EuroSys, April 14-16, 2014, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
TCP congestion control algorithms implicitly assume that the per-flow throughput is at least a few packets per round trip time. Environments where this assumption does not hold, which we refer to as small packet regimes, are common in the contexts of wired and cellular networks in developing regions. In this paper we show that in small packet regimes TCP flows experience severe unfairness, high packet loss rates, and flow silences due to repetitive timeouts. We propose an approximate Markov model to describe TCP behavior in small packet regimes to characterize the TCP breakdown region that leads to repetitive timeout behavior. To enhance TCP performance in such regimes, we propose Timeout Aware Queuing (TAQ), a readily deployable in-network middlebox approach that uses a multi-level adaptive priority queuing algorithm to reduce the probability of timeouts, improve fairness and performance predictability. We demonstrate the effectiveness of TAQ across a spectrum of small packet regime network conditions using simulations, a prototype implementation, and testbed experiments.