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RFC 8321

Alternate-Marking Method for Passive and Hybrid Performance Monitoring

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Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 1
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                  G. Fioccola, Ed.
Request for Comments: 8321                                    A. Capello
Category: Experimental                                       M. Cociglio
ISSN: 2070-1721                                           L. Castaldelli
                                                          Telecom Italia
                                                                 M. Chen
                                                                L. Zheng
                                                     Huawei Technologies
                                                               G. Mirsky
                                                              T. Mizrahi
                                                            January 2018

 Alternate-Marking Method for Passive and Hybrid Performance Monitoring


   This document describes a method to perform packet loss, delay, and
   jitter measurements on live traffic.  This method is based on an
   Alternate-Marking (coloring) technique.  A report is provided in
   order to explain an example and show the method applicability.  This
   technology can be applied in various situations, as detailed in this
   document, and could be considered Passive or Hybrid depending on the

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for examination, experimental implementation, and

   This document defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
   community.  This document is a product of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF
   community.  It has received public review and has been approved for
   publication by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not
   all documents approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of
   Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 2
Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2018 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Requirements Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   2.  Overview of the Method  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Detailed Description of the Method  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.1.  Packet Loss Measurement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       3.1.1.  Coloring the Packets  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       3.1.2.  Counting the Packets  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       3.1.3.  Collecting Data and Calculating Packet Loss . . . . .  13
     3.2.  Timing Aspects  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     3.3.  One-Way Delay Measurement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
       3.3.1.  Single-Marking Methodology  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
       3.3.2.  Double-Marking Methodology  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     3.4.  Delay Variation Measurement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   4.  Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     4.1.  Synchronization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
     4.2.  Data Correlation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
     4.3.  Packet Reordering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
   5.  Applications, Implementation, and Deployment  . . . . . . . .  21
     5.1.  Report on the Operational Experiment  . . . . . . . . . .  22
       5.1.1.  Metric Transparency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
   6.  Hybrid Measurement  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
   7.  Compliance with Guidelines from RFC 6390  . . . . . . . . . .  25
   8.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
   9.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
   10. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
     10.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
     10.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  32
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  32
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 3
1.  Introduction

   Nowadays, most Service Providers' networks carry traffic with
   contents that are highly sensitive to packet loss [RFC7680], delay
   [RFC7679], and jitter [RFC3393].

   In view of this scenario, Service Providers need methodologies and
   tools to monitor and measure network performance with an adequate
   accuracy, in order to constantly control the quality of experience
   perceived by their customers.  On the other hand, performance
   monitoring provides useful information for improving network
   management (e.g., isolation of network problems, troubleshooting,

   A lot of work related to Operations, Administration, and Maintenance
   (OAM), which also includes performance monitoring techniques, has
   been done by Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs): [RFC7276]
   provides a good overview of existing OAM mechanisms defined in the
   IETF, ITU-T, and IEEE.  In the IETF, a lot of work has been done on
   fault detection and connectivity verification, while a minor effort
   has been thus far dedicated to performance monitoring.  The IPPM WG
   has defined standard metrics to measure network performance; however,
   the methods developed in this WG mainly refer to focus on Active
   measurement techniques.  More recently, the MPLS WG has defined
   mechanisms for measuring packet loss, one-way and two-way delay, and
   delay variation in MPLS networks [RFC6374], but their applicability
   to Passive measurements has some limitations, especially for pure
   connection-less networks.

   The lack of adequate tools to measure packet loss with the desired
   accuracy drove an effort to design a new method for the performance
   monitoring of live traffic, which is easy to implement and deploy.
   The effort led to the method described in this document: basically,
   it is a Passive performance monitoring technique, potentially
   applicable to any kind of packet-based traffic, including Ethernet,
   IP, and MPLS, both unicast and multicast.  The method addresses
   primarily packet loss measurement, but it can be easily extended to
   one-way or two-way delay and delay variation measurements as well.

