2005

no, but there are different realities, and how one measures them is  
also relevant.

In large fiber backbones, within the backbone we generally run 10:1  
overprovisioned or more. within those backbones, as you note, the  
discussion is moot. But not all traffic stays within the cores of  
large fiber backbones - much of it is originated and terminates in  
end systems located in homes and offices.

The networks that connect homes and offices to the backbones are  
often constrained differently. For example, my home (in an affluent  
community in California) is connected by Cable Modem, and the service  
that I buy (business service that in its AUP accepts a VPN, unlike  
the same company's residential service) guarantees a certain amount  
of bandwidth, and constrains me to that bandwidth - measured in KBPS.  
I can pretty easily fill that, and when I do certain services like  
VoIP don't work anywhere near as well. So I wind up playing with the  
queuing of traffic in the router in my home to work around the  
service rate limit in my ISP. As I type this morning (in a hotel in  
Taipei), the hotel provides an access network that I share with the  
other occupants of the hotel. It's not uncommon for the entire hotel  
to share a single path for all of its occupants, and that single path  
is not necessarily in MBPS. And, they tell me that the entire world  
is not connected by large fiber cores - as soon as you step out of  
the affluent industrialized countries, VSAT, 64 KBPS links, and even  
9.6 access over GSM become the access paths available.

As to measurement, note that we generally measure that  
overprovisioning by running MRTG and sampling throughput rates every  
300 seconds. When you're discussing general service levels for an  
ISP, that is probably reasonable. When you're measuring time  
variations on the order of milliseconds, that's a little like running  
a bump counter cable across a busy intersection in your favorite  
downtown, reading the counter once a day, and drawing inferences  
about the behavior of traffic during light changes during rush hour...

http://www.ieee-infocom.org/2004/Papers/37_4.PDF has an interesting  
data point. They used a much better measurement methodology, and one  
of the large networks gave them some pretty cool access in order to  
make those tests. Basically, queuing delays within that particular  
very-well-engineered large fiber core were on the order of 1 ms or  
less during the study, with very high confidence. But the same data  
flows frequently jumped into the 10 ms range even within the 90%  
confidence interval, and a few times jumped to 100 ms or so. The  
jumps to high delays would most likely relate to correlated high  
volume data flows, I suspect, either due to route changes or simple  
high traffic volume.

The people on NANOG and the people in the NRENs live in a certain  
ivory tower, and have little patience with those who don't. They also  
measure the world in a certain way that is easy for them.

On Aug 23, 2005, at 12:13 AM, David Hagel wrote:

> Thanks, this is interesting. I asked the same question on nanog and  
> got similar responses: that queuing delay is negligible on todays  
> backbone networks compared to other fixed delay components  
> (propagation, store-and-forward, transmission etc). Response on  
> nanog seems to indicate that queuing delay is almost irrelevant today.
> This may sound like a naive question. But if queuing delays are so  
> insignificant in comparison to other fixed delay components then  
> what does it say about the usefulness of all the extensive  
> techniques for queue management and congestion control (including  
> TCP congestion control, RED and so forth) in the context of today's  
> backbone networks? Any thoughts? Are the congestion control  
> researchers out of touch with reality?
> - Dave
> On 8/21/05, David P. Reed <dpreed at reed.com> wrote:
>> I can repeatably easily measure 40 msec. coast-to-coast (Boston- 
>> LA), of which around 25 msec. is accounted for by speed of light  
>> in fiber (which is 2/3 of speed of light in vacuum, *299,792,458 m  
>> s^-1 *, because the refractive index of fiber is approximately 1.5  
>> or 3/2).   So assume 2e8 m/s as the speed of light in fiber,   
>> 1.6e3 m/mile, and you get 1.25e5 mi/sec.
>> The remaining 15 msec. can be accounted for by the fiber path not  
>> being straight line, or by various "buffering delays" (which  
>> include queueing delays, and scheduling delays in the case where  
>> frames are scheduled periodically and you have to wait for the  
>> next frame time to launch your frame).
>> Craig Partridge and I have debated (offline) what the breakdown  
>> might actually turn out to be (he thinks the total buffering delay  
>> is only 2-3 msec., I think it's more like 10-12), and it would be  
>> quite interesting to get more details, but that would involve  
>> delving into the actual equipment deployed and its operating modes.

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