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LatLong: Diagnosing Wide-Area Latency Changes for CDNs

Yaping Zhu
Benjamin Helsley
Jennifer Rexford
IEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management, vol. 9 (2012) (to appear)


Minimizing user-perceived latency is crucial for Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) hosting interactive services. Latency may increase for many reasons, such as interdomain routing changes and the CDN's own load-balancing policies. CDNs need greater visibility into the causes of latency increases, so they can adapt by directing traffic to different servers or paths. In this paper, we propose techniques for CDNs to diagnose large latency increases, based on passive measurements of performance, traffic, and routing. Separating the many causes from the effects is challenging. We propose a decision tree for classifying latency changes, and determine how to distinguish traffic shifts from increases in latency for existing servers, routers, and paths. Another challenge is that network operators group related clients to reduce measurement and control overhead, but the clients in a region may use multiple servers and paths during a measurement interval. We propose metrics that quantify the latency contributions across sets of servers and routers. Analyzing a month of data from Google's CDN, we find that nearly 1% of the daily latency changes increase delay by more than 100 msec. More than 40% of these increases coincide with interdomain routing changes, and more than one-third involve a shift in traffic to different servers. This is the first work to diagnose latency problems in a large, operational CDN from purely passive measurements. Through case studies of individual events, we identify research challenges for measuring and managing wide-area latency for CDNs.

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