   The method has been explicitly designed for Passive measurements, but
   it can also be used with Active probes.  Passive measurements are
   usually more easily understood by customers and provide much better
   accuracy, especially for packet loss measurements.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 4
   RFC 7799 [RFC7799] defines Passive and Hybrid Methods of Measurement.
   In particular, Passive Methods of Measurement are based solely on
   observations of an undisturbed and unmodified packet stream of
   interest; Hybrid Methods are Methods of Measurement that use a
   combination of Active Methods and Passive Methods.

   Taking into consideration these definitions, the Alternate-Marking
   Method could be considered Hybrid or Passive, depending on the case.
   In the case where the marking method is obtained by changing existing
   field values of the packets (e.g., the Differentiated Services Code
   Point (DSCP) field), the technique is Hybrid.  In the case where the
   marking field is dedicated, reserved, and included in the protocol
   specification, the Alternate-Marking technique can be considered as
   Passive (e.g., Synonymous Flow Label as described in [SFL-FRAMEWORK]
   or OAM Marking Bits as described in [PM-MM-BIER]).

   The advantages of the method described in this document are:

   o  easy implementation: it can be implemented by using features
      already available on major routing platforms, as described in
      Section 5.1, or by applying an optimized implementation of the
      method for both legacy and newest technologies;

   o  low computational effort: the additional load on processing is

   o  accurate packet loss measurement: single packet loss granularity
      is achieved with a Passive measurement;

   o  potential applicability to any kind of packet-based or frame-based
      traffic: Ethernet, IP, MPLS, etc., and both unicast and multicast;

   o  robustness: the method can tolerate out-of-order packets, and it's
      not based on "special" packets whose loss could have a negative

   o  flexibility: all the timestamp formats are allowed, because they
      are managed out of band.  The format (the Network Time Protocol
      (NTP) [RFC5905] or the IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP)
      [IEEE-1588]) depends on the precision you want; and

   o  no interoperability issues: the features required to experiment
      and test the method (as described in Section 5.1) are available on
      all current routing platforms.  Both a centralized or distributed
      solution can be used to harvest data from the routers.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 5
   The method doesn't raise any specific need for protocol extension,
   but it could be further improved by means of some extension to
   existing protocols.  Specifically, the use of Diffserv bits for
   coloring the packets could not be a viable solution in some cases: a
   standard method to color the packets for this specific application
   could be beneficial.

1.1.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

2.  Overview of the Method

   In order to perform packet loss measurements on a production traffic
   flow, different approaches exist.  The most intuitive one consists in
   numbering the packets so that each router that receives the flow can
   immediately detect a packet that is missing.  This approach, though
   very simple in theory, is not simple to achieve: it requires the
   insertion of a sequence number into each packet, and the devices must
   be able to extract the number and check it in real time.  Such a task
   can be difficult to implement on live traffic: if UDP is used as the
   transport protocol, the sequence number is not available; on the
   other hand, if a higher-layer sequence number (e.g., in the RTP
   header) is used, extracting that information from each packet and
   processing it in real time could overload the device.

   An alternate approach is to count the number of packets sent on one
   end, count the number of packets received on the other end, and
   compare the two values.  This operation is much simpler to implement,
   but it requires the devices performing the measurement to be in sync:
   in order to compare two counters, it is required that they refer
   exactly to the same set of packets.  Since a flow is continuous and
   cannot be stopped when a counter has to be read, it can be difficult
   to determine exactly when to read the counter.  A possible solution
   to overcome this problem is to virtually split the flow in
   consecutive blocks by periodically inserting a delimiter so that each
   counter refers exactly to the same block of packets.  The delimiter
   could be, for example, a special packet inserted artificially into
   the flow.  However, delimiting the flow using specific packets has
   some limitations.  First, it requires generating additional packets
   within the flow and requires the equipment to be able to process
   those packets.  In addition, the method is vulnerable to out-of-order
   reception of delimiting packets and, to a lesser extent, to their
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 6
   The method proposed in this document follows the second approach, but
   it doesn't use additional packets to virtually split the flow in
   blocks.  Instead, it "marks" the packets so that the packets
   belonging to the same block will have the same color, whilst
   consecutive blocks will have different colors.  Each change of color
   represents a sort of auto-synchronization signal that guarantees the
   consistency of measurements taken by different devices along the path
   (see also [IP-MULTICAST-PM] and [OPSAWG-P3M], where this technique
   was introduced).

