Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) S. Dawkins, Ed.
Request for Comments: 9049
Category: Informational June 2021
Path Aware Networking: Obstacles to Deployment
(A Bestiary of Roads Not Taken)
This document is a product of the Path Aware Networking Research
Group (PANRG). At the first meeting of the PANRG, the Research Group
agreed to catalog and analyze past efforts to develop and deploy Path
Aware techniques, most of which were unsuccessful or at most
partially successful, in order to extract insights and lessons for
Path Aware networking researchers.
This document contains that catalog and analysis.
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for informational purposes.
This document is a product of the Internet Research Task Force
(IRTF). The IRTF publishes the results of Internet-related research
and development activities. These results might not be suitable for
deployment. This RFC represents the consensus of the Path Aware
Networking Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).
Documents approved for publication by the IRSG are not candidates for
any level of Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9049
Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
document authors. All rights reserved.
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
to this document.
Table of Contents 1.
What Do "Path" and "Path Awareness" Mean in This Document? 2.
A Perspective on This Document 2.1.
Notes for the Reader 2.2.
A Note about Path Aware Techniques Included in This
Architectural Guidance 2.4.
Terminology Used in This Document 2.5.
Methodology for Contributions 3.
Applying the Lessons We've Learned 4.
Summary of Lessons Learned 4.1.
Justifying Deployment 4.2.
Providing Benefits for Early Adopters 4.3.
Providing Benefits during Partial Deployment 4.4.
Outperforming End-to-End Protocol Mechanisms 4.5.
Paying for Path Aware Techniques 4.6.
Impact on Operational Practices 4.7.
Per-Connection State 4.8.
Keeping Traffic on Fast Paths 4.9.
Endpoints Trusting Intermediate Nodes 4.10.
Intermediate Nodes Trusting Endpoints 4.11.
Reacting to Distant Signals 4.12.
Support in Endpoint Protocol Stacks 4.13.
Planning for Failure 5.
Future Work 6.
Stream Transport (ST, ST2, ST2+) 6.1.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.1.2.
Lessons Learned 6.2.
Integrated Services (IntServ) 6.2.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.2.2.
Lessons Learned 6.3.
Quick-Start TCP 6.3.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.3.2.
Lessons Learned 6.4.
ICMP Source Quench 6.4.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.4.2.
Lessons Learned 6.5.
Triggers for Transport (TRIGTRAN) 6.5.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.5.2.
Lessons Learned 6.6.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.6.2.
Lessons Learned 6.6.3.
Addendum on Multipath TCP 6.7.
Next Steps in Signaling (NSIS) 6.7.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.7.2.
Lessons Learned 6.8.
IPv6 Flow Labels 6.8.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.8.2.
Lessons Learned 6.9.
Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) 6.9.1.
Reasons for Non-deployment 6.9.2.
Lessons Learned 7.
Security Considerations 8.
IANA Considerations 9.
This document describes the lessons that IETF participants have
learned (and learned the hard way) about Path Aware networking over a
period of several decades. It also provides an analysis of reasons
why various Path Aware techniques have seen limited or no deployment.
This document represents the consensus of the Path Aware Networking
Research Group (PANRG).
1.1. What Do "Path" and "Path Awareness" Mean in This Document?
One of the first questions reviewers of this document have asked is
"What's the definition of a Path, and what's the definition of Path
Awareness?" That is not an easy question to answer for this
These terms have definitions in other PANRG documents [PANRG] and are
still the subject of some discussion in the Research Group, as of the
date of this document. But because this document reflects work
performed over several decades, the technologies described in Section 6
significantly predate the current definitions of "Path" and
"Path Aware" in use in the Path Aware Networking Research Group, and
it is unlikely that all the contributors to Section 6
would have had
the same understanding of these terms. Those technologies were
considered "Path Aware" in early PANRG discussions and so are
included in this retrospective document.
It is worth noting that the definitions of "Path" and "Path Aware" in
[PANRG-PATH-PROPERTIES] would apply to Path Aware techniques at a
number of levels of the Internet protocol architecture ([RFC1122
plus several decades of refinements), but the contributions received
for this document tended to target the transport layer and to treat a
"Path" constructed by routers as opaque. It would be useful to
consider how applicable the Lessons Learned cataloged in this
document are, at other layers, and that would be a fine topic for
The current definition of "Path" in the Path Aware Networking
Research Group appears in Section 2
[PANRG-PATH-PROPERTIES]. That definition is included here as a
convenience to the reader.
| Path: A sequence of adjacent path elements over which a packet can
| be transmitted, starting and ending with a node. A path is
| unidirectional. Paths are time-dependent, i.e., the sequence of
| path elements over which packets are sent from one node to another
| may change. A path is defined between two nodes. For multicast
| or broadcast, a packet may be sent by one node and received by
| multiple nodes. In this case, the packet is sent over multiple
| paths at once, one path for each combination of sending and
| receiving node; these paths do not have to be disjoint. Note that
| an entity may have only partial visibility of the path elements
| that comprise a path and visibility may change over time.
| Different entities may have different visibility of a path and/or
| treat path elements at different levels of abstraction.
The current definition of Path Awareness, used by the Path Aware
Networking Research Group, appears in Section 1.1
[PANRG-QUESTIONS]. That definition is included here as a convenience
to the reader.
| For purposes of this document, "path aware networking" describes
| endpoint discovery of the properties of paths they use for
| communication across an internetwork, and endpoint reaction to
| these properties that affects routing and/or data transfer. Note
| that this can and already does happen to some extent in the
| current Internet architecture; this definition expands current
| techniques of path discovery and manipulation to cross
| administrative domain boundaries and up to the transport and
| application layers at the endpoints.
| Expanding on this definition, a "path aware internetwork" is one
| in which endpoint discovery of path properties and endpoint
| selection of paths used by traffic exchanged by the endpoint are
| explicitly supported, regardless of the specific design of the
| protocol features which enable this discovery and selection.
2. A Perspective on This Document
At the first meeting of the Path Aware Networking Research Group
[PANRG], at IETF 99 [PANRG-99], Olivier Bonaventure led a discussion
of "A Decade of Path Awareness" [PATH-Decade], on attempts, which
were mostly unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, to exploit Path
Aware techniques and achieve a variety of goals over the past decade.
At the end of that discussion, two things were abundantly clear.
* The Internet community has accumulated considerable experience
with many Path Aware techniques over a long period of time, and
* Although some Path Aware techniques have been deployed (for
example, Differentiated Services, or Diffserv [RFC2475
]), most of
these techniques haven't seen widespread adoption and deployment.
Even "successful" techniques like Diffserv can face obstacles that
prevent wider usage. The reasons for non-adoption and limited
adoption and deployment are many and are worthy of study.
The meta-lessons from that experience were as follows:
* Path Aware networking has been more Research than Engineering, so
establishing an IRTF Research Group for Path Aware networking was
the right thing to do [RFC7418
* Analyzing a catalog of past experience to learn the reasons for
non-adoption would be a great first step for the Research Group.
Allison Mankin, as IRTF Chair, officially chartered the Path Aware
Networking Research Group in July 2018.
This document contains the analysis performed by that Research Group
), based on that catalog (Section 6
2.1. Notes for the Reader
This Informational document discusses Path Aware protocol mechanisms
considered, and in some cases standardized, by the Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF), and it considers Lessons Learned from
those mechanisms. The intention is to inform the work of protocol
designers, whether in the IRTF, the IETF, or elsewhere in the
As an Informational document published in the IRTF Stream, this
document has no authority beyond the quality of the analysis it
2.2. A Note about Path Aware Techniques Included in This Document
This document does not catalog every proposed Path Aware technique
that was not adopted and deployed. Instead, we limited our focus to
technologies that passed through the IETF community and still
identified enough techniques to provide background for the lessons
included in Section 4
to inform researchers and protocol engineers in
No shame is intended for the techniques included in this document.
As shown in Section 4
, the quality of specific techniques had little
to do with whether they were deployed or not. Based on the
techniques cataloged in this document, it is likely that when these
techniques were put forward, the proponents were trying to engineer
something that could not be engineered without first carrying out
research. Actual shame would be failing to learn from experience and
failing to share that experience with other networking researchers
2.3. Architectural Guidance
As background for understanding the Lessons Learned contained in this
document, the reader is encouraged to become familiar with the
Internet Architecture Board's documents on "What Makes for a
Successful Protocol?" [RFC5218
] and "Planning for Protocol Adoption
and Subsequent Transitions" [RFC8170
Although these two documents do not specifically target Path Aware
networking protocols, they are helpful resources for readers seeking
to improve their understanding of considerations for successful
adoption and deployment of any protocol. For example, the basic
success factors described in Section 2.1
] are helpful for
readers of this document.
Because there is an economic aspect to decisions about deployment,
the IAB Workshop on Internet Technology Adoption and Transition
[ITAT] report [RFC7305
] also provides food for thought.
Several of the Lessons Learned in Section 4
described in [RFC5218
], and [RFC8170
2.4. Terminology Used in This Document
The terms "node" and "element" in this document have the meaning
defined in [PANRG-PATH-PROPERTIES].
