Tracking transport-layer evolution with PATHspider

Brian Tramell, Mirja Kuehlewind, Piet De Vaere, Iain Ross Learmonth, Gorry Fairhurst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution

4 Citations (Scopus)


The ossification of the Internet protocol stack, due in large part to mangling of packets by middleboxes, has led to a relatively slow rate of change in today's Internet. We have developed the PATHspider active Internet measurement tool which performs one-sided measurements of a variety of transport-layer features and extensions, to investigate these impairments to protocol evolution along an Internet path. Data collected with PATHspider can be used both to determine the degree of support for these features, as well as to detect connectivity issues caused by attempting to use them. The wider aim of this effort is to provide quantifiable input to protocol design and deployment choices that can be based on the level of impairment present in the Internet.

This paper details PATHspider's design, and applies it to trace the evolution of deployment of two extensions to TCP, Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) and the newer TCP Fast Open (TFO); as well as the degree of interference with the DiffServ codepoint carried in the IP header. Our ECN results, in particular, expand on a long-term study beginning in 2012, and show continued linear adoption of ECN. Automating PATHspider measurements has allowed us to collect far more data than in previous campaigns, allowing us to better distinguish ECN-linked connectivity failures from transient effects. Interestingly, we observe a correlation between ECN-linked connectivity failure in the core of the network with the presence of large-scale, heterogeneous Internet censorship infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Proceedings of ANRW ’17, Prague, Czech Republic, July 15, 2017
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9781450351089
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2017
EventApplied Networking Research Workshop - IRTF, Pragues, Czech Republic
Duration: 15 Jul 201715 Jul 2017


ConferenceApplied Networking Research Workshop
Abbreviated titleANRW
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address

Bibliographical note

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 688421, and was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 15.0268. The opinions expressed and arguments employed reflect only the authors’ views. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of that information. Further, the opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Swiss Government. Many thanks to Andreas Germann for his work on an initial TFO survey in June 2016.


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