Three Bits Suffice - Explicit Support for Passive Measurement of Internet Latency in QUIC and TCP


Passive measurement is a commonly used approach for measuring round trip time (RTT), as it reduces bandwidth overhead compared to large-scale active measurements. However, passive RTT measurement is limited to transport-specific approaches, such as those that utilize Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) timestamps. Furthermore, the continuing deployment of encrypted transport protocols such as QUIC hides the information used for passive RTT measurement from the network. In this work, we introduce the latency spin signal as a lightweight, transport-independent and explicit replacement for TCP timestamps for passive latency measurement. This signal supports per-flow, single-point and single direction passive measurement of end-to-end RTT using just three bits in the transport protocol header, leveraging the existing dynamics of the vast majority of Internet-deployed transports. We show how the signal applies to measurement of both TCP and to QUIC through implementation of the signal in endpoint transport stacks. We also provide a high-performance measurement implementation for the signal using the Vector Packet Processing (VPP) framework. Evaluation on emulated networks and in an Internet testbed demonstrate the viability of the signal, and show that it is resistant to even large amounts of loss or reordering on the measured path.

In proceedings of the 2018 Internet Measurement Conference, Boston.