   Figure 1 represents a very simple network and shows how the method
   can be used to measure packet loss on different network segments: by
   enabling the measurement on several interfaces along the path, it is
   possible to perform link monitoring, node monitoring, or end-to-end
   monitoring.  The method is flexible enough to measure packet loss on
   any segment of the network and can be used to isolate the faulty

                               Traffic Flow
          +------+       +------+       +------+       +------+
      ---<>  R1  <>-----<>  R2  <>-----<>  R3  <>-----<>  R4  <>---
          +------+       +------+       +------+       +------+
          .              .      .              .       .      .
          .              .      .              .       .      .
          .              <------>              <------->      .
          .          Node Packet Loss      Link Packet Loss   .
          .                                                   .
                           End-to-End Packet Loss

                     Figure 1: Available Measurements

3.  Detailed Description of the Method

   This section describes, in detail, how the method operates.  A
   special emphasis is given to the measurement of packet loss, which
   represents the core application of the method, but applicability to
   delay and jitter measurements is also considered.

3.1.  Packet Loss Measurement

   The basic idea is to virtually split traffic flows into consecutive
   blocks: each block represents a measurable entity unambiguously
   recognizable by all network devices along the path.  By counting the
   number of packets in each block and comparing the values measured by
   different network devices along the path, it is possible to measure
   packet loss occurred in any single block between any two points.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 7
   As discussed in the previous section, a simple way to create the
   blocks is to "color" the traffic (two colors are sufficient), so that
   packets belonging to different consecutive blocks will have different
   colors.  Whenever the color changes, the previous block terminates
   and the new one begins.  Hence, all the packets belonging to the same
   block will have the same color and packets of different consecutive
   blocks will have different colors.  The number of packets in each
   block depends on the criterion used to create the blocks:

   o  if the color is switched after a fixed number of packets, then
      each block will contain the same number of packets (except for any
      losses); and

   o  if the color is switched according to a fixed timer, then the
      number of packets may be different in each block depending on the
      packet rate.

   The following figure shows how a flow looks like when it is split in
   traffic blocks with colored packets.

   A: packet with A coloring
   B: packet with B coloring

            |           |           |           |           |
            |           |    Traffic Flow       |           |
       ...  |  Block 5  |  Block 4  |  Block 3  |  Block 2  |  Block 1
            |           |           |           |           |

                        Figure 2: Traffic Coloring

   Figure 3 shows how the method can be used to measure link packet loss
   between two adjacent nodes.

   Referring to the figure, let's assume we want to monitor the packet
   loss on the link between two routers: router R1 and router R2.
   According to the method, the traffic is colored alternatively with
   two different colors: A and B.  Whenever the color changes, the
   transition generates a sort of square-wave signal, as depicted in the
   following figure.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 8
   Color A   ----------+           +-----------+           +----------
                       |           |           |           |
   Color B             +-----------+           +-----------+
              Block n        ...      Block 3     Block 2     Block 1
            <---------> <---------> <---------> <---------> <--------->

                                Traffic Flow

                 Figure 3: Computation of Link Packet Loss

   Traffic coloring can be done by R1 itself if the traffic is not
   already colored.  R1 needs two counters, C(A)R1 and C(B)R1, on its
   egress interface: C(A)R1 counts the packets with color A and C(B)R1
   counts those with color B.  As long as traffic is colored as A, only
   counter C(A)R1 will be incremented, while C(B)R1 is not incremented;
   conversely, when the traffic is colored as B, only C(B)R1 is
   incremented.  C(A)R1 and C(B)R1 can be used as reference values to
   determine the packet loss from R1 to any other measurement point down
   the path.  Router R2, similarly, will need two counters on its
   ingress interface, C(A)R2 and C(B)R2, to count the packets received
   on that interface and colored with A and B, respectively.  When an A
   block ends, it is possible to compare C(A)R1 and C(A)R2 and calculate
   the packet loss within the block; similarly, when the successive B
   block terminates, it is possible to compare C(B)R1 with C(B)R2, and
   so on, for every successive block.

