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Unleashing Tor, BitTorrent & Co.: How to Relieve TCP Deficiencies in Overlays (Extended Version)

Author(s): Daniel Marks, Florian Tschorsch, Björn Scheuermann.
Title: Unleashing Tor, BitTorrent & Co.: How to Relieve TCP Deficiencies in Overlays (Extended Version)
Published: Technical Report TR-2010-001, Computer Science Department, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany, August 2010
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Abstract: Many overlay-based distributed applications employ TCP for the communication between peer nodes. Typically, the TCP connections of one peer will all share one physical Internet link. Using real-world network experiments, we demonstrate that this can lead to undesirable interactions between overlay links, resulting in oscillations and suboptimal throughput. Consequently, we argue that such effects should be taken into account in the design and deployment of overlay networks. In support of this case, we identify readily deployable countermeasures. In a first step, we show that simple traffic shaping mechanisms based on existing operating system QoS functionality can bring some relief. Yet, this alone is not fully effective if peers communicate bidirectionally, due to TCP ACK piggybacking. We thus suggest to set up the overlay's communication structure to avoid piggybacked ACKs, by separating bidirectional peer communication into two independent TCP connections. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy and discuss viable migration paths for existing applications.
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