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Microsoft to add 5 new features to the TCP stack in Windows Server 2016

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July 20, 2016

Microsoft has announced today that it will add five new features (some experimental) to the TCP stack it will ship in Windows Server 2016 and its Anniversary Update to Windows 10 for PCs.

Microsoft says that the changes are needed “to reduce network latency, improve loss resiliency and to promote better network citizenship.”

But it's a bit difficult to argue against any of those goals, or the outcomes these additions will allow.

For instance, TCP Fast Open should reduce latency for web traffic in most implementations. The change to the Initial Congestion Window is being done “to keep pace with the increased emission rates of network routing equipment used on the Internet today.”

Microsoft is actually tapping into a few ideas from others with these changes-- four of the five come by way of people from Google. The fifth was submitted to the IETF from people at the University of Stuttgart, Franklin and Marshall College, and BitTorrent Inc. Yes you read correctly: BitTorrent.

Microsoft's networking team has recently said that these changes are just “the first wave of features in the pipeline of upcoming Windows Redstone releases.”

So it seems likely that we'll see more enhancements to Windows networking, probably sooner than later.

That's not an unambiguously good thing because Microsoft's post points out that reaping the rewards of its changes will mean that some system admins will have to make modifications to their systems.

The company says the following five new features will make it into its new TCP stack:

  • TCP Fast Open (TFO) for zero RTT TCP connection setup (IETF RFC 7413)
  • Initial Congestion Window 10 (ICW10) by default for faster TCP slow start
  • TCP Recent ACKnowledgment (RACK) for better loss recovery (experimental IETF draft)
  • Tail Loss Probe (TLP) for better Retransmit TimeOut response (experimental IETF draft)
  • TCP LEDBAT for background connections IETF RFC 6817
  • But coming back to Google, IETF documents mention the employers of people who propose standards, but that mention doesn't mean a company backs the proposal.

    Source: Microsoft.

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