   Likewise, by using two counters on the R2 egress interface, it is
   possible to count the packets sent out of the R2 interface and use
   them as reference values to calculate the packet loss from R2 to any
   measurement point down R2.

   Using a fixed timer for color switching offers better control over
   the method: the (time) length of the blocks can be chosen large
   enough to simplify the collection and the comparison of measures
   taken by different network devices.  It's preferable to read the
   value of the counters not immediately after the color switch: some
   packets could arrive out of order and increment the counter
   associated with the previous block (color), so it is worth waiting
   for some time.  A safe choice is to wait L/2 time units (where L is
   the duration for each block) after the color switch, to read the
   still counter of the previous color, so the possibility of reading a
   running counter instead of a still one is minimized.  The drawback is
   that the longer the duration of the block, the less frequent the
   measurement can be taken.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 9
   The following table shows how the counters can be used to calculate
   the packet loss between R1 and R2.  The first column lists the
   sequence of traffic blocks, while the other columns contain the
   counters of A-colored packets and B-colored packets for R1 and R2.
   In this example, we assume that the values of the counters are reset
   to zero whenever a block ends and its associated counter has been
   read: with this assumption, the table shows only relative values,
   which is the exact number of packets of each color within each block.
   If the values of the counters were not reset, the table would contain
   cumulative values, but the relative values could be determined simply
   by the difference from the value of the previous block of the same

   The color is switched on the basis of a fixed timer (not shown in the
   table), so the number of packets in each block is different.

           | Block | C(A)R1 | C(B)R1 | C(A)R2 | C(B)R2 | Loss |
           | 1     | 375    | 0      | 375    | 0      | 0    |
           | 2     | 0      | 388    | 0      | 388    | 0    |
           | 3     | 382    | 0      | 381    | 0      | 1    |
           | 4     | 0      | 377    | 0      | 374    | 3    |
           | ...   | ...    | ...    | ...    | ...    | ...  |
           | 2n    | 0      | 387    | 0      | 387    | 0    |
           | 2n+1  | 379    | 0      | 377    | 0      | 2    |

       Table 1: Evaluation of Counters for Packet Loss Measurements

   During an A block (blocks 1, 3, and 2n+1), all the packets are
   A-colored; therefore, the C(A) counters are incremented to the number
   seen on the interface, while C(B) counters are zero.  Conversely,
   during a B block (blocks 2, 4, and 2n), all the packets are
   B-colored: C(A) counters are zero, while C(B) counters are

   When a block ends (because of color switching), the relative counters
   stop incrementing; it is possible to read them, compare the values
   measured on routers R1 and R2, and calculate the packet loss within
   that block.

   For example, looking at the table above, during the first block
   (A-colored), C(A)R1 and C(A)R2 have the same value (375), which
   corresponds to the exact number of packets of the first block (no
   loss).  Also, during the second block (B-colored), R1 and R2 counters
   have the same value (388), which corresponds to the number of packets
   of the second block (no loss).  During the third and fourth blocks,
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 10
   R1 and R2 counters are different, meaning that some packets have been
   lost: in the example, one single packet (382-381) was lost during
   block three, and three packets (377-374) were lost during block four.

   The method applied to R1 and R2 can be extended to any other router
   and applied to more complex networks, as far as the measurement is
   enabled on the path followed by the traffic flow(s) being observed.

   It's worth mentioning two different strategies that can be used when
   implementing the method:

   o  flow-based: the flow-based strategy is used when only a limited
      number of traffic flows need to be monitored.  According to this
      strategy, only a subset of the flows is colored.  Counters for
      packet loss measurements can be instantiated for each single flow,
      or for the set as a whole, depending on the desired granularity.
      A relevant problem with this approach is the necessity to know in
      advance the path followed by flows that are subject to
      measurement.  Path rerouting and traffic load-balancing increase
      the issue complexity, especially for unicast traffic.  The problem
      is easier to solve for multicast traffic, where load-balancing is
      seldom used and static joins are frequently used to force traffic
      forwarding and replication.

   o  link-based: measurements are performed on all the traffic on a
      link-by-link basis.  The link could be a physical link or a
      logical link.  Counters could be instantiated for the traffic as a
      whole or for each traffic class (in case it is desired to monitor
      each class separately), but in the second case, a couple of
      counters are needed for each class.

