Flare: Responsive Load Balancing Without Packet Reordering

ACM Computer Communications Review (CCR) |

Dynamic load balancing is a popular recent technique that protects ISP networks from sudden congestion caused by load spikes or link failures. Dynamic load balancing protocols, however, require schemes for splitting traffic across multiple paths at a fine granularity. Current splitting schemes present a tussle between slicing granularity and packet reordering. Splitting traffic at the granularity of packets quickly and accurately assigns the desired traffic share to each path, but can reorder packets within a TCP flow, confusing TCP congestion control. Splitting traffic at the granularity of a flow avoids packet reordering but may overshoot the desired shares by up to 60% in dynamic environments, resulting in low end-to-end network goodput.

Contrary to popular belief, we show that one can systematically split a single ow across multiple paths without causing packet reordering. We propose FLARE, a new traffic splitting algorithm that operates on bursts of packets, carefully chosen to avoid reordering. Using a combination of analysis and trace-driven simulations, we show that FLARE attains accuracy and responsiveness comparable to packet switching without reordering packets. FLARE is simple and can be implemented with a few KB of router state.