An experimental study of the learnability of congestion control

Anirudh Sivaraman, Keith Winstein, Pratiksha Thaker, Hari Balakrishnan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


When designing a distributed network protocol, typically it is infeasible to fully define the target network where the protocol is intended to be used. It is therefore natural to ask: How faithfully do protocol designers really need to understand the networks they design for? What are the important signals that endpoints should listen to? How can researchers gain confidence that systems that work well on well-characterized test networks during development will also perform adequately on real networks that are inevitably more complex, or future networks yet to be developed? Is there a tradeoff between the performance of a protocol and the breadth of its intended operating range of networks? What is the cost of playing fairly with cross-traffic that is governed by another protocol? We examine these questions quantitatively in the context of congestion control, by using an automated protocol-design tool to approximate the best possible congestion-control scheme given imperfect prior knowledge about the network. We found only weak evidence of a tradeoff between operating range in link speeds and performance, even when the operating range was extended to cover a thousand-fold range of link speeds. We found that it may be acceptable to simplify some characteristics of the network-such as its topology-when modeling for design purposes. Some other features, such as the degree of multiplexing and the aggressiveness of contending endpoints, are important to capture in a model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the SIGCOMM Chicago 2014 and the Best of the Co-located Workshops
EditorsKonstantina Papagiannaki
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450328364
StatePublished - Feb 25 2015
EventACM SIGCOMM 2014 Conference - Chicago, United States
Duration: Aug 17 2014Aug 22 2014


OtherACM SIGCOMM 2014 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Congestion control
  • Learnability
  • Machine learning
  • Measurement
  • Protocol
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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