   As mentioned, the flow-based measurement requires the identification
   of the flow to be monitored and the discovery of the path followed by
   the selected flow.  It is possible to monitor a single flow or
   multiple flows grouped together, but in this case, measurement is
   consistent only if all the flows in the group follow the same path.
   Moreover, if a measurement is performed by grouping many flows, it is
   not possible to determine exactly which flow was affected by packet
   loss.  In order to have measures per single flow, it is necessary to
   configure counters for each specific flow.  Once the flow(s) to be
   monitored has been identified, it is necessary to configure the
   monitoring on the proper nodes.  Configuring the monitoring means
   configuring the rule to intercept the traffic and configuring the
   counters to count the packets.  To have just an end-to-end
   monitoring, it is sufficient to enable the monitoring on the first-
   and last-hop routers of the path: the mechanism is completely
   transparent to intermediate nodes and independent from the path
   followed by traffic flows.  On the contrary, to monitor the flow on a
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 11
   hop-by-hop basis along its whole path, it is necessary to enable the
   monitoring on every node from the source to the destination.  In case
   the exact path followed by the flow is not known a priori (i.e., the
   flow has multiple paths to reach the destination), it is necessary to
   enable the monitoring system on every path: counters on interfaces
   traversed by the flow will report packet count, whereas counters on
   other interfaces will be null.

3.1.1.  Coloring the Packets

   The coloring operation is fundamental in order to create packet
   blocks.  This implies choosing where to activate the coloring and how
   to color the packets.

   In case of flow-based measurements, the flow to monitor can be
   defined by a set of selection rules (e.g., header fields) used to
   match a subset of the packets; in this way, it is possible to control
   the number of involved nodes, the path followed by the packets, and
   the size of the flows.  It is possible, in general, to have multiple
   coloring nodes or a single coloring node that is easier to manage and
   doesn't raise any risk of conflict.  Coloring in multiple nodes can
   be done, and the requirement is that the coloring must change
   periodically between the nodes according to the timing considerations
   in Section 3.2; so every node that is designated as a measurement
   point along the path should be able to identify unambiguously the
   colored packets.  Furthermore, [MULTIPOINT-ALT-MM] generalizes the
   coloring for multipoint-to-multipoint flow.  In addition, it can be
   advantageous to color the flow as close as possible to the source
   because it allows an end-to-end measure if a measurement point is
   enabled on the last-hop router as well.

   For link-based measurements, all traffic needs to be colored when
   transmitted on the link.  If the traffic had already been colored,
   then it has to be re-colored because the color must be consistent on
   the link.  This means that each hop along the path must (re-)color
   the traffic; the color is not required to be consistent along
   different links.

   Traffic coloring can be implemented by setting a specific bit in the
   packet header and changing the value of that bit periodically.  How
   to choose the marking field depends on the application and is out of
   scope here.  However, some applications are reported in Section 5.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 12
3.1.2.  Counting the Packets

   For flow-based measurements, assuming that the coloring of the
   packets is performed only by the source nodes, the nodes between
   source and destination (included) have to count the colored packets
   that they receive and forward: this operation can be enabled on every
   router along the path or only on a subset, depending on which network
   segment is being monitored (a single link, a particular metro area,
   the backbone, or the whole path).  Since the color switches
   periodically between two values, two counters (one for each value)
   are needed: one counter for packets with color A and one counter for
   packets with color B.  For each flow (or group of flows) being
   monitored and for every interface where the monitoring is Active, a
   couple of counters are needed.  For example, in order to separately
   monitor three flows on a router with four interfaces involved, 24
   counters are needed (two counters for each of the three flows on each
   of the four interfaces).  Furthermore, [MULTIPOINT-ALT-MM]
   generalizes the counting for multipoint-to-multipoint flow.

   In case of link-based measurements, the behavior is similar except
   that coloring and counting operations are performed on a link-by-link
   basis at each endpoint of the link.

