15.7. Circumventing Path MTU Discovery issues with MSS Clamping (for ADSL, cable, PPPoE & PPtP users)

As explained above, Path MTU Discovery doesn't work as well as it should anymore. If you know for a fact that a hop somewhere in your network has a limited (<1500) MTU, you cannot rely on PMTU Discovery finding this out.

Besides MTU, there is yet another way to set the maximum packet size, the so called Maximum Segment Size. This is a field in the TCP Options part of a SYN packet.

Recent Linux kernels, and a few PPPoE drivers (notably, the excellent Roaring Penguin one), feature the possibility to 'clamp the MSS'.

The good thing about this is that by setting the MSS value, you are telling the remote side unequivocally 'do not ever try to send me packets bigger than this value'. No ICMP traffic is needed to get this to work.

The bad thing is that it's an obvious hack - it breaks 'end to end' by modifying packets. Having said that, we use this trick in many places and it works like a charm.

In order for this to work you need at least iptables-1.2.1a and Linux 2.4.3 or higher. The basic command line is:

# iptables -A FORWARD -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN -j TCPMSS  --clamp-mss-to-pmtu

This calculates the proper MSS for your link. If you are feeling brave, or think that you know best, you can also do something like this:

# iptables -A FORWARD -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN -j TCPMSS --set-mss 128

This sets the MSS of passing SYN packets to 128. Use this if you have VoIP with tiny packets, and huge http packets which are causing chopping in your voice calls.

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