In the previous few posts I’ve discussed the new congestion control algorithms and rate pacing features that are available in BIG-IP 11.5; but if you’re not ready to move to 11.5 there is still plenty that you can do to optimize your TCP profiles.

Adjusting the Initial Congestion Window Size

The initial congestion window is a key component of slow start, or the exponential growth phase. Historically the initial congestion window has been 2, which means that slow start ramps up from 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 to 32. In this scenario, it takes 3 round trips before 8 segments are transmitted. The majority of web transactions are on the small side (under 16 Kb), very short lived, and are completed before slow start has a chance to ramp up. As a result of the significant increase in bandwidth available to users, increasing the initial congestion window to 10 has been proposed. We have increased the initial congestion window size in some of our default profiles (depending on version); but this is a modification you can easily make to any profile in any version.

Ignoring Packet Loss

By default, all packet loss events are passed directly to congestion control, which considers this an indicator of congestion and slow down transmission. In some networks, such as wireless, packet loss may not be a reliable indicator of congestion. In such cases, ignoring a small percentage of background loss can be beneficial. There are two settings in the BIG-IP TCP profile that can be adjusted to ignore loss: Packet loss ignore rate and packet loss ignore burst.

Packet loss ignore rate allows you to specify the percentage of loss to ignore to prevent congestion control from kicking in and altering the transmission of packets. This is very useful when there is intermittent or stray packet drops on an uncongested network. If the network normally experiences a high degree of congestion, it is not recommended to configure this as it can be too aggressive and cause more packet loss.

The packet loss ignore burst setting provides an exception value for the ignore rate loss parameter. If the connection sees a consecutive number of packet drops but the rate has not exceeded the ignore rate value; congestion control should kick in. A consecutive number of packet drops is evidence of a tail drop and should be considered a loss event. When configuring packet loss ignore rate, it is suggested that the packet loss ignore burst be set to a value between 6 and 12.

Adjusting for SSL

TCP profiles on SSL virtual servers should have Nagle and delayed ACKs disabled as this can create stalls. If your virtual server has a mixture of SSL and non-SSL traffic, Nagle can be disabled via an iRule when the SSL connection is detected.