What do packet dispersion techniques measure?
The packet pair technique estimates the capacity of a path (bottleneck bandwidth) from the dispersion (spacing) experienced by two back-to-back packets. We demonstrate that the dispersion of packet pairs in loaded paths follows a multimodal distribution, and dis-cuss the queueing effects that cause the multiple modes. We show that the path capacity is often not the global mode, and so it cannot be estimated using standard statistical procedures. The effect of the size of the probing packets is also investigated, showing that the conventional wisdom of using maximum sized packet pairs is not optimal. We then study the dispersion of long packet trains. Increasing the length of the packet train reduces the measurement variance, but the estimates converge to a value, referred to as Asymptotic Dispersion Rate (ADR), that is lower than the capacity. We derive the effect of the cross traffic in the dispersion of long packet trains, showing that the ADR is not the available bandwidth in the path, as was assumed in previous work. Putting all the pieces together, we present a capacity estimation methodology that has been implemented in a tool called pathrate.