Filename: 183-refillintervals.txt
Title: Refill Intervals
Author: Florian Tschorsch and Björn Scheuermann
Created: 03-Dec-2010
Status: Closed


  In order to avoid additional queuing and bursty traffic, the refill 
  interval of the token bucket algorithm should be shortened. Thus we 
  propose a configurable parameter that sets the refill interval 

Motivation and Background:

  In Tor there exist multiple token buckets on different logical levels. They 
  all work independently. They are used to limit the up- and downstream of an
  onion router. All token buckets are refilled every second with a constant
  amount of tokens that depends on the configured bandwidth limits. The very
  coarse-grained refill interval of one second has detrimental effects. 

  First, consider an onion router with multiple TLS connections over which 
  cells arrive. If there is high activity (i.e., many incoming cells in
  total), then the coarse refill interval will cause unfairness. Assume (just
  for simplicity) that C doesn't share its TLS connection with any other
  circuit. Moreover, assume that C hasn't transmitted any data for some time
  (e.g., due a typical bursty HTTP traffic pattern). Consequently, there are
  no cells from this circuit in the incoming socket buffers. When the buckets
  are refilled, the incoming token bucket will immediately spend all its
  tokens on other incoming connections. Now assume that cells from C arrive
  soon after. For fairness' sake, these cells should be serviced timely --
  circuit C hasn't received any bandwidth for a significant time before.
  However, it will take a very long time (one refill interval) before the
  current implementation will fetch these cells from the incoming TLS
  connection, because the token bucket will remain empty for a long time. Just
  because the cells happened to arrive at the "wrong" point in time, they must
  wait. Such situations may occur even though the configured admissible
  incoming data rate is not exceeded by incoming cells: the long refill
  intervals often lead to an operational state where all the cells that were
  admissible during a given one-second period are queued until the end of this
  second, before the onion router even just starts processing them. This
  results in unnecessary, long queuing delays in the incoming socket buffers.
  These delays are not visible in the Tor circuit queue delay statistics [1]. 

  Finally, the coarse-grained refill intervals result in a very bursty outgoing
  traffic pattern at the onion routers (one large chunk of data once per
  second, instead of smooth transmission progress). This is undesirable, since
  such a traffic pattern can interfere with TCP's control mechanisms and can
  be the source of suboptimal TCP performance on the TLS links between onion

Specific Changes: 

  The token buckets should be refilled more often, with a correspondingly 
  smaller amount of tokens. For instance, the buckets might be refilled every
  10 milliseconds with one-hundredth of the amount of data admissible per 
  second. This will help to overcome the problem of unfairness when reading 
  from the incoming socket buffers. At the same time it smoothes the traffic 
  leaving the onion routers. We are aware that this latter change has 
  apparently been discussed before [2]; we are not sure why this change has
  not been implemented yet.

  In particular we need to change the current implementation in Tor which 
  triggers refilling always after exactly one second. Instead the refill event 
  should fire more frequently. The smaller time intervals between each refill 
  action need to be taken into account for the number of tokens that are added 
  to the bucket. 
  With libevent 2.x and bufferevents enabled, smaller refill intervals are 
  already considered but hard coded. This should be changed to a configurable 
  parameter, too.   


  This proposal can be implemented with moderate effort and requires changes 
  only at the points where the token bucket operations are currently
  This change will also be a good starting point for further enhancements 
  to improve queuing times in Tor. I.e. it will pave the ground for other means 
  that tackle this problem.  

  Feedback is highly appreciated.


  [1] Karsten Loesing. Analysis of Circuit Queues in Tor. August 25, 2009.