   Another important aspect to take into consideration is when to read
   the counters: in order to count the exact number of packets of a
   block, the routers must perform this operation when that block has
   ended; in other words, the counter for color A must be read when the
   current block has color B, in order to be sure that the value of the
   counter is stable.  This task can be accomplished in two ways.  The
   general approach suggests reading the counters periodically, many
   times during a block duration, and comparing these successive
   readings: when the counter stops incrementing, it means that the
   current block has ended, and its value can be elaborated safely.
   Alternatively, if the coloring operation is performed on the basis of
   a fixed timer, it is possible to configure the reading of the
   counters according to that timer: for example, reading the counter
   for color A every period in the middle of the subsequent block with
   color B is a safe choice.  A sufficient margin should be considered
   between the end of a block and the reading of the counter, in order
   to take into account any out-of-order packets.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 13
3.1.3.  Collecting Data and Calculating Packet Loss

   The nodes enabled to perform performance monitoring collect the value
   of the counters, but they are not able to directly use this
   information to measure packet loss, because they only have their own
   samples.  For this reason, an external Network Management System
   (NMS) can be used to collect and elaborate data and to perform packet
   loss calculation.  The NMS compares the values of counters from
   different nodes and can calculate if some packets were lost (even a
   single packet) and where those packets were lost.

   The value of the counters needs to be transmitted to the NMS as soon
   as it has been read.  This can be accomplished by using SNMP or FTP
   and can be done in Push Mode or Polling Mode.  In the first case,
   each router periodically sends the information to the NMS; in the
   latter case, it is the NMS that periodically polls routers to collect
   information.  In any case, the NMS has to collect all the relevant
   values from all the routers within one cycle of the timer.

   It would also be possible to use a protocol to exchange values of
   counters between the two endpoints in order to let them perform the
   packet loss calculation for each traffic direction.

   A possible approach for the performance measurement (PM) architecture
   is explained in [COLORING], while [IP-FLOW-REPORT] introduces new
   information elements of IP Flow Information Export (IPFIX) [RFC7011].

3.2.  Timing Aspects

   This document introduces two color-switching methods: one is based on
   a fixed number of packets, and the other is based on a fixed timer.
   But the method based on a fixed timer is preferable because it is
   more deterministic, and it will be considered in the rest of the

   In general, clocks in network devices are not accurate and for this
   reason, there is a clock error between the measurement points R1 and
   R2.  But, to implement the methodology, they must be synchronized to
   the same clock reference with an accuracy of +/- L/2 time units,
   where L is the fixed time duration of the block.  So each colored
   packet can be assigned to the right batch by each router.  This is
   because the minimum time distance between two packets of the same
   color but that belong to different batches is L time units.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 14
   In practice, in addition to clock errors, the delay between
   measurement points also affects the implementation of the methodology
   because each packet can be delayed differently, and this can produce
   out of order at batch boundaries.  This means that, without
   considering clock error, we wait L/2 after color switching to be sure
   to take a still counter.

   In summary, we need to take into account two contributions: clock
   error between network devices and the interval we need to wait to
   avoid packets being out of order because of network delay.

   The following figure explains both issues.

                |                   L                    |
                |       L/2                   L/2        |
                |<===>|                            |<===>|
                   d  |                            |   d
                       available counting interval

                         Figure 4: Timing Aspects

   It is assumed that all network devices are synchronized to a common
   reference time with an accuracy of +/- A/2.  Thus, the difference
   between the clock values of any two network devices is bounded by A.

   The guard band d is given by:

   d = A + D_max - D_min,

   where A is the clock accuracy, D_max is an upper bound on the network
   delay between the network devices, and D_min is a lower bound on the

   The available counting interval is L - 2d that must be > 0.

   The condition that must be satisfied and is a requirement on the
   synchronization accuracy is:

   d < L/2.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 15
3.3.  One-Way Delay Measurement

   The same principle used to measure packet loss can be applied also to
   one-way delay measurement.  There are three alternatives, as
   described hereinafter.

   Note that, for all the one-way delay alternatives described in the
   next sections, by summing the one-way delays of the two directions of
   a path, it is always possible to measure the two-way delay (round-
   trip "virtual" delay).

