HTTP with Persistent Connections

Non-persistent connections have some shortcomings. First, a brand-new connec- tion must be established and maintained for each requested object. For each of these connections, TCP buffers must be allocated and TCP variables must be kept in both the client and server. This can place a significant burden on the Web server, which may be serving requests from hundreds of different clients simultaneously. Second, as we just described, each object suffers a delivery delay of two RTTs— one RTT to establish the TCP connection and one RTT to request and receive an object.

With persistent connections, the server leaves the TCP connection open after sending a response. Subsequent requests and responses between the same client and server can be sent over the same connection. In particular, an entire Web page (in the example above, the base HTML file and the 10 images) can be sent over a single persistent TCP connection. Moreover, multiple Web pages residing on the same server can be sent from the server to the same client over a single persistent TCP connection. These requests for objects can be made back-to-back, without waiting for replies to pending requests (pipelining). Typically, the HTTP server closes a con- nection when it isn’t used for a certain time (a configurable timeout interval). When the server receives the back-to-back requests, it sends the objects back-to-back. The default mode of HTTP uses persistent connections with pipelining. We’ll quantita- tively compare the performance of non-persistent and persistent connections in the homework problems of Chapters 2 and 3. You are also encouraged to see [Heide- mann 1997; Nielsen 1997].

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