2.5. Methodology for Contributions
This document grew out of contributions by various IETF participants
with experience with one or more Path Aware techniques.
There are many things that could be said about the Path Aware
techniques that have been developed. For the purposes of this
document, contributors were requested to provide
* the name of a technique, including an abbreviation if one was
* if available, a long-term pointer to the best reference describing
* a short description of the problem the technique was intended to
* a short description of the reasons why the technique wasn't
* a short statement of the lessons that researchers can learn from
our experience with this technique.
3. Applying the Lessons We've Learned
The initial scope for this document was roughly "What mistakes have
we made in the decade prior to [PANRG-99], that we shouldn't make
again?" Some of the contributions in Section 6
predate the initial
scope. The earliest Path Aware technique referred to in Section 6
[IEN-119], which was published in the late 1970s; see Section 6.1
Given that the networking ecosystem has evolved continuously, it
seems reasonable to consider how to apply these lessons.
The PANRG reviewed the Lessons Learned (Section 4
) contained in the
May 23, 2019 draft version of this document at IETF 105
[PANRG-105-Min] and carried out additional discussion at IETF 106
[PANRG-106-Min]. Table 1 provides the "sense of the room" about each
lesson after those discussions. The intention was to capture whether
a specific lesson seems to be
* "Invariant" - well-understood and is likely to be applicable for
any proposed Path Aware networking solution.
* "Variable" - has impeded deployment in the past but might not be
applicable in a specific technique. Engineering analysis to
understand whether the lesson is applicable is prudent.
* "Not Now" - a characteristic that tends to turn up a minefield
full of dragons. Prudent network engineers will wish to avoid
gambling on a technique that relies on this, until something
significant changes. Section 6.9
on Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) was added
during the review and approval process, based on a question from
Martin Duke. Section 6.9
, as contained in the March 8, 2021 draft
version of this document, was discussed at [PANRG-110] and is
summarized in Section 4.13
, describing a new Lesson Learned.
| Lesson | Category |
| Justifying Deployment (Section 4.1
) | Invariant |
| Providing Benefits for Early Adopters (Section 4.2
) | Invariant |
| Providing Benefits during Partial Deployment | Invariant |
| (Section 4.3
) | |
| Outperforming End-to-End Protocol Mechanisms | Variable |
| (Section 4.4
) | |
| Paying for Path Aware Techniques (Section 4.5
) | Invariant |
| Impact on Operational Practices (Section 4.6
) | Invariant |
| Per-Connection State (Section 4.7
) | Variable |
| Keeping Traffic on Fast Paths (Section 4.8
) | Variable |
| Endpoints Trusting Intermediate Nodes (Section 4.9
) | Not Now |
| Intermediate Nodes Trusting Endpoints | Not Now |
| (Section 4.10
) | |
| Reacting to Distant Signals (Section 4.11
) | Variable |
| Support in Endpoint Protocol Stacks (Section 4.12
) | Variable |
| Planning for Failure (Section 4.13
) | Invariant |
"Justifying Deployment", "Providing Benefits for Early Adopters",
"Paying for Path Aware Techniques", "Impact on Operational
Practices", and "Planning for Failure" were considered to be
Invariant -- the sense of the room was that these would always be
considerations for any proposed Path Aware technique.
"Providing Benefits during Partial Deployment" was added after IETF
105, during Research Group Last Call, and is also considered to be
For "Outperforming End-to-End Protocol Mechanisms", there is a trade-
off between improved performance from Path Aware techniques and
additional complexity required by some Path Aware techniques.
* For example, if you can obtain the same understanding of path
characteristics from measurements obtained over a few more round
trips, endpoint implementers are unlikely to be eager to add
complexity, and many attributes can be measured from an endpoint,
without assistance from intermediate nodes.
For "Per-Connection State", the key questions discussed in the
Research Group were "how much state" and "where state is maintained".
* Integrated Services (IntServ) (Section 6.2
) required state at
every participating intermediate node for every connection between
two endpoints. As the Internet ecosystem has evolved, carrying
many connections in a tunnel that appears to intermediate nodes as
a single connection has become more common, so that additional
end-to-end connections don't add additional state to intermediate
nodes between tunnel endpoints. If these tunnels are encrypted,
intermediate nodes between tunnel endpoints can't distinguish
between connections, even if that were desirable.
For "Keeping Traffic on Fast Paths", we noted that this was true for
many platforms, but not for all.
* For backbone routers, this is likely an Invariant, but for
platforms that rely more on general-purpose computers to make
forwarding decisions, this may not be a fatal flaw for Path Aware
For "Endpoints Trusting Intermediate Nodes" and "Intermediate Nodes
Trusting Endpoints", these lessons point to the broader need to
revisit the Internet Threat Model.
* We noted with relief that discussions about this were already
underway in the IETF community at IETF 105 (see the Security Area
Open Meeting minutes [SAAG-105-Min] for discussion of
[INTERNET-THREAT-MODEL] and [FARRELL-ETM]), and the Internet
Architecture Board has created a mailing list for continued
discussions [model-t], but we recognize that there are Path Aware
networking aspects of this effort, requiring research.
For "Reacting to Distant Signals", we noted that not all attributes
* If an attribute is stable over an extended period of time, is
difficult to observe via end-to-end mechanisms, and is valuable,
Path Aware techniques that rely on that attribute to provide a
significant benefit become more attractive.
* Analysis to help identify attributes that are useful enough to
justify deployment of Path Aware techniques that make use of those
attributes would be helpful.
For "Support in Endpoint Protocol Stacks", we noted that Path Aware
applications must be able to identify and communicate requirements
about path characteristics.
* The de facto sockets API has no way of signaling application
expectations for the network path to the protocol stack.
4. Summary of Lessons Learned
This section summarizes the Lessons Learned from the contributed
subsections in Section 6
Each Lesson Learned is tagged with one or more contributions that
encountered this obstacle as a significant impediment to deployment.
Other contributed techniques may have also encountered this obstacle,
but this obstacle may not have been the biggest impediment to
deployment for those techniques.
It is useful to notice that sometimes an obstacle might impede
deployment, while at other times, the same obstacle might prevent
adoption and deployment entirely. The Research Group discussed
distinguishing between obstacles that impede and obstacles that
prevent, but it appears that the boundary between "impede" and
"prevent" can shift over time -- some of the Lessons Learned are
based on both a) Path Aware techniques that were not deployed and b)
Path Aware techniques that were deployed but were not deployed widely
or quickly. See Sections 6.6
for examples of this shifting
4.1. Justifying Deployment
The benefit of Path Awareness must be great enough to justify making
changes in an operational network. The colloquial U.S. American
English expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a "best
current practice" on today's Internet. (See Sections 6.3
, in addition to [RFC5218
4.2. Providing Benefits for Early Adopters
Providing benefits for early adopters can be key -- if everyone must
deploy a technique in order for the technique to provide benefits, or
even to work at all, the technique is unlikely to be adopted widely
or quickly. (See Sections 6.2
, in addition to [RFC5218
4.3. Providing Benefits during Partial Deployment
Some proposals require that all path elements along the full length
of the path must be upgraded to support a new technique, before any
benefits can be seen. This is likely to require coordination between
operators who control a subset of path elements, and between
operators and end users if endpoint upgrades are required. If a
technique provides benefits when only a part of the path has been
upgraded, this is likely to encourage adoption and deployment. (See
, and 6.9
, in addition to [RFC5218
4.4. Outperforming End-to-End Protocol Mechanisms
Adaptive end-to-end protocol mechanisms may respond to feedback
quickly enough that the additional realizable benefit from a new Path
Aware mechanism that tries to manipulate nodes along a path, or
observe the attributes of nodes along a path, may be much smaller
than anticipated. (See Sections 6.3
4.5. Paying for Path Aware Techniques
"Follow the money." If operators can't charge for a Path Aware
technique to recover the costs of deploying it, the benefits to the
operator must be really significant. Corollary: if operators charge
for a Path Aware technique, the benefits to users of that Path Aware
technique must be significant enough to justify the cost. (See
, and 6.9
4.6. Impact on Operational Practices
The impact of a Path Aware technique requiring changes to operational
practices can affect how quickly or widely a promising technique is
deployed. The impacts of these changes may make deployment more
likely, but they often discourage deployment. (See Section 6.6
including Section 6.6.3
4.7. Per-Connection State
Per-connection state in intermediate nodes has been an impediment to
adoption and deployment in the past, because of added cost and
complexity. Often, similar benefits can be achieved with much less
finely grained state. This is especially true as we move from the
edge of the network, further into the routing core. (See
4.8. Keeping Traffic on Fast Paths
Many modern platforms, especially high-end routers, have been
designed with hardware that can make simple per-packet forwarding
decisions ("fast paths") but have not been designed to make heavy use
of in-band mechanisms such as IPv4 and IPv6 Router Alert Options
(RAOs) that require more processing to make forwarding decisions.