3.3.1.  Single-Marking Methodology

   The alternation of colors can be used as a time reference to
   calculate the delay.  Whenever the color changes (which means that a
   new block has started), a network device can store the timestamp of
   the first packet of the new block; that timestamp can be compared
   with the timestamp of the same packet on a second router to compute
   packet delay.  When looking at Figure 2, R1 stores the timestamp
   TS(A1)R1 when it sends the first packet of block 1 (A-colored), the
   timestamp TS(B2)R1 when it sends the first packet of block 2
   (B-colored), and so on for every other block.  R2 performs the same
   operation on the receiving side, recording TS(A1)R2, TS(B2)R2, and so
   on.  Since the timestamps refer to specific packets (the first packet
   of each block), we are sure that timestamps compared to compute delay
   refer to the same packets.  By comparing TS(A1)R1 with TS(A1)R2 (and
   similarly TS(B2)R1 with TS(B2)R2, and so on), it is possible to
   measure the delay between R1 and R2.  In order to have more
   measurements, it is possible to take and store more timestamps,
   referring to other packets within each block.

   In order to coherently compare timestamps collected on different
   routers, the clocks on the network nodes must be in sync.
   Furthermore, a measurement is valid only if no packet loss occurs and
   if packet misordering can be avoided; otherwise, the first packet of
   a block on R1 could be different from the first packet of the same
   block on R2 (for instance, if that packet is lost between R1 and R2
   or it arrives after the next one).

   The following table shows how timestamps can be used to calculate the
   delay between R1 and R2.  The first column lists the sequence of
   blocks, while other columns contain the timestamp referring to the
   first packet of each block on R1 and R2.  The delay is computed as a
   difference between timestamps.  For the sake of simplicity, all the
   values are expressed in milliseconds.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 16
      | Block | TS(A)R1 | TS(B)R1 | TS(A)R2 | TS(B)R2 | Delay R1-R2 |
      | 1     | 12.483  | -       | 15.591  | -       | 3.108       |
      | 2     | -       | 6.263   | -       | 9.288   | 3.025       |
      | 3     | 27.556  | -       | 30.512  | -       | 2.956       |
      |       | -       | 18.113  | -       | 21.269  | 3.156       |
      | ...   | ...     | ...     | ...     | ...     | ...         |
      | 2n    | 77.463  | -       | 80.501  | -       | 3.038       |
      | 2n+1  | -       | 24.333  | -       | 27.433  | 3.100       |

         Table 2: Evaluation of Timestamps for Delay Measurements

   The first row shows timestamps taken on R1 and R2, respectively, and
   refers to the first packet of block 1 (which is A-colored).  Delay
   can be computed as a difference between the timestamp on R2 and the
   timestamp on R1.  Similarly, the second row shows timestamps (in
   milliseconds) taken on R1 and R2 and refers to the first packet of
   block 2 (which is B-colored).  By comparing timestamps taken on
   different nodes in the network and referring to the same packets
   (identified using the alternation of colors), it is possible to
   measure delay on different network segments.

   For the sake of simplicity, in the above example, a single
   measurement is provided within a block, taking into account only the
   first packet of each block.  The number of measurements can be easily
   increased by considering multiple packets in the block: for instance,
   a timestamp could be taken every N packets, thus generating multiple
   delay measurements.  Taking this to the limit, in principle, the
   delay could be measured for each packet by taking and comparing the
   corresponding timestamps (possible but impractical from an
   implementation point of view).  Mean Delay

   As mentioned before, the method previously exposed for measuring the
   delay is sensitive to out-of-order reception of packets.  In order to
   overcome this problem, a different approach has been considered: it
   is based on the concept of mean delay.  The mean delay is calculated
   by considering the average arrival time of the packets within a
   single block.  The network device locally stores a timestamp for each
   packet received within a single block: summing all the timestamps and
   dividing by the total number of packets received, the average arrival
   time for that block of packets can be calculated.  By subtracting the
   average arrival times of two adjacent devices, it is possible to
   calculate the mean delay between those nodes.  When computing the
   mean delay, the measurement error could be augmented by accumulating
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 17
   the measurement error of a lot of packets.  This method is robust to
   out-of-order packets and also to packet loss (only a small error is
   introduced).  Moreover, it greatly reduces the number of timestamps
   (only one per block for each network device) that have to be
   collected by the management system.  On the other hand, it only gives
   one measure for the duration of the block (for instance, 5 minutes),
   and it doesn't give the minimum, maximum, and median delay values
   [RFC6703].  This limitation could be overcome by reducing the
   duration of the block (for instance, from 5 minutes to a few
   seconds), which implicates a highly optimized implementation of the

