Flow-level network models: have we reached the limits?

Abstract : Researchers in the area of distributed computing conduct many of their experiments in simulation. While packet-level simulation is often used to study network protocols, it can be too costly to simulate network communications for large-scale systems and applications. The alternative is to simulate the network based on less costly flow-level models. Surprisingly, in the literature, validation of these flow-level models is at best a mere verification for a few simple cases. Consequently, although distributed computing simulators are widely used, their ability to produce scientifically meaningful results is in doubt. In this work we focus on the validation of state-of-the-art flow-level network models of TCP communication, via comparison to packet-level simulation. While it is straightforward to show cases in which previously proposed models lead to good results, instead we systematically seek cases that lead to invalid results. Careful analysis of these cases reveal fundamental flaws and also suggest improvements. One contribution of this work is that these improvements lead to a new model that, while far from being perfect, improves upon all previously proposed models. A more important contribution, perhaps, is provided by the pitfalls and unexpected behaviors encountered in this work, leading to a number of enlightening lessons. In particular, this work shows that model validation cannot be achieved solely by exhibiting (possibly many) ''good cases.'' Confidence in the quality of a model can only be strengthened through an invalidation approach that attempts o prove the model wrong.
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Contributor : Arnaud Legrand <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:09:18 PM
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Pedro Velho, Lucas Schnorr, Henri Casanova, Arnaud Legrand. Flow-level network models: have we reached the limits?. [Research Report] RR-7821, INRIA. 2011, pp.24. ⟨hal-00646896⟩



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