Packets carrying in-band mechanisms are diverted to other processors
in the router with much lower packet-processing rates. Operators can
be reluctant to deploy techniques that rely heavily on in-band
mechanisms because they may significantly reduce packet throughput.
(See Section 6.7
4.9. Endpoints Trusting Intermediate Nodes
If intermediate nodes along the path can't be trusted, it's unlikely
that endpoints will rely on signals from intermediate nodes to drive
changes to endpoint behaviors. We note that "trust" is not binary --
one low level of trust applies when a node receiving a message can
confirm that the sender of the message has visibility of the packets
on the path it is seeking to control [RFC8085
] (e.g., an ICMP
Destination Unreachable message [RFC0792
] that includes the Internet
Header + 64 bits of Original Data Datagram payload from the source).
A higher level of trust can arise when an endpoint has established a
short-term, or even long-term, trust relationship with network nodes.
(See Sections 6.4
4.10. Intermediate Nodes Trusting Endpoints
If the endpoints do not have any trust relationship with the
intermediate nodes along a path, operators have been reluctant to
deploy techniques that rely on endpoints sending unauthenticated
control signals to routers. (See Sections 6.2
.) (We also
note that this still remains a factor hindering deployment of
4.11. Reacting to Distant Signals
Because the Internet is a distributed system, if the distance that
information from distant path elements travels to a Path Aware host
is sufficiently large, the information may no longer accurately
represent the state and situation at the distant host or elements
along the path when it is received locally. In this case, the
benefit that a Path Aware technique provides will be inconsistent and
may not always be beneficial. (See Section 6.3
4.12. Support in Endpoint Protocol Stacks
Just because a protocol stack provides a new feature/signal does not
mean that applications will use the feature/signal. Protocol stacks
may not know how to effectively utilize Path Aware techniques,
because the protocol stack may require information from applications
to permit the technique to work effectively, but applications may not
a priori know that information. Even if the application does know
that information, the de facto sockets API has no way of signaling
application expectations for the network path to the protocol stack.
In order for applications to provide these expectations to protocol
stacks, we need an API that signals more than the packets to be sent.
(See Sections 6.1
4.13. Planning for Failure
If early implementers discover severe problems with a new feature,
that feature is likely to be disabled, and convincing implementers to
re-enable that feature can be very difficult and can require years or
decades. In addition to testing, partial deployment for a subset of
users, implementing instrumentation that will detect degraded user
experience, and even "failback" to a previous version or "failover"
to an entirely different implementation are likely to be helpful.
(See Section 6.9
5. Future Work
By its nature, this document has been retrospective. In addition to
considering how the Lessons Learned to date apply to current and
future Path Aware networking proposals, it's also worth considering
whether there is deeper investigation left to do.
* We note that this work was based on contributions from experts on
various Path Aware techniques, and all of the contributed
techniques involved unicast protocols. We didn't consider how
these lessons might apply to multicast, and, given anecdotal
reports at the IETF 109 Media Operations (MOPS) Working Group
meeting of IP multicast offerings within data centers at one or
more cloud providers [MOPS-109-Min], it might be useful to think
about Path Awareness in multicast, before we have a history of
unsuccessful deployments to document.
* The question of whether a mechanism supports admission control,
based on either endpoints or applications, is associated with Path
Awareness. One of the motivations of IntServ and a number of
other architectures (e.g., Deterministic Networking [RFC8655
the ability to "say no" to an application based on resource
availability on a path, before the application tries to inject
traffic onto that path and discovers the path does not have the
capacity to sustain enough utility to meet the application's
minimum needs. The question of whether admission control is
needed comes up repeatedly, but we have learned a few useful
lessons that, while covered implicitly in some of the Lessons
Learned provided in this document, might be explained explicitly:
- We have gained a lot of experience with application-based
adaptation since the days where applications just injected
traffic inelastically into the network. Such adaptations seem
to work well enough that admission control is of less value to
- There are end-to-end measurement techniques that can steer
traffic at the application layer (Content Delivery Networks
(CDNs), multi-CDNs like Conviva [Conviva], etc.).
- We noted in Section 4.12
that applications often don't know how
to utilize Path Aware techniques. This includes not knowing
enough about their admission control threshold to be able to
ask accurately for the resources they need, whether this is
because the application itself doesn't know or because the
application has no way to signal its expectations to the
underlying protocol stack. To date, attempts to help them
haven't gotten anywhere (e.g., the multiple-TSPEC (Traffic
Specification) additions to RSVP to attempt to mirror codec
selection by applications [INTSERV-MULTIPLE-TSPEC] expired in
* We note that this work took the then-current IP network
architecture as given, at least at the time each technique was
proposed. It might be useful to consider aspects of the now-
current IP network architecture that ease, or impede, Path Aware
techniques. For example, there is limited ability in IP to
constrain bidirectional paths to be symmetric, and information-
centric networking protocols such as Named Data Networking (NDN)
and Content-Centric Networking (CCNx) [RFC8793
] must force
bidirectional path symmetry using protocol-specific mechanisms.
Contributions on these Path Aware techniques were analyzed to arrive
at the Lessons Learned captured in Section 4
Our expectation is that most readers will not need to read through
this section carefully, but we wanted to record these hard-fought
lessons as a service to others who may revisit this document, so
they'll have the details close at hand.
6.1. Stream Transport (ST, ST2, ST2+)
The suggested references for Stream Transport are:
* "ST - A Proposed Internet Stream Protocol" [IEN-119]
* "Experimental Internet Stream Protocol: Version 2 (ST-II)"
* "Internet Stream Protocol Version 2 (ST2) Protocol Specification -
Version ST2+" [RFC1819
The first version of Stream Transport, ST [IEN-119], was published in
the late 1970s and was implemented and deployed on the ARPANET at
small scale. It was used throughout the 1980s for experimental
transmission of voice, video, and distributed simulation.
The second version of the ST specification (ST2) [RFC1190
was an experimental connection-oriented internetworking protocol that
operated at the same layer as connectionless IP. ST2 packets could
be distinguished by their IP header version numbers (IP, at that
time, used version number 4, while ST2 used version number 5).
ST2 used a control plane layered over IP to select routes and reserve
capacity for real-time streams across a network path, based on a flow
specification communicated by a separate protocol. The flow
specification could be associated with QoS state in routers,
producing an experimental resource reservation protocol. This
allowed ST2 routers along a path to offer end-to-end guarantees,
primarily to satisfy the QoS requirements for real-time services over
6.1.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
Although implemented in a range of equipment, ST2 was not widely used
after completion of the experiments. It did not offer the
scalability and fate-sharing properties that have come to be desired
by the Internet community.
The ST2 protocol is no longer in use.
6.1.2. Lessons Learned
As time passed, the trade-off between router processing and link
capacity changed. Links became faster, and the cost of router
processing became comparatively more expensive.
The ST2 control protocol used "hard state" -- once a route was
established, and resources were reserved, routes and resources
existed until they were explicitly released via signaling. A soft-
state approach was thought superior to this hard-state approach and
led to development of the IntServ model described in Section 6.2
6.2. Integrated Services (IntServ)
The suggested references for IntServ are:
* "Integrated Services in the Internet Architecture: an Overview"
* "Specification of the Controlled-Load Network Element Service"
* "Specification of Guaranteed Quality of Service" [RFC2212
* "General Characterization Parameters for Integrated Service
Network Elements" [RFC2215
* "Resource ReSerVation Protocol (RSVP) -- Version 1 Functional
In 1994, when the IntServ architecture document [RFC1633
published, real-time traffic was first appearing on the Internet. At
that time, bandwidth was still a scarce commodity. Internet Service
Providers built networks over DS3 (45 Mbps) infrastructure, and sub-
rate (< 1 Mbps) access was common. Therefore, the IETF anticipated a
need for a fine-grained QoS mechanism.
In the IntServ architecture, some applications can require service
guarantees. Therefore, those applications use RSVP [RFC2205
signal QoS reservations across network paths. Every router in the
network that participates in IntServ maintains per-flow soft state to
a) perform call admission control and b) deliver guaranteed service.
Applications use Flow Specifications (Flow Specs, or FLOWSPECs)
] to describe the traffic that they emit. RSVP reserves
capacity for traffic on a per-Flow-Spec basis.
6.2.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
Although IntServ has been used in enterprise and government networks,
IntServ was never widely deployed on the Internet because of its
cost. The following factors contributed to operational cost:
* IntServ must be deployed on every router that is on a path where
IntServ is to be used. Although it is possible to include a
router that does not participate in IntServ along the path being
controlled, if that router is likely to become a bottleneck,
IntServ cannot be used to avoid that bottleneck along the path.
* IntServ maintained per-flow state.
As IntServ was being discussed, the following occurred:
* For many expected uses, it became more cost effective to solve the
QoS problem by adding bandwidth. Between 1994 and 2000, Internet
Service Providers upgraded their infrastructures from DS3 (45
Mbps) to OC-48 (2.4 Gbps). This meant that even if an endpoint
was using IntServ in an IntServ-enabled network, its requests
would rarely, if ever, be denied, so endpoints and Internet
Service Providers had little reason to enable IntServ.
