Model-Agnostic and Efficient Exploration of Numerical State Space of Real-World TCP Congestion Control Implementations


Wei Sun and Lisong Xu, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Sebastian Elbaum, University of Virginia; Di Zhao, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The significant impact of TCP congestion control on the Internet highlights the importance of testing the correctness and performance of congestion control algorithm implementations (CCAIs) in various network environments. Many CCAI testing questions can be answered by exploring the numerical state space of CCAIs, which is defined by a group of numerical (and nonnumerical) state variables of the CCAIs. However, the current practices for automated numerical state space exploration are either limited by the approximate abstract CCAI models or inefficient due to the large space of network environment parameters and the complicated relation between the CCAI states and network environment parameters. In this paper, we propose an automated numerical state space exploration method, called ACT, which leverages the model-agnostic feature of random testing and greatly improves its efficiency by guiding random testing under the feedback iteratively obtained in a test. Our experiments on five representative Linux TCP CCAIs show that ACT can more efficiently explore a large numerical state space than manual testing, undirected random testing, and symbolic execution based testing, while without requiring any abstract CCAI models. ACT successfully detects multiple implementation bugs and design issues of these Linux TCP CCAIs, including some new bugs and issues not reported before.

NSDI '19 Open Access Sponsored by NetApp

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {227657,
author = {Wei Sun and Lisong Xu and Sebastian Elbaum and Di Zhao},
title = {{Model-Agnostic} and Efficient Exploration of Numerical State Space of {Real-World} {TCP} Congestion Control Implementations},
booktitle = {16th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-931971-49-2},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {719--734},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb

Presentation Video