6.6 Summary

As we have just seen, the issue of resource allocation is not only central to computer networking, it is also a very hard problem. This chapter has examined two aspects of resource allocation. The first, congestion control, is concerned with preventing overall degradation of service when the demand for resources by hosts exceeds the supply available in the network. The second aspect is the provision of different qualities of service to applications that need more assurances than those provided by the best-effort model.

Most congestion-control mechanisms are targeted at the best-effort service model of today's Internet, where the primary responsibility for congestion control falls on the end nodes of the network. Typically, the source uses feedback—either implicitly learned from the network or explicitly sent by a router—to adjust the load it places on the network; this is precisely what TCP's congestion-control mechanism does.

Independent of exactly what the end nodes are doing, the routers implement a queuing discipline that governs which packets get transmitted and which packets get dropped. Sometimes this queuing algorithm is sophisticated enough to segregate traffic (e.g., WFQ); in other cases, the router attempts to monitor its queue length and then signals the source host when congestion is about to occur (e.g., RED gateways and DECbit).

Emerging quality of service approaches aim to do substantially more than just control congestion. Their goal is to enable applications with widely varying requirements for delay, loss, and throughput to have those requirements met through new mechanisms inside the network. The Integrated Services (IntServ) approach allows individual application flows to specify their needs to the routers using an explicit signalling mechanism (RSVP), while Differentiated Services (DiffServ) assigns packets into a small number of classes that receive differentiated treatment in the routers.

Further Reading

The recommended reading list for this chapter is long, reflecting the breadth of interesting work being done in congestion control and resource allocation. It includes the original papers introducing the various mechanisms discussed in this chapter. In addition to a more detailed description of these mechanisms, including thorough analysis of their effectiveness and fairness, these papers are must reading because of the insights they give into the interplay of the various issues related to congestion control. In addition, the first paper gives a nice overview of some of the early work on this topic, while the last is considered one of the seminal papers in the development of QoS capabilities in the Internet.

  • Gerla, M., and L. Kleinrock. Flow control: A comparative survey. IEEE Transactions on Communications COM-28(4):553-573, April 1980.

  • Demers, A., S. Keshav, and S. Shenker. Analysis and simulation of a fair queuing algorithm. Proceedings of the SIGCOMM '89 Symposium, pages 1-12, September 1989.

  • Jacobson, V. Congestion avoidance and control. Proceedings of the SIGCOMM '88 Symposium, pages 314-329, August 1988.

  • Floyd, S., and V. Jacobson. Random early detection gateways for congestion avoidance. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking 1(4):397-413, August 1993.

  • Clark, D., S. Shenker, and L. Zhang. Supporting real-time applications in an integrated services packet network: Architecture and mechanism. Proceedings of the SIGCOMM '92 Symposium, pages 14-26, August 1992.

  • Parekh, A. and R. Gallager. A generalized processor sharing approach to flow control in integrated services networks: The multiple node case. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking 2(2):137-150, April 1994.

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