* Diffserv [RFC2475
] offered a more cost-effective, albeit less
fine-grained, solution to the QoS problem.
6.2.2. Lessons Learned
The following lessons were learned:
* Any mechanism that requires every participating on-path router to
maintain per-flow state is not likely to succeed, unless the
additional cost for offering the feature can be recovered from the
* Any mechanism that requires an operator to upgrade all of its
routers is not likely to succeed, unless the additional cost for
offering the feature can be recovered from the user.
In environments where IntServ has been deployed, trust relationships
with endpoints are very different from trust relationships on the
Internet itself. There are often clearly defined hierarchies in
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) governing well-defined transport
flows operating with predetermined capacity and latency requirements
over paths where capacity or other attributes are constrained.
IntServ was never widely deployed to manage capacity across the
Internet. However, the technique that it produced was deployed for
reasons other than bandwidth management. RSVP is widely deployed as
an MPLS signaling mechanism. BGP reuses the RSVP concept of Filter
Specs to distribute firewall filters, although they are called "Flow
Spec Component Types" in BGP [RFC5575
6.3. Quick-Start TCP
The suggested references for Quick-Start TCP are:
* "Quick-Start for TCP and IP" [RFC4782
* "Determining an appropriate sending rate over an underutilized
network path" [SAF07]
* "Fast Startup Internet Congestion Control for Broadband
Interactive Applications" [Sch11]
* "Using Quick-Start to enhance TCP-friendly rate control
performance in bidirectional satellite networks" [QS-SAT]
Quick-Start is defined in an Experimental RFC [RFC4782
] and is a TCP
extension that leverages support from the routers on the path to
determine an allowed initial sending rate for a path through the
Internet, either at the start of data transfers or after idle
periods. Without information about the path, a sender cannot easily
determine an appropriate initial sending rate. The default TCP
congestion control therefore uses the safe but time-consuming slow-
start algorithm [RFC5681
]. With Quick-Start, connections are allowed
to use higher initial sending rates if there is significant unused
bandwidth along the path and if the sender and all of the routers
along the path approve the request.
By examining the Time To Live (TTL) field in Quick-Start packets, a
sender can determine if routers on the path have approved the Quick-
Start request. However, this method is unable to take into account
the routers hidden by tunnels or other network nodes invisible at the
The protocol also includes a nonce that provides protection against
cheating routers and receivers. If the Quick-Start request is
explicitly approved by all routers along the path, the TCP host can
send at up to the approved rate; otherwise, TCP would use the default
congestion control. Quick-Start requires modifications in the
involved end systems as well as in routers. Due to the resulting
deployment challenges, Quick-Start was only proposed in [RFC4782
The Quick-Start mechanism is a lightweight, coarse-grained, in-band,
network-assisted fast startup mechanism. The benefits are studied by
simulation in a research paper [SAF07] that complements the protocol
specification. The study confirms that Quick-Start can significantly
speed up mid-sized data transfers. That paper also presents router
algorithms that do not require keeping per-flow state. Later studies
[Sch11] comprehensively analyze Quick-Start with a full Linux
implementation and with a router fast-path prototype using a network
processor. In both cases, Quick-Start could be implemented with
limited additional complexity.
6.3.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
However, experiments with Quick-Start in [Sch11] revealed several
* Having information from the routers along the path can reduce the
risk of congestion but cannot avoid it entirely. Determining
whether there is unused capacity is not trivial in actual router
and host implementations. Data about available capacity visible
at the IP layer may be imprecise, and due to the propagation
delay, information can already be outdated when it reaches a
sender. There is a trade-off between the speedup of data
transfers and the risk of congestion even with Quick-Start. This
could be mitigated by only allowing Quick-Start to access a
proportion of the unused capacity along a path.
* For scalable router fast-path implementations, it is important to
enable parallel processing of packets, as this is a widely used
method, e.g., in network processors. One challenge is
synchronization of information between packets that are processed
in parallel, which should be avoided as much as possible.
* Only some types of application traffic can benefit from Quick-
Start. Capacity needs to be requested and discovered. The
discovered capacity needs to be utilized by the flow, or it
implicitly becomes available for other flows. Failing to use the
requested capacity may have already reduced the pool of Quick-
Start capacity that was made available to other competing Quick-
Start requests. The benefit is greatest when senders use this
only for bulk flows and avoid sending unnecessary Quick-Start
requests, e.g., for flows that only send a small amount of data.
Choosing an appropriate request size requires application-internal
knowledge that is not commonly expressed by the transport API.
How a sender can determine the rate for an initial Quick-Start
request is still a largely unsolved problem.
There is no known deployment of Quick-Start for TCP or other IETF
6.3.2. Lessons Learned
Some lessons can be learned from Quick-Start. Despite being a very
lightweight protocol, Quick-Start suffers from poor incremental
deployment properties regarding both a) the required modifications in
network infrastructure and b) its interactions with applications.
Except for corner cases, congestion control can be quite efficiently
performed end to end in the Internet, and in modern stacks there is
not much room for significant improvement by additional network
After publication of the Quick-Start specification, there have been
large-scale experiments with an initial window of up to 10 segments
]. This alternative "IW10" approach can also ramp up data
transfers faster than the standard congestion control, but it only
requires sender-side modifications. As a result, this approach can
be easier and incrementally deployed in the Internet. While
theoretically Quick-Start can outperform "IW10", the improvement in
completion time for data transfer times can, in many cases, be small.
After publication of [RFC6928
], most modern TCP stacks have increased
their default initial window.
6.4. ICMP Source Quench
The suggested reference for ICMP Source Quench is:
* "Internet Control Message Protocol" [RFC0792
The ICMP Source Quench message [RFC0792
] allowed an on-path router to
request the source of a flow to reduce its sending rate. This method
allowed a router to provide an early indication of impending
congestion on a path to the sources that contribute to that
6.4.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
This method was deployed in Internet routers over a period of time;
the reaction of endpoints to receiving this signal has varied. For
low-speed links, with low multiplexing of flows the method could be
used to regulate (momentarily reduce) the transmission rate.
However, the simple signal does not scale with link speed or with the
number of flows sharing a link.
The approach was overtaken by the evolution of congestion control
methods in TCP [RFC2001
], and later also by other IETF transports.
Because these methods were based upon measurement of the end-to-end
path and an algorithm in the endpoint, they were able to evolve and
mature more rapidly than methods relying on interactions between
operational routers and endpoint stacks.
After ICMP Source Quench was specified, the IETF began to recommend
that transports provide end-to-end congestion control [RFC2001
Source Quench method has been obsoleted by the IETF [RFC6633
both hosts and routers must now silently discard this message.
6.4.2. Lessons Learned
This method had several problems.
] did not sufficiently specify how the sender would
react to the ICMP Source Quench signal from the path (e.g.,
]). There was ambiguity in how the sender should utilize
this additional information. This could lead to unfairness in the
way that receivers (or routers) responded to this message.
Second, while the message did provide additional information, the
Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) mechanism [RFC3168
] provided a
more robust and informative signal for network nodes to provide early
indication that a path has become congested.
The mechanism originated at a time when the Internet trust model was
very different. Most endpoint implementations did not attempt to
verify that the message originated from an on-path node before they
utilized the message. This made it vulnerable to Denial-of-Service
(DoS) attacks. In theory, routers might have chosen to use the
quoted packet contained in the ICMP payload to validate that the
message originated from an on-path node, but this would have
increased per-packet processing overhead for each router along the
path and would have required transport functionality in the router to
verify whether the quoted packet header corresponded to a packet the
router had sent. In addition, Section 5.2 of [RFC4443
ICMPv6-based attacks on hosts that would also have threatened routers
processing ICMPv6 Source Quench payloads. As time passed, it became
increasingly obvious that the lack of validation of the messages
exposed receivers to a security vulnerability where the messages
could be forged to create a tangible DoS opportunity.
6.5. Triggers for Transport (TRIGTRAN)
The suggested references for TRIGTRAN are:
* TRIGTRAN BOF at IETF 55 [TRIGTRAN-55]
* TRIGTRAN BOF at IETF 56 [TRIGTRAN-56]
] has a well-known weakness -- the end-to-end flow
control mechanism has only a single signal, the loss of a segment,
detected when no acknowledgment for the lost segment is received at
the sender. There are multiple reasons why the sender might not have
received an acknowledgment for the segment. To name several, the
segment could have been trapped in a routing loop, damaged in
transmission and failed checksum verification at the receiver, or
lost because some intermediate device discarded the packet, or any of
a variety of other things could have happened to the acknowledgment
on the way back from the receiver to the sender. TCP implementations
since the late 1980s have made the "safe" decision and have
interpreted the loss of a segment as evidence that the path between
two endpoints may have become congested enough to exhaust buffers on
intermediate hops, so that the TCP sender should "back off" -- reduce
its sending rate until it knows that its segments are now being
delivered without loss [RFC5681
The thinking behind TRIGTRAN was that if a path completely stopped
working because a link along the path was "down", somehow something
along the path could signal TCP when that link returned to service,
and the sending TCP could retry immediately, without waiting for a
full retransmission timeout (RTO) period.