3.3.2.  Double-Marking Methodology

   The Single-Marking methodology for one-way delay measurement is
   sensitive to out-of-order reception of packets.  The first approach
   to overcome this problem has been described before and is based on
   the concept of mean delay.  But the limitation of mean delay is that
   it doesn't give information about the delay value's distribution for
   the duration of the block.  Additionally, it may be useful to have
   not only the mean delay but also the minimum, maximum, and median
   delay values and, in wider terms, to know more about the statistic
   distribution of delay values.  So, in order to have more information
   about the delay and to overcome out-of-order issues, a different
   approach can be introduced; it is based on a Double-Marking

   Basically, the idea is to use the first marking to create the
   alternate flow and, within this colored flow, a second marking to
   select the packets for measuring delay/jitter.  The first marking is
   needed for packet loss and mean delay measurement.  The second
   marking creates a new set of marked packets that are fully identified
   over the network, so that a network device can store the timestamps
   of these packets; these timestamps can be compared with the
   timestamps of the same packets on a second router to compute packet
   delay values for each packet.  The number of measurements can be
   easily increased by changing the frequency of the second marking.
   But the frequency of the second marking must not be too high in order
   to avoid out-of-order issues.  Between packets with the second
   marking, there should be a security time gap (e.g., this gap could
   be, at the minimum, the mean network delay calculated with the
   previous methodology) to avoid out-of-order issues and also to have a
   number of measurement packets that are rate independent.  If a
   second-marking packet is lost, the delay measurement for the
   considered block is corrupted and should be discarded.
Top   ToC   RFC8321 - Page 18
   Mean delay is calculated on all the packets of a sample and is a
   simple computation to be performed for a Single-Marking Method.  In
   some cases, the mean delay measure is not sufficient to characterize
   the sample, and more statistics of delay extent data are needed,
   e.g., percentiles, variance, and median delay values.  The
   conventional range (maximum-minimum) should be avoided for several
   reasons, including stability of the maximum delay due to the
   influence by outliers.  RFC 5481 [RFC5481], Section 6.5 highlights
   how the 99.9th percentile of delay and delay variation is more
   helpful to performance planners.  To overcome this drawback, the idea
   is to couple the mean delay measure for the entire batch with a
   Double-Marking Method, where a subset of batch packets is selected
   for extensive delay calculation by using a second marking.  In this
   way, it is possible to perform a detailed analysis on these double-
   marked packets.  Please note that there are classic algorithms for
   median and variance calculation, but they are out of the scope of
   this document.  The comparison between the mean delay for the entire
   batch and the mean delay on these double-marked packets gives useful
   information since it is possible to understand if the Double-Marking
   measurements are actually representative of the delay trends.

3.4.  Delay Variation Measurement

   Similar to one-way delay measurement (both for Single Marking and
   Double Marking), the method can also be used to measure the inter-
   arrival jitter.  We refer to the definition in RFC 3393 [RFC3393].
   The alternation of colors, for a Single-Marking Method, can be used
   as a time reference to measure delay variations.  In case of Double
   Marking, the time reference is given by the second-marked packets.
   Considering the example depicted in Figure 2, R1 stores the timestamp
   TS(A)R1 whenever it sends the first packet of a block, and R2 stores
   the timestamp TS(B)R2 whenever it receives the first packet of a
   block.  The inter-arrival jitter can be easily derived from one-way
   delay measurement, by evaluating the delay variation of consecutive

   The concept of mean delay can also be applied to delay variation, by
   evaluating the average variation of the interval between consecutive
   packets of the flow from R1 to R2.

(page 18 continued on part 2)

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