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Demystifying TCP Initial Window Configurations of Content Distribution Networks

by   Jan Rüth, et al.

Driven by their quest to improve web performance, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are known adaptors of performance optimizations. In this regard, TCP congestion control and particularly its initial congestion window (IW) size is one long-debated topic that can influence CDN performance. Its size is, however, assumed to be static by IETF recommendations---despite being network- and application-dependent---and only infrequently changed in its history. To understand if the standardization and research perspective still meets Internet reality, we study the IW configurations of major CDNs. Our study uses a globally distributed infrastructure of VPNs giving access to residential access links that enable to shed light on network-dependent configurations. We observe that most CDNs are well aware of the IW's impact and find a high amount of customization that is beyond current Internet standards. Further, we find CDNs that utilize different IWs for different customers and content while others resort to fixed values. We find various initial window configurations, most below 50 segments yet with exceptions of up to 100 segments---the tenfold of current standards. Our study highlights that Internet reality drifted away from recommended and standardized practices.


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