6.5.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
The early dreams for TRIGTRAN were dashed because of an assumption
that TRIGTRAN triggers would be unauthenticated. This meant that any
"safe" TRIGTRAN mechanism would have relied on a mechanism such as
setting the IPv4 TTL or IPv6 Hop Count to 255 at a sender and testing
that it was 254 upon receipt, so that a receiver could verify that a
signal was generated by an adjacent sender known to be on the path
being used and not some unknown sender that might not even be on the
path (e.g., "The Generalized TTL Security Mechanism (GTSM)"
]). This situation is very similar to the case for ICMP
Source Quench messages as described in Section 6.4
, which were also
unauthenticated and could be sent by an off-path attacker, resulting
in deprecation of ICMP Source Quench message processing [RFC6633
TRIGTRAN's scope shrunk from "the path is down" to "the first-hop
link is down."
But things got worse.
Because TRIGTRAN triggers would only be provided when the first-hop
link was "down", TRIGTRAN triggers couldn't replace normal TCP
retransmission behavior if the path failed because some link further
along the network path was "down". So TRIGTRAN triggers added
complexity to an already-complex TCP state machine and did not allow
any existing complexity to be removed.
There was also an issue that the TRIGTRAN signal was not sent in
response to a specific host that had been sending packets and was
instead a signal that stimulated a response by any sender on the
link. This needs to scale when there are multiple flows trying to
use the same resource, yet the sender of a trigger has no
understanding of how many of the potential traffic sources will
respond by sending packets -- if recipients of the signal "back off"
their responses to a trigger to improve scaling, then that
immediately mitigates the benefit of the signal.
Finally, intermediate forwarding nodes required modification to
provide TRIGTRAN triggers, but operators couldn't charge for TRIGTRAN
triggers, so there was no way to recover the cost of modifying,
testing, and deploying updated intermediate nodes.
Two TRIGTRAN BOFs were held, at IETF 55 [TRIGTRAN-55] and IETF 56
[TRIGTRAN-56], but this work was not chartered, and there was no
interest in deploying TRIGTRAN unless it was chartered and
standardized in the IETF.
6.5.2. Lessons Learned
The reasons why this work was not chartered, much less deployed,
provide several useful lessons for researchers.
* TRIGTRAN started with a plausible value proposition, but
networking realities in the early 2000s forced reductions in scope
that led directly to reductions in potential benefits but no
corresponding reductions in costs and complexity.
* These reductions in scope were the direct result of an inability
for hosts to trust or authenticate TRIGTRAN signals they received
from the network.
* Operators did not believe they could charge for TRIGTRAN
signaling, because first-hop links didn't fail frequently and
TRIGTRAN provided no reduction in operating expenses, so there was
little incentive to purchase and deploy TRIGTRAN-capable network
It is also worth noting that the targeted environment for TRIGTRAN in
the late 1990s contained links with a relatively small number of
directly connected hosts -- for instance, cellular or satellite
links. The transport community was well aware of the dangers of
sender synchronization based on multiple senders receiving the same
stimulus at the same time, but the working assumption for TRIGTRAN
was that there wouldn't be enough senders for this to be a meaningful
problem. In the 2010s, it was common for a single "link" to support
many senders and receivers, likely requiring TRIGTRAN senders to wait
some random amount of time before sending after receiving a TRIGTRAN
signal, which would have reduced the benefits of TRIGTRAN even more.
The suggested reference for Shim6 is:
* "Shim6: Level 3 Multihoming Shim Protocol for IPv6" [RFC5533
The IPv6 routing architecture [RFC1887
] assumed that most sites on
the Internet would be identified by Provider Assigned IPv6 prefixes,
so that Default-Free Zone routers only contained routes to other
providers, resulting in a very small IPv6 global routing table.
For a single-homed site, this could work well. A multihomed site
with only one upstream provider could also work well, although BGP
multihoming from a single upstream provider was often a premium
service (costing more than twice as much as two single-homed sites),
and if the single upstream provider went out of service, all of the
multihomed paths could fail simultaneously.
IPv4 sites often multihomed by obtaining Provider Independent
prefixes and advertising these prefixes through multiple upstream
providers. With the assumption that any multihomed IPv4 site would
also multihome in IPv6, it seemed likely that IPv6 routing would be
subject to the same pressures to announce Provider Independent
prefixes, resulting in an IPv6 global routing table that exhibited
the same explosive growth as the IPv4 global routing table. During
the early 2000s, work began on a protocol that would provide
multihoming for IPv6 sites without requiring sites to advertise
Provider Independent prefixes into the IPv6 global routing table.
This protocol, called "Shim6", allowed two endpoints to exchange
multiple addresses ("Locators") that all mapped to the same endpoint
("Identity"). After an endpoint learned multiple Locators for the
other endpoint, it could send to any of those Locators with the
expectation that those packets would all be delivered to the endpoint
with the same Identity. Shim6 was an example of an "Identity/Locator
Shim6, as defined in [RFC5533
] and related RFCs, provided a workable
solution for IPv6 multihoming using Provider Assigned prefixes,
including capability discovery and negotiation, and allowing end-to-
end application communication to continue even in the face of path
failure, because applications don't see Locator failures and continue
to communicate with the same Identity using a different Locator.
6.6.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
Note that the problem being addressed was "site multihoming", but
Shim6 was providing "host multihoming". That meant that the decision
about what path would be used was under host control, not under edge
Although more work could have been done to provide a better technical
solution, the biggest impediments to Shim6 deployment were
operational and business considerations. These impediments were
discussed at multiple network operator group meetings, including
[Shim6-35] at [NANOG-35].
The technical issues centered around concerns that Shim6 relied on
the host to track all the connections, while also tracking Identity/
Locator mappings in the kernel and tracking failures to recognize
that an available path has failed.
The operational issues centered around concerns that operators were
performing traffic engineering on traffic aggregates. With Shim6,
these operator traffic engineering policies must be pushed down to
In addition, operators would have no visibility or control over the
decision of hosts choosing to switch to another path. They expressed
concerns that relying on hosts to steer traffic exposed operator
networks to oscillation based on feedback loops, if hosts moved from
path to path frequently. Given that Shim6 was intended to support
multihoming across operators, operators providing only one of the
paths would have even less visibility as traffic suddenly appeared
and disappeared on their networks.
In addition, firewalls that expected to find a TCP or UDP transport-
level protocol header in the IP payload would see a Shim6 Identity
header instead, and they would not perform transport-protocol-based
firewalling functions because the firewall's normal processing logic
would not look past the Identity header. The firewall would perform
its default action, which would most likely be to drop packets that
don't match any processing rule.
The business issues centered on reducing or removing the ability to
sell BGP multihoming service to their own customers, which is often
more expensive than two single-homed connectivity services.
6.6.2. Lessons Learned
It is extremely important to take operational concerns into account
when a Path Aware protocol is making decisions about path selection
that may conflict with existing operational practices and business
6.6.3. Addendum on Multipath TCP
During discussions in the PANRG session at IETF 103 [PANRG-103-Min],
Lars Eggert, past Transport Area Director, pointed out that during
charter discussions for the Multipath TCP Working Group [MP-TCP],
operators expressed concerns that customers could use Multipath TCP
to load-share TCP connections across operators simultaneously and
compare passive performance measurements across network paths in real
time, changing the balance of power in those business relationships.
Although the Multipath TCP Working Group was chartered, this concern
could have acted as an obstacle to deployment.
Operator objections to Shim6 were focused on technical concerns, but
this concern could have also been an obstacle to Shim6 deployment if
the technical concerns had been overcome.
6.7. Next Steps in Signaling (NSIS)
The suggested references for Next Steps in Signaling (NSIS) are:
* the concluded working group charter [NSIS-CHARTER-2001]
* "GIST: General Internet Signalling Transport" [RFC5971
* "NAT/Firewall NSIS Signaling Layer Protocol (NSLP)" [RFC5973
* "NSIS Signaling Layer Protocol (NSLP) for Quality-of-Service
* "Authorization for NSIS Signaling Layer Protocols" [RFC5981
The NSIS Working Group worked on signaling techniques for network-
layer resources (e.g., QoS resource reservations, Firewall and NAT
When RSVP [RFC2205
] was used in deployments, a number of questions
came up about its perceived limitations and potential missing
features. The issues noted in the NSIS Working Group charter
[NSIS-CHARTER-2001] include interworking between domains with
different QoS architectures, mobility and roaming for IP interfaces,
and complexity. Later, the lack of security in RSVP was also
The NSIS Working Group was chartered to tackle those issues and
initially focused on QoS signaling as its primary use case. However,
over time a new approach evolved that introduced a modular
architecture using two application-specific signaling protocols: a)
the NSIS Signaling Layer Protocol (NSLP) on top of b) a generic
signaling transport protocol (the NSIS Transport Layer Protocol
NTLP is defined in [RFC5971
]. Two types of NSLPs are defined: an
NSLP for QoS signaling [RFC5974
] and an NSLP for NATs/firewalls
6.7.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
The obstacles for deployment can be grouped into implementation-
related aspects and operational aspects.
