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The End-to-End Effects of Internet Path Selection

Stefan Savage, Andy Collins, Eric Hoffman, John Snell, and Thomas Anderson
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle

The path taken by a packet traveling across the Internet depends on a large number of factors, including routing protocols and per-network routing policies. The impact of these factors on the end-to-end performance experienced by users is poorly understood. In this paper, we conduct a measurement-based study comparing the performance seen using the "default" path taken in the Internet with the potential performance available using some alternate path. Our study uses five distinct datasets containing measurements of "path quality", such as round-trip time, loss rate, and bandwidth, taken between pairs of geographically diverse Internet hosts. We construct the set of potential alternate paths by composing these measurements to form new synthetic paths. We find that in 30-80% of the cases, there is an alternate path with significantly superior quality. We argue that the overall result is robust and we explore two hypotheses for explaining it.

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The referenced paper appears in Computer Communication Review, a publication of ACM SIGCOMM, volume 29, number 4, October 1999.

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