XCodec segment size: request for comment.

Uttam Singh us at iptvlabs.com
Mon Jan 3 00:41:48 PST 2011

Hi Juli,

I have not seen any response from others on the list, maybe they are
sending direct replies to you and not cc: wanproxy list. Would
appreciate inputs and application scenarios that others are tackling.

I have experimented with wanproxy for SMB/CIFS traffic - common with
Windows based client/server networking. Its still in a test network so
I don't have real world results.

I have a feeling that at least in my scenario, 2KB hash size may not
be efficient. I think bsd mbuf size selection (2KB) was mostly done to
efficiently move standard ethernet frames. For WAN traffic where L5
protocol headers (e.g. SMB) encapsulate user data in each packet -
smaller hashing size would be better.

Given your thoughts on overhead ratios - one could argue for 256 or,
even 512 Byte. It would definitely help system performance and memory
usage if there was a close match between Xcodec buffers and system

I would be willing to capture large sample data (gathered over couple
of days on live network) with tcpdump if you have a way of running it
through a codec analyzer for any useful information.

I will take a look at 0.7.0 or, 0.7.1 in a couple of days.



On Sat, Jan 1, 2011 at 10:39 PM, Mallett, Juli <juli at clockworksquid.com> wrote:
> Hey folks,
> I'm starting to consider revisiting a very, very old decision within
> WANProxy and would love to hear some feedback from users.
> I recently moved to using 2KB buffers internally for data, which means
> that 2KB is the smallest amount of data that the XCodec can store
> internally, and that reads, etc., happen with 2KB buffers (with some
> caveats.)  This size was chosen empirically, but it's also the
> traditional size for BSD mbufs, so it's fairly time-honored.  Using
> 2KB buffers, simple I/O test programs using the WANProxy event system
> were much faster than the old size, 128 bytes.
> The problem is that the XCodec still hashes data in 128 byte blocks.
> So although the XCodec has to keep data around in 2KB chunks, it's
> only using 128 bytes of each chunk, leading to rather a lot of
> overhead.  A 1MB file takes up 16MB in RAM, which obviously is too
> much overhead to bear.  I meant to revisit the matter before releasing
> 0.7.0 but, frankly, forgot.
> So 2KB is very good for I/O, but those I/O benchmarks don't matter,
> WANProxy is what matters.  So perhaps I should move back to using 128
> byte buffers, so that XCodec's chunk size matches the buffer size, or
> I should put some time into a couple of more complicated solutions
> that would allow multiple XCodec chunks in a single byte buffer, and
> also speed up some common operations in the encoder.
> But that leads to the question: why use 128 byte chunks in the XCodec?
>  The original rationale was that that meant that any deltas would be
> very small -- if you send a file once and then change a byte or insert
> or remove a byte in the middle, the most we'll have to send in the
> clear is that new 128 byte chunk until the XCodec picks up the
> original trail.  128 bytes isn't much.  But it also gives a high
> overhead ratio in the protocol -- we need two bytes of overhead just
> to 'extract' a chunk from the stream with XCodec, and 2 bytes of
> overhead for each 128 bytes isn't nothing.
> So why not just use 2KB chunks in XCodec and 2KB buffers?  Well,
> because then if there's a change or deletion or insertion we're
> inefficient over a much larger area.  On the other hand, it speeds up
> encoding considerably: a 128MB random file that I have takes 25
> seconds to encode with 128 byte chunks but only 1 second with 128 byte
> chunks.  It reduces overhead, so we have 2 bytes of overhead for an
> 'extract' of 2048 bytes; referencing a 128 byte segment from the
> distant past takes 10 bytes now, but we could reference 2KB with 10
> bytes instead.
> Of course, that overhead for changes really is unacceptable.  I mean,
> with smaller block sizes like 128 bytes, we even manage to compress
> some files on the first transmission, which is less likely for higher
> block sizes.  But is the XCodec really the best tool for that job?  We
> have zlib now, but zlib is slow.  But, on the other hand, if the
> XCodec is faster, we can spare some time for zlib, and let zlib clean
> up the mess if we can't compress some data.  Which is even more
> convincing given that we gain so much protocol efficiency from using
> 10 bytes (or 2 bytes) to reference so much more data.
> Even running zlib at very low compressor levels, which cost very
> little CPU time, could probably make up for the differences.  Keep in
> mind that the XCodec was originally developed to help me store
> backups, and it didn't support zlib and I didn't have a good way to do
> zlib after XCodec externally.  But more and more it seems
> inappropriate to use such a small chunk size for XCodec.
> With 128 byte chunks and zlib today, one of my test setups with random
> data files over HTTP manages ~10MB/s for previously-sent data, but a
> quick test with 2KB chunks gives 33MB/s, and could probably go further
> if I were using a test file large enough for the TCP window to grow
> more.  And that's also with zlib at a ridiculously-high level: 9.
> If there's nobody out there with a good argument against the change, I
> will probably make it within the next day or two and release 0.7.1,
> along with a fix that improves performance in XCodec+zlib setups.
> The biggest drawback is that much of the time I've invested into
> trying to reduce collisions in the hash algorithm is lost and I'll
> have to rethink some of the design decisions there.  But the existing
> hash algorithm doesn't do too badly and the implications of a larger
> block size for the hashes are a little fuzzy to me -- there's more
> bits going into a hash of the same size, but the probability of
> collisions in practice may be better.
> Thanks,
> Juli.
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