* Implementation-related aspects:
Although NSIS provides benefits with respect to flexibility,
mobility, and security compared to other network signaling
techniques, hardware vendors were reluctant to deploy this
solution, because it would require additional implementation
effort and would result in additional complexity for router
NTLP mainly operates as a path-coupled signaling protocol, i.e.,
its messages are processed at the control plane of each
intermediate node that is also forwarding the data flows. This
requires a mechanism to intercept signaling packets while they are
forwarded in the same manner (especially along the same path) as
data packets. NSIS uses the IPv4 and IPv6 Router Alert Option
(RAO) to allow for interception of those path-coupled signaling
messages, and this technique requires router implementations to
correctly understand and implement the handling of RAOs, e.g., to
only process packets with RAOs of interest and to leave packets
with irrelevant RAOs in the fast forwarding processing path (a
comprehensive discussion of these issues can be found in
]). The latter was an issue with some router
implementations at the time of standardization.
Another reason is that path-coupled signaling protocols that
interact with routers and request manipulation of state at these
routers (or any other network element in general) are under
scrutiny: a packet (or sequence of packets) out of the mainly
untrusted data path is requesting creation and manipulation of
network state. This is seen as potentially dangerous (e.g., opens
up a DoS threat to a router's control plane) and difficult for an
operator to control. Path-coupled signaling approaches were
considered problematic (see also Section 3
are recommendations on how to secure NSIS nodes and deployments
* Operational Aspects:
NSIS not only required trust between customers and their provider,
but also among different providers. In particular, QoS signaling
techniques would require some kind of dynamic SLA support that
would imply (potentially quite complex) bilateral negotiations
between different Internet Service Providers. This complexity was
not considered to be justified, and increasing the bandwidth (and
thus avoiding bottlenecks) was cheaper than actively managing
network resource bottlenecks by using path-coupled QoS signaling
techniques. Furthermore, an end-to-end path typically involves
several provider domains, and these providers need to closely
cooperate in cases of failures.
6.7.2. Lessons Learned
One goal of NSIS was to decrease the complexity of the signaling
protocol, but a path-coupled signaling protocol comes with the
intrinsic complexity of IP-based networks, beyond the complexity of
the signaling protocol itself. Sources of intrinsic complexity
* the presence of asymmetric routes between endpoints and routers.
* the lack of security and trust at large in the Internet
* the presence of different trust boundaries.
* the effects of best-effort networks (e.g., robustness to packet
* divergence from the fate-sharing principle (e.g., state within the
Any path-coupled signaling protocol has to deal with these realities.
Operators view the use of IPv4 and IPv6 Router Alert Options (RAOs)
to signal routers along the path from end systems with suspicion,
because these end systems are usually not authenticated and heavy use
of RAOs can easily increase the CPU load on routers that are designed
to process most packets using a hardware "fast path" and diverting
packets containing RAOs to a slower, more capable processor.
6.8. IPv6 Flow Labels
The suggested reference for IPv6 Flow Labels is:
* "IPv6 Flow Label Specification" [RFC6437
IPv6 specifies a 20-bit Flow Label field [RFC6437
], included in the
fixed part of the IPv6 header and hence present in every IPv6 packet.
An endpoint sets the value in this field to one of a set of
pseudorandomly assigned values. If a packet is not part of any flow,
the flow label value is set to zero [RFC3697
]. A number of Standards
Track and Best Current Practice RFCs (e.g., [RFC8085
]) encourage IPv6 endpoints to set a non-zero value in this
field. A multiplexing transport could choose to use multiple flow
labels to allow the network to either independently forward its
subflows or use one common value for the traffic aggregate. The flow
label is present in all fragments. IPsec was originally put forward
as one important use case for this mechanism and does encrypt the
Once set, the flow label can provide information that can help inform
network nodes about subflows present at the transport layer, without
needing to interpret the setting of upper-layer protocol fields
]. This information can also be used to coordinate how
aggregates of transport subflows are grouped when queued in the
network and to select appropriate per-flow forwarding when choosing
between alternate paths [RFC6438
] (e.g., for Equal-Cost Multipath
(ECMP) routing and Link Aggregation Groups (LAGs)).
6.8.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
Despite the field being present in every IPv6 packet, the mechanism
did not receive as much use as originally envisioned. One reason is
that to be useful it requires engagement by two different
* Endpoint Implementation:
For network nodes along a path to utilize the flow label, there
needs to be a non-zero value inserted in the field [RFC6437
the sending endpoint. There needs to be an incentive for an
endpoint to set an appropriate non-zero value. The value should
appropriately reflect the level of aggregation the traffic expects
to be provided by the network. However, this requires the stack
to know granularity at which flows should be identified (or,
conversely, which flows should receive aggregated treatment),
i.e., which packets carry the same flow label. Therefore, setting
a non-zero value may result in additional choices that need to be
made by an application developer.
Although the original flow label standard [RFC3697
] forbids any
encoding of meaning into the flow label value, the opportunity to
use the flow label as a covert channel or to signal other meta-
information may have raised concerns about setting a non-zero
Before methods are widely deployed to use this method, there could
be no incentive for an endpoint to set the field.
* Operational support in network nodes:
A benefit can only be realized when a network node along the path
also uses this information to inform its decisions. Network
equipment (routers and/or middleboxes) need to include appropriate
support in order to utilize the field when making decisions about
how to classify flows or forward packets. The use of any optional
feature in a network node also requires corresponding updates to
operational procedures and therefore is normally only introduced
when the cost can be justified.
A benefit from utilizing the flow label is expected to be
increased quality of experience for applications -- but this comes
at some operational cost to an operator and requires endpoints to
set the field.
6.8.2. Lessons Learned
The flow label is a general-purpose header field for use by the path.
Multiple uses have been proposed. One candidate use was to reduce
the complexity of forwarding decisions. However, modern routers can
use a "fast path", often taking advantage of hardware to accelerate
processing. The method can assist in more complex forwarding, such
as ECMP routing and load balancing.
] recommended that endpoints should by default
choose uniformly distributed labels for their traffic, the
specification permitted an endpoint to choose to set a zero value.
This ability of endpoints to choose to set a flow label of zero has
had consequences on deployability:
* Before wide-scale support by endpoints, it would be impossible to
rely on a non-zero flow label being set. Network nodes therefore
would need to also employ other techniques to realize equivalent
functions. An example of a method is one assuming semantics of
the source port field to provide entropy input to a network-layer
hash. This use of a 5-tuple to classify a packet represents a
layering violation [RFC6294
]. When other methods have been
deployed, they increase the cost of deploying standards-based
methods, even though they may offer less control to endpoints and
result in potential interaction with other uses/interpretation of
* Even though the flow label is specified as an end-to-end field,
some network paths have been observed to not transparently forward
the flow label. This could result from non-conformant equipment
or could indicate that some operational networks have chosen to
reuse the protocol field for other (e.g., internal) purposes.
This results in lack of transparency, and a deployment hurdle to
endpoints expecting that they can set a flow label that is
utilized by the network. The more recent practice of "greasing"
[GREASE] would suggest that a different outcome could have been
achieved if endpoints were always required to set a non-zero
] noted that setting the choice of the flow label value
can depend on the expectations of the traffic generated by an
application, which suggests that an API should be presented to
control the setting or policy that is used. However, many
currently available APIs do not have this support.
A growth in the use of encrypted transports (e.g., QUIC [RFC9000
seems likely to raise issues similar to those discussed above and
could motivate renewed interest in utilizing the flow label.
6.9. Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)
The suggested references for Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)
* "Recommendations on Queue Management and Congestion Avoidance in
the Internet" [RFC2309
* "A Proposal to add Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP"
* "The Addition of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP"
* "Implementation Report on Experiences with Various TCP RFCs"
[vista-impl], slides 6 and 7
* "Implementation and Deployment of ECN" (at [SallyFloyd])
In the early 1990s, the large majority of Internet traffic used TCP
as its transport protocol, but TCP had no way to detect path
congestion before the path was so congested that packets were being
dropped. These congestion events could affect all senders using a
path, either by "lockout", where long-lived flows monopolized the
queues along a path, or by "full queues", where queues remain full,
or almost full, for a long period of time.
