OS-Specific Configuration Hints: Solaris (Sun Microsystems)

Planned Features

Pluggable Congestion Control for TCP and SCTP

A proposed OpenSolaris project foresees the implementation of pluggable congestion control for both TCP and SCTP. HS-TCP and several other congestion control algorithms for OpenSolaris. This includes implementation of the HighSpeed, CUBIC, Westwood+, and Vegas congestion control algorithms, as well as ipadm subcommands and socket options to get and set congestion control parameters.

On 15 December 2009, Artem Kachitchkine posted an initial draft of a work-in-progress design specification for this feature has been announced on the OpenSolaris networking-discuss forum. According to this proposal, the API for setting the congestion control mechanism for a specific TCP socket will be compatible with Linux: There will be a TCP_CONGESTION socket option to set and retrieve a socket's congestion control algorithm, as well as a TCP_INFO socket option to retrieve various kinds of information about the current congestion control state.

The entire plugabble-congestion control mechanism will be implemented for SCTP in addition to TCP. For example, there will also be an SCTP_CONGESTION socket option. Note that congestion control in SCTP is somewhat trickier than in TCP, because a single SCTP socket can have multiple underlying paths through SCTP's "multi-homing" feature. Congestion control state must be kept separately for each path (address pair). This also means that there is no direct SCTP equivalent to TCP_INFO. The current proposal adds a subset of TCP_INFO's information to the result of the existing SCTP_GET_PEER_ADDR_INFO option for getsockopt().

The internal structure of the code will be somewhat different to what is in the Linux kernel. In particular, the general TCP code will only make calls to the algorithm-specific congestion control modules, not vice versa. The proposed Solaris mechanism also contains ipadm properties that can be used to set the default congestion control algorithm either globally or for a specific zone. The proposal also suggests "observability" features; for example, pfiles output should include the congestion algorithm used for a socket, and there are new kstat statistics that count certain congestion-control events.

Useful Features

TCP Multidata Transmit (MDT, aka LSO)

Solaris 10, and Solaris 9 with patches, supports TCP Multidata Transmit (MDT), which is Sun's name for (software-only) Large Send Offload (LSO). In Solaris 10, this is enabled by default, but in Solaris 9 (with the required patches for MDT support), the kernel and driver have to be reconfigured to be able to use MDT. See the following pointers for more information from docs.sun.com:

Solaris 10 "FireEngine"

The TCP/IP stack in Solaris 10 has been largely rewritten from previous versions, mostly to improve performance. In particular, it supports Interrupt Coalescence, integrates TCP and IP more closely in the kernel, and provides multiprocessing enhancements to distribute work more efficiently over multiple processors. Ongoing work includes UDP/IP integration for better performance of UDP applications, and a new driver architecture that can make use of flow classification capabilities in modern network adapters.

Solaris 10: New Network Device Driver Architecture

Solaris 10 introduces GLDv3 (project "Nemo"), a new driver architecture that generally improves performance, and adds support for several performance features. Some, but not all, Ethernet device drivers were ported over to the new architecture and benefit from those improvements. Notably, the bge driver was ported early, and the new "Neptune" adapters ("multithreaded" dual-port 10GE and four-port GigE with on-board connection de-multiplexing hardware) used it from the start.

Darren Reed has posted a small C program that lists the active acceleration features for a given interface. Here's some sample output:

$ sudo ./ifcapability
lo0 inet
bge0 inet +HCKSUM(version=1 +full +ipv4hdr) +ZEROCOPY(version=1 flags=0x1) +POLL
lo0 inet6
bge0 inet6 +HCKSUM(version=1 +full +ipv4hdr) +ZEROCOPY(version=1 flags=0x1)

Displaying and setting link parameters with dladm

Another OpenSolaris project called Brussels unifies many aspects of network driver configuration under the dladm command. For example, link MTUs (for "Jumbo Frames") can be configured using

dladm set-linkprop -p mtu=9000 web1

The command can also be used to look at current physical parameters of interfaces:

$ sudo dladm show-phys
LINK         MEDIA                STATE      SPEED DUPLEX   DEVICE
bge0         Ethernet             up         1000 full      bge0

Note that Brussels is still being integrated into Solaris. Driver support was added since SXCE (Solaris Express Community Edition) build 83 for some types of adapters. Eventually this should be integrated into regular Solaris releases.

Setting TCP buffers

# To increase the maximum tcp window
# Rule-of-thumb: max_buf = 2 x cwnd_max (congestion window)
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_max_buf 4194304
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_cwnd_max 2097152

# To increase the DEFAULT tcp window size
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_xmit_hiwat 65536
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_recv_hiwat 65536

Pitfall when using asymmetric send and receive buffers

The documented default behaviour (tunable TCP parameter tcp_wscale_always = 0) of Solaris is to include the TCP window scaling option in an initial SYN packet when either the send or the receive buffer is larger than 64KiB. From the tcp(7P) man page:

          For all applications, use ndd(1M) to modify the  confi-
          guration      parameter      tcp_wscale_always.      If
          tcp_wscale_always is set to 1, the window scale  option
          will  always be set when connecting to a remote system.
          If tcp_wscale_always is 0, the window scale option will
          be set only if the user has requested a send or receive
          window  larger  than  64K.   The   default   value   of
          tcp_wscale_always is 0.

However, Solaris 8, 9 and 10 do not take the send window into account. This results in an unexpected behaviour for a bulk transfer from node A to node B when the bandwidth-delay product is larger than 64KiB and

  • A's receive buffer (tcp_recv_hiwat) < 64KiB
  • A's send buffer (tcp_xmit_hiwat) > 64KiB
  • B's receive buffer > 64KiB

A will not advertize the window scaling option and B will not do so either according to RFC 1323. As a consequence, throughput will be limited by a congestion window of 64KiB.

As a workaround, the window scaling option can be forcibly advertised by setting

# ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_wscale_always 1

A bug report has been filed with Sun Microsystems.


-- ChrisWelti - 11 Oct 2005, added section for setting default and maximum TCP buffers
-- AlexGall - 26 Aug 2005, added section on pitfall with asymmetric buffers
-- SimonLeinen - 27 Jan 2005 - 16 Dec 2009

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Topic revision: r16 - 2009-12-16 - SimonLeinen
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