Interactions between Nagle and delayed acknowledgments

The Nagle algorithm is used to prevent senders from transmitting unnecessary small segments by mandating that a small segment cannot be transferred until all of the previously sent segments have been acknowledged, or until a full-sized segment can be sent. Thus, if an application (such as an HTTP client) needs to send one-and-a-half segments of data, then the first segment will be sent immediately but the second (small) segment will not be sent until the first segment has been acknowledged.

However, delayed acknowledgments are designed to prevent excessive acknowledgments by holding them until either two full-sized segments have been received, a timer expires, or data is being returned to the sender (which the acknowledgment can then piggyback onto). In this scenario, the first full-sized segment described above would not get acknowledged immediately, since two full-sized segments had not been received, nor would there be any data being returned since not all of the application data had been received by the HTTP server as of yet. Instead, the acknowledgment would not be sent until the acknowledgment timer had expired, which could take as long as 500 milliseconds, depending upon the implementations and the characteristics of the virtual circuit in use on that connection.

Sometimes this will show up as an application protocol taking a long time to get off the ground, particularly when a connection has already been established ...

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