In response to this situation, "Active Queue Management" (AQM) was
deployed in the network. A number of AQM disciplines have been
deployed, but one common approach was that routers dropped packets
when a threshold buffer length was reached, so that transport
protocols like TCP that were responsive to loss would detect this
loss and reduce their sending rates. Random Early Detection (RED)
was one such proposal in the IETF. As the name suggests, a router
using RED as its AQM discipline that detected time-averaged queue
lengths passing a threshold would choose incoming packets
probabilistically to be dropped [RFC2309
Researchers suggested providing "explicit congestion notifications"
to senders when routers along the path detected that their queues
were building, giving senders an opportunity to "slow down" as if a
loss had occurred, giving path queues time to drain, while the path
still had sufficient buffer capacity to accommodate bursty arrivals
of packets from other senders. This was proposed as an experiment in
] and standardized in [RFC3168
A key aspect of ECN was the use of IP header fields rather than IP
options to carry explicit congestion notifications, since the
proponents recognized that
Many routers process the "regular" headers in IP packets more
efficiently than they process the header information in IP
Unlike most of the Path Aware technologies included in this document,
the story of ECN continues to the present day and encountered a large
number of Lessons Learned during that time. The early history of ECN
(non-)deployment provides Lessons Learned that were not captured by
other contributions in Section 6
, so that is the emphasis in this
section of the document.
6.9.1. Reasons for Non-deployment
ECN deployment relied on three factors -- support in client
implementations, support in router implementations, and deployment
decisions in operational networks.
The proponents of ECN did so much right, anticipating many of the
Lessons Learned now recognized in Section 4
. They recognized the
need to support incremental deployment (Section 4.2
considered the impact on router throughput (Section 4.8
). They even
considered trust issues between end nodes and the network, for both
non-compliant end nodes (Section 4.10
) and non-compliant routers
They were rewarded with ECN being implemented in major operating
systems, for both end nodes and routers. A number of implementations
are listed under "Implementation and Deployment of ECN" at
What they did not anticipate was routers that would crash when they
saw bits 6 and 7 in the IPv4 Type of Service (TOS) octet [RFC0791
IPv6 Traffic Class field [RFC2460
], which [RFC2481
] redefined to be
"Currently Unused", being set to a non-zero value.
As described in [vista-impl] ("IGD" stands for "Intermediate Gateway
| IGD problem #1: one of the most popular versions from one of the
| most popular vendors. When a data packet arrives with either
| ECT(0) or ECT(1) (indicating successful ECN capability
| negotiation) indicated, router crashed. Cannot be recovered at
| TCP layer [sic]
This implementation, which would be run on a significant percentage
of Internet end nodes, was shipped with ECN disabled, as was true for
several of the other implementations listed under "Implementation and
Deployment of ECN" at [SallyFloyd]. Even if subsequent router
vendors fixed these implementations, ECN was still disabled on end
nodes, and given the trade-off between the benefits of enabling ECN
(somewhat better behavior during congestion) and the risks of
enabling ECN (possibly crashing a router somewhere along the path),
ECN tended to stay disabled on implementations that supported ECN for
6.9.2. Lessons Learned
Of the contributions included in Section 6
, ECN may be unique in
providing these lessons:
* Even if you do everything right, you may trip over implementation
bugs in devices you know nothing about, that will cause severe
problems that prevent successful deployment of your Path Aware
* After implementations disable your Path Aware technology, it may
take years, or even decades, to convince implementers to re-enable
it by default.
These two lessons, taken together, could be summarized as "you get
one chance to get it right."
During discussion of ECN at [PANRG-110], we noted that "you get one
chance to get it right" isn't quite correct today, because operating
systems on so many host systems are frequently updated, and transport
protocols like QUIC [RFC9000
] are being implemented in user space and
can be updated without touching installed operating systems. Neither
of these factors were true in the early 2000s.
We think that these restatements of the ECN Lessons Learned are more
useful for current implementers:
* Even if you do everything right, you may trip over implementation
bugs in devices you know nothing about, that will cause severe
problems that prevent successful deployment of your Path Aware
technology. Testing before deployment isn't enough to ensure
successful deployment. It is also necessary to "deploy gently",
which often means deploying for a small subset of users to gain
experience and implementing feedback mechanisms to detect that
user experience is being degraded.
* After implementations disable your Path Aware technology, it may
take years, or even decades, to convince implementers to re-enable
it by default. This might be based on the difficulty of
distributing implementations that enable it by default, but it is
just as likely to be based on the "bad taste in the mouth" that
implementers have after an unsuccessful deployment attempt that
degraded user experience.
With these expansions, the two lessons, taken together, could be more
helpfully summarized as "plan for failure" -- anticipate what your
next step will be, if initial deployment is unsuccessful.
ECN deployment was also hindered by non-deployment of AQM in many
devices, because of operator interest in QoS features provided in the
network, rather than using the network to assist end systems in
providing for themselves. But that's another story, and the AQM
Lessons Learned are already covered in other contributions in Section 6
7. Security Considerations
This document describes Path Aware techniques that were not adopted
and widely deployed on the Internet, so it doesn't affect the
security of the Internet.
If this document meets its goals, we may develop new techniques for
Path Aware networking that would affect the security of the Internet,
but security considerations for those techniques will be described in
the corresponding RFCs that specify them.
8. IANA Considerations
This document has no IANA actions.
9. Informative References
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[Conviva] "Conviva Precision : Data Sheet", January 2021,
Farrell, S., "We're gonna need a bigger threat model",
Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-farrell-etm-03, 6
July 2019, <https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/draft-
[GREASE] Thomson, M., "Long-term Viability of Protocol Extension
Mechanisms", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-iab-
use-it-or-lose-it-00, 7 August 2019,
[IEN-119] Forgie, J., "ST - A Proposed Internet Stream Protocol",
Arkko, J., "Changes in the Internet Threat Model", Work in
Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-arkko-arch-internet-
threat-model-01, 8 July 2019,
Polk, J. and S. Dhesikan, "Integrated Services (IntServ)
Extension to Allow Signaling of Multiple Traffic
Specifications and Multiple Flow Specifications in
RSVPv1", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-
tsvwg-intserv-multiple-tspec-02, 25 February 2013,
[ITAT] "IAB Workshop on Internet Technology Adoption and
Transition (ITAT) 2013", December 2013,
[model-t] "Model-t -- Discussions of changes in Internet deployment
patterns and their impact on the Internet threat model",
model-t mailing list,
"Media Operations Working Group - IETF 109 Minutes",
[MP-TCP] "Multipath TCP Working Group Home Page",
[NANOG-35] "NANOG 35 Agenda", North American Network Operators' Group
(NANOG), October 2005,
"Next Steps In Signaling Working Group Charter", March
[PANRG] "Path Aware Networking Research Group Home Page",
"Path Aware Networking Research Group - IETF 103 Minutes",
"Path Aware Networking Research Group - IETF 105 Minutes",
"Path Aware Networking Research Group - IETF 106 Minutes",
"Path Aware Networking Research Group - IETF 110", March
[PANRG-99] "Path Aware Networking Research Group - IETF 99", July
Enghardt, T. and C. Krähenbühl, "A Vocabulary of Path
Properties", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-irtf-
panrg-path-properties-02, 22 February 2021,
Trammell, B., "Current Open Questions in Path Aware
Networking", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-irtf-
panrg-questions-09, 16 April 2021,
Bonaventure, O., "A Decade of Path Awareness", July 2017,
[QS-SAT] Secchi, R., Sathiaseelan, A., Potortì, F., Gotta, A., and
G. Fairhurst, "Using Quick-Start to enhance TCP-friendly
rate control performance in bidirectional satellite
networks", DOI 10.1002/sat.929, May 2009,
] Postel, J., "Internet Protocol", STD 5, RFC 791
, September 1981,
] Postel, J., "Internet Control Message Protocol", STD 5, RFC 792
, DOI 10.17487/RFC0792
, September 1981,
] Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7, RFC 793
, DOI 10.17487/RFC0793
, September 1981,
] Prue, W. and J. Postel, "Something a Host Could Do with
Source Quench: The Source Quench Introduced Delay
(SQuID)", RFC 1016
, DOI 10.17487/RFC1016
, July 1987,
] Braden, R., Ed., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -
Communication Layers", STD 3, RFC 1122
, October 1989,
] Topolcic, C., "Experimental Internet Stream Protocol:
Version 2 (ST-II)", RFC 1190
, DOI 10.17487/RFC1190
October 1990, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc1190
] Braden, R., Clark, D., and S. Shenker, "Integrated
Services in the Internet Architecture: an Overview", RFC 1633
, DOI 10.17487/RFC1633
, June 1994,
] Partridge, C., "Using the Flow Label Field in IPv6", RFC 1809
, DOI 10.17487/RFC1809
, June 1995,
] Delgrossi, L., Ed. and L. Berger, Ed., "Internet Stream
Protocol Version 2 (ST2) Protocol Specification - Version
ST2+", RFC 1819
, DOI 10.17487/RFC1819
, August 1995,
] Rekhter, Y., Ed. and T. Li, Ed., "An Architecture for IPv6
Unicast Address Allocation", RFC 1887
, December 1995,
] Stevens, W., "TCP Slow Start, Congestion Avoidance, Fast
Retransmit, and Fast Recovery Algorithms", RFC 2001
, January 1997,
] Braden, R., Ed., Zhang, L., Berson, S., Herzog, S., and S.
