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correcting corrected_initial_age

From: Alex Rousskov <rousskov@measurement-factory.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 10:59:11 -0600 (MDT)
To: ietf-http-wg@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.BSF.4.44.0208241309570.66977-100000@measurement-factory.com>

Hi there,

	We are testing a couple of RFC 2616 MUSTs related to
current_age calculation. Many proxies violate a subset of test cases
that includes an artificial proxy-to-server delay. Looking at the
results, I think that the proxies are doing the "right thing" and the
RFC has a problem.

	I will start with a specific example when current_age formula
from the RFC yields a way-too-conservative and unnatural result (100%
error). I will then describe the problem and suggest a fix.

	I understand that a way-too-conservative age does not lead to
stale documents being returned. However, if we want proxies to be
compliant, we may want to fix/mention the problem in the errata or
elsewhere. Otherwise, the more problems like that are left unaddressed
(ignored), the more difficult it would be to convince implementors to
pay attention to the RFC.

	Perhaps I got it all wrong, please check!


A simple example
----------------

Here is a real and simple example that detected the problem with the
original current_age formula from "13.2.3 Age Calculations". The
absolute values of timestamps below ("0" and "7") have no
significance.

   time event
   ---- ------------------------------------------------------------
    0.0 client request generated
    0.0 client request reached the proxy, it is a MISS
    0.0 proxy request to origin server is generated
    0.0 proxy request reached the origin server
    0.0 server response generated with Date correctly set to 0, no Age header
    -- a network delay of 7 seconds --
    7.0 server response reached the proxy
    7.0 proxy cached the response
    7.0 proxy forwarded the response
    7.0 the response reached the client
    7.0 another client request for the same URL generated
    7.0 client request reached the proxy, it is a HIT
    7.0 proxy must compute Age header value, see math below

Following RFC 2616:

    age_value = 0             (the cached response has no Age header)
    date_value = 0            (the cached response has Date set to 0)
    request_time = 0          (the proxy generated request at time 0)
    response_time = 7         (the proxy received response at time 7)
    now = 7                   (the current time is 7)

    apparent_age = max(0, response_time - date_value) = 7
    corrected_received_age = max(apparent_age, age_value) = 7
    response_delay = response_time - request_time = 7
    corrected_initial_age = corrected_received_age + response_delay = 14
    resident_time = now - response_time = 0
    current_age   = corrected_initial_age + resident_time = 14

The true age is, of course, 7 and not 14. The above formulas just double true
current age in the case of a network delay between the proxy and the origin
server. The fixed formula (see below for the discussion) does not:

 current_age = now - min(date_value, request_time - age_value) =
             = 7 - max(0, 0 - 0) = 7

N.B. If the proxy computes Age header for misses and uses that as
age_value when serving hits, the formulas yield the same result.


The Problem
-----------

RFC 2616 says:

   Because the request that resulted in the returned Age value must have
   been initiated prior to that Age value's generation, we can correct
   for delays imposed by the network by recording the time at which the
   request was initiated. Then, when an Age value is received, it MUST
   be interpreted relative to the time the request was initiated...
   So, we compute:

      corrected_initial_age = corrected_received_age
                            + (now - request_time)

I suspect the formula does not match the true intent of the RFC
authors. I believe that corrected_initial_age formula counts
server-to-client delays twice. It does that because the
corrected_received_age component already accounts for one
server-to-client delay. Here is an annotated definition from the RFC:

   corrected_received_age = max(
     now - date_value, # trust the clock (includes server-to-client delay!)
     age_value)        # all-HTTP/1.1 paths (no server-to-client delay)

I think it is possible to fix the corrected_initial_age formula to
match the intent (note this is the *initial* not *received* age):

   corrected_initial_age = max(
     now - date_value,                # trust the clock (includes delays)
     age_value + now - request_time)  # trust Age, add network delays

There is no need for corrected_received_age.


Moreover, it looks ALL the formulas computing current_age go away with
the above new corrected_initial_age definition as long as "now" is
still defined as "the current time" (i.e., the time when current_age
is calculated):

   current_age = corrected_initial_age

So, we end up with a single formula for all cases and all times:

 current_age = max(now - date_value, age_value + now - request_time) =
             = now - min(date_value, request_time - age_value)

It even has a clear physical meaning -- the min() part is the conservative
estimate of object creation time. We could rewrite for clarity:

  creation_time = min(date_value, request_time - age_value);
  current_age = now - creation_time;


Am I missing something important here? If I am right, and the current
formulas count server-to-client delays twice, is it worth mentioning
in the errata or elsewhere as a bug? Or should we insist that
implementations use current_age calculation from the RFC anyway?

Thank you,

Alex.

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Received on Friday, 30 August 2002 12:59:12 GMT

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