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DCTCP: Efficient Packet Transport for the Commoditized Data Center

Mohammad Alizadeh, Albert Greenberg, David A. Maltz, Jitendra Padhye, Parveen Patel, Balaji Prabhakar, Sudipta Sengupta, and Murari Sridharan


Cloud data centers host diverse applications, mixing workloads that require small predictable latency with others requiring large sustained throughput. In this environment, today's state-of-the-art TCP protocol falls short. We present measurements of a 6000 server production cluster and reveal impairments that lead to high application latencies, rooted in TCP's demands on the limited buffer space available in data center switches. For example, bandwidth hungry “background” flows build up queues at the switches, and thus impact the performance of latency sensitive “foreground” traffic.

To address these problems, we propose DCTCP, a variant of TCP for data center networks. DCTCP leverages Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) in the network to provide multi-bit feedback to a simple control mechanism implemented in the host OS. We evaluate DCTCP at 1 and 10Gbps speeds, through benchmark experiments and analysis. In the data center, operating with commodity, shallow buffered switches, we find DCTCP delivers the same or better throughput than TCP, while using 90% less buffer space. Unlike TCP, DCTCP also provides high burst tolerance and low latency for short flows. In handling workloads derived from operational measurements, we found DCTCP enables the applications to handle 10X the current background traffic, without impacting foreground traffic. Further, a 10X increase in foreground traffic does not cause any timeouts, thus largely eliminating incast problems.


Publication typeTechReport
PublisherMicrosoft Research
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