Drop a packet

Posted: October 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: FreeBSD, networking, tcp | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Drop a packet

A few months back when I started looking into improving FreeBSD TCP’s response to packet loss, I looked around for traffic simulators which can do deterministic packet drop for me.

I had used dummynet(4) before so I thought of using it but the problem is that it only provided probabilistic drops. You can specify dropping 10% of the total packets, for example. I came across dpd work from CAIA, Swinburne University but it was written for FreeBSD7 and I couldn’t port it forward to FreeBSD11 with reasonable time/efforts as ipfw/dummynet has changed quite a bit.

So I decided to hack dummynet to provide me deterministic drops. Here is the patch: drop.patch
(Yes, it’s a hack and it needs polishing.)

Here is how I use it:

client              dummynet          server  <--->

Both client and server need their routing tables setup correctly so that they can reach each other.

Dummynet node is the traffic shaping node here. We need to enable forwarding between interfaces:

sysctl net.inet.ip.forwarding=1

We need to setup links (called ‘pipes’) and their parameters on dummynet node like this:

# ipfw add pipe 100 ip from to out 
# ipfw add pipe 101 ip from to out
# ipfw pipe 100 config mask proto TCP src-ip dst-ip pls 3,4,5 plsr 7
# ipfw pipe 101 config mask proto TCP src-ip dst-ip

‘pls 3,4,5 plsr 7’ – is the new configuration that the patch provides here.
pls : packet loss sequence
plsr : repeat frequency for the loss pattern

In the example above, it configures the pipe 100 to drop 3rd, 4th and 5th packet and repeat this pattern at every 7 packets going from server to client. So it’d also drop 10th, 11th and 12th packets and so on and so forth.

Side note: delay, bw and queue depth are other very useful parameters that you can set for the link to simulate however you want the link to behave. For example: ‘delay 5ms bw 40Mbps queue 50Kbytes’ would create a link with 10ms RTT, 40Mbps bandwidth with 50Kbytes worth of queue depth/capacity. Queue depth is usually decided based on BDP (bandwidth delay product) of the link. Dummynet drops packets once the limit is reached.

For simulations, I run a lighttpd web-server on the server which serves different sized objects and I request them via curl or wget from the client. I have tcpdump running on any/all of four interfaces involved to observe traffic and I can see specified packets getting dropped by dummynet.
sysctl net.inet.ip.dummynet.io_pkt_drop is incremented with each packet that dummynet drops.

Future work:
* Work on getting this patch committed into FreeBSD-head.
* sysctl net.inet.ip.dummynet.io_pkt_drop increments on any type of loss (which includes queue overflow and any other random error) so I am planning to add a more specific counter to show explicitly dropped packets only.
* I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried adding deterministic delay to dummynet so that we can delay specific packet(s) which can be useful in simulating link delays and also in debugging any delay-based congestion control algorithms. Turns out it’s trickier that I thought. I’d like to resume working on it as time permits.

Improving FreeBSD’s transport layer

Posted: October 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: FreeBSD, networking, tcp | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Improving FreeBSD’s transport layer

FreeBSD network stack is quite stable but lacks some of the improvements/features available in other OSes.

A bunch of us have started an effort to try and identify current problems to improve transport layer (TCP, UDP, SCTP and others) for FreeBSD:

Transport Protocols wiki

Traditionally, freebsd-net has been the mailing list where networking problems get discussed but some have complained it to be too spammy and too focused on NIC drivers related issues. So a new mailing list has been created to specifically talk about transport level protocols: transport@

We’ve also started creating a list of TCP related RFCs and their support for FreeBSD to have a single point of reference.

Plan is to have a coordinated effort to improve TCP, UDP, etc.. so if you are interested in any of those protocols, please join the mailing list and help FreeBSD. :)