The first phase of a TCP session is establishment of the connection. This requires a three-way handshake, ensuring that both sides of the connection have an unambiguous understanding of the sequence number space of the remote side for this session. The operation of the connection is as follows:

 ·        The local system sends the remote end an initial sequence number to the remote port, using a SYN packet.

 ·        The remote system responds with an ACK of the initial sequence number and the initial sequence number of the remote end in a response SYN packet.

·        The local end responds with an ACK of this remote sequence number.

·        The performance implication of this protocol exchange is that it takes one and a half round-trip times (RTTs) for the two systems to synchronize state before any data can be sent.

After the connection has been established, the TCP protocol manages the reliable exchange of data between the two systems. The algorithms that determine the various retransmission timers have been redefined numerous times. TCP is a sliding-window protocol, and the general principle of flow control is based on the management of the advertised window size and the management of retransmission timeouts, attempting to optimize protocol performance within the observed delay and loss parameters of the connection.

 Tuning a TCP protocol stack for optimal performance over a very low-delay, high-bandwidth LAN requires different settings to obtain optimal performance over a dialup Internet connection, which in turn is different for the requirements of a high-speed wide-area network. Although TCP attempts to discover the delay bandwidth product of the connection, and attempts to automatically optimize its flow rates within the estimated parameters of the network path, some estimates will not be accurate, and the corresponding efforts by TCP to optimize behavior may not be completely successful.

 Another critical aspect is that TCP is an adaptive flow-control protocol. TCP uses a basic flow-control algorithm of increasing the data-flow rate until the network signals that some form of saturation level has been reached (normally indicated by data loss). When the sender receives an indication of data loss, the TCP flow rate is reduced; when reliable transmission is reestablished, the flow rate slowly increases again.

 If no reliable flow is reestablished, the flow rate backs further off to an initial probe of a single packet, and the entire adaptive flow-control process starts again.This process has numerous results relevant to service quality. First, TCP behaves adaptively , rather than predictively . The flow-control algorithms are intended to increase the data-flow rate to fill all available network path capacity, but they are also intended to quickly back off if the available capacity changes because of interaction with other traffic, or if a dynamic change occurs in the end-to-end network path.

 For example, a single TCP flow across an otherwise idle network attempts to fill the network path with data, optimizing the flow rate within the available network capacity. If a second TCP flow opens up across the same path, the two flow-control algorithms will interact so that both flows will stabilize to use approximately half of the available capacity per flow. The objective of the TCP algorithms is to adapt so that the network is fully used whenever one or more data flows are present. In design, tension always exists between the efficiency of network use and the enforcement of predictable session performance. With TCP, you give up predictable throughput but gain a highly utilized, efficient network.

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