Jamin, "Resource ReSerVation Protocol (RSVP) -- Version 1
Functional Specification", RFC 2205
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2205
September 1997, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2205
] Wroclawski, J., "The Use of RSVP with IETF Integrated
Services", RFC 2210
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2210
, September 1997,
] Wroclawski, J., "Specification of the Controlled-Load
Network Element Service", RFC 2211
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2211
September 1997, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2211
] Shenker, S., Partridge, C., and R. Guerin, "Specification
of Guaranteed Quality of Service", RFC 2212
, September 1997,
] Shenker, S. and J. Wroclawski, "General Characterization
Parameters for Integrated Service Network Elements", RFC 2215
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2215
, September 1997,
] Braden, B., Clark, D., Crowcroft, J., Davie, B., Deering,
S., Estrin, D., Floyd, S., Jacobson, V., Minshall, G.,
Partridge, C., Peterson, L., Ramakrishnan, K., Shenker,
S., Wroclawski, J., and L. Zhang, "Recommendations on
Queue Management and Congestion Avoidance in the
Internet", RFC 2309
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2309
, April 1998,
] Deering, S. and R. Hinden, "Internet Protocol, Version 6
(IPv6) Specification", RFC 2460
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2460
December 1998, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2460
] Blake, S., Black, D., Carlson, M., Davies, E., Wang, Z.,
and W. Weiss, "An Architecture for Differentiated
Services", RFC 2475
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2475
, December 1998,
] Ramakrishnan, K. and S. Floyd, "A Proposal to add Explicit
Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP", RFC 2481
, January 1999,
] Ramakrishnan, K., Floyd, S., and D. Black, "The Addition
of Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP", RFC 3168
, DOI 10.17487/RFC3168
, September 2001,
] Rajahalme, J., Conta, A., Carpenter, B., and S. Deering,
"IPv6 Flow Label Specification", RFC 3697
, March 2004,
] Manner, J. and X. Fu, "Analysis of Existing Quality-of-
Service Signaling Protocols", RFC 4094
, May 2005,
] Conta, A., Deering, S., and M. Gupta, Ed., "Internet
Control Message Protocol (ICMPv6) for the Internet
Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) Specification", STD 89, RFC 4443
, DOI 10.17487/RFC4443
, March 2006,
] Floyd, S., Allman, M., Jain, A., and P. Sarolahti, "Quick-
Start for TCP and IP", RFC 4782
, DOI 10.17487/RFC4782
January 2007, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc4782
] Gill, V., Heasley, J., Meyer, D., Savola, P., Ed., and C.
Pignataro, "The Generalized TTL Security Mechanism
(GTSM)", RFC 5082
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5082
, October 2007,
] Thaler, D. and B. Aboba, "What Makes for a Successful
Protocol?", RFC 5218
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5218
, July 2008,
] Nordmark, E. and M. Bagnulo, "Shim6: Level 3 Multihoming
Shim Protocol for IPv6", RFC 5533
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5533
June 2009, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5533
] Marques, P., Sheth, N., Raszuk, R., Greene, B., Mauch, J.,
and D. McPherson, "Dissemination of Flow Specification
Rules", RFC 5575
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5575
, August 2009,
] Allman, M., Paxson, V., and E. Blanton, "TCP Congestion
Control", RFC 5681
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5681
, September 2009,
] Schulzrinne, H. and R. Hancock, "GIST: General Internet
Signalling Transport", RFC 5971
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5971
October 2010, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5971
] Stiemerling, M., Tschofenig, H., Aoun, C., and E. Davies,
"NAT/Firewall NSIS Signaling Layer Protocol (NSLP)", RFC 5973
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5973
, October 2010,
] Manner, J., Karagiannis, G., and A. McDonald, "NSIS
Signaling Layer Protocol (NSLP) for Quality-of-Service
Signaling", RFC 5974
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5974
, October 2010,
] Manner, J., Stiemerling, M., Tschofenig, H., and R. Bless,
Ed., "Authorization for NSIS Signaling Layer Protocols", RFC 5981
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5981
, February 2011,
] Hu, Q. and B. Carpenter, "Survey of Proposed Use Cases for
the IPv6 Flow Label", RFC 6294
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6294
] Le Faucheur, F., Ed., "IP Router Alert Considerations and
Usage", BCP 168, RFC 6398
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6398
] Amante, S., Carpenter, B., Jiang, S., and J. Rajahalme,
"IPv6 Flow Label Specification", RFC 6437
, November 2011,
] Carpenter, B. and S. Amante, "Using the IPv6 Flow Label
for Equal Cost Multipath Routing and Link Aggregation in
Tunnels", RFC 6438
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6438
, November 2011,
] Gont, F., "Deprecation of ICMP Source Quench Messages", RFC 6633
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6633
, May 2012,
] Chu, J., Dukkipati, N., Cheng, Y., and M. Mathis,
"Increasing TCP's Initial Window", RFC 6928
, April 2013,
] Lear, E., Ed., "Report from the IAB Workshop on Internet
Technology Adoption and Transition (ITAT)", RFC 7305
, July 2014,
] Dawkins, S., Ed., "An IRTF Primer for IETF Participants", RFC 7418
, DOI 10.17487/RFC7418
, December 2014,
] Eggert, L., Fairhurst, G., and G. Shepherd, "UDP Usage
Guidelines", BCP 145, RFC 8085
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8085
March 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8085
] Thaler, D., Ed., "Planning for Protocol Adoption and
Subsequent Transitions", RFC 8170
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8170
May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8170
] Finn, N., Thubert, P., Varga, B., and J. Farkas,
"Deterministic Networking Architecture", RFC 8655
, October 2019,
] Wissingh, B., Wood, C., Afanasyev, A., Zhang, L., Oran,
D., and C. Tschudin, "Information-Centric Networking
(ICN): Content-Centric Networking (CCNx) and Named Data
Networking (NDN) Terminology", RFC 8793
, June 2020,
] Iyengar, J., Ed. and M. Thomson, Ed., "QUIC: A UDP-Based
Multiplexed and Secure Transport", RFC 9000
, May 2021,
"Security Area Open Meeting - IETF 105 Minutes", July
[SAF07] Sarolahti, P., Allman, M., and S. Floyd, "Determining an
appropriate sending rate over an underutilized network
path", Computer Networks: The International Journal of
Computer and Telecommunications Networking, Volume 51,
Number 7, DOI 10.1016/j.comnet.2006.11.006, May 2007,
Floyd, S., "ECN (Explicit Congestion Notification) in TCP/
IP", June 2009, <https://www.icir.org/floyd/ecn.html
[Sch11] Scharf, M., "Fast Startup Internet Congestion Control for
Broadband Interactive Applications", Ph.D. Thesis,
University of Stuttgart, April 2011.
[Shim6-35] Meyer, D., Huston, G., Schiller, J., and V. Gill, "IAB
IPv6 Multihoming Panel at NANOG 35", North American
Network Operators' Group (NANOG), October 2005,
"Triggers for Transport BOF at IETF 55", November 2002,
"Triggers for Transport BOF at IETF 56", March 2003,
Sridharan, M., Bansal, D., and D. Thaler, "Implementation
Report on Experiences with Various TCP RFCs", March 2007,
Initial material for Section 6.1
on ST2 was provided by Gorry
Initial material for Section 6.2
on IntServ was provided by Ron
Initial material for Section 6.3
on Quick-Start TCP was provided by
Michael Scharf, who also provided suggestions to improve this section
after it was edited.
Initial material for Section 6.4
on ICMP Source Quench was provided
by Gorry Fairhurst.
Initial material for Section 6.5
on Triggers for Transport (TRIGTRAN)
was provided by Spencer Dawkins. Section 6.6
on Shim6 builds on initial material describing obstacles,
which was provided by Erik Nordmark, with background added by Spencer
Initial material for Section 6.7
on Next Steps in Signaling (NSIS)
was provided by Roland Bless and Martin Stiemerling.
Initial material for Section 6.8
on IPv6 Flow Labels was provided by
Initial material for Section 6.9
on Explicit Congestion Notification
was provided by Spencer Dawkins.
Our thanks to Adrian Farrel, Bob Briscoe, C.M. Heard, David Black,
Eric Kinnear, Erik Auerswald, Gorry Fairhurst, Jake Holland, Joe
Touch, Joeri de Ruiter, Kireeti Kompella, Mohamed Boucadair, Randy
Presuhn, Roland Bless, Ruediger Geib, Theresa Enghardt, and Wes Eddy,
who provided review comments on this document as a "work in process".
Mallory Knodel reviewed this document for the Internet Research
Steering Group and provided many helpful suggestions.
David Oran also provided helpful comments and text suggestions on
this document during Internet Research Steering Group balloting. In
particular, Section 5
reflects his review.
Benjamin Kaduk, Martin Duke, and Rob Wilton provided helpful comments
during Internet Engineering Steering Group conflict review.
Special thanks to Adrian Farrel for helping Spencer navigate the
twisty little passages of Flow Specs and Filter Specs in IntServ,
RSVP, MPLS, and BGP. They are all alike, except when they are
Spencer Dawkins (editor)
United States of America