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I have a strange issue, hosting at Softlayer Washington data center.

Test from an EC2 instance to my server at Softlayer :-

[root@EC2-box ~]# ping -f -c 100 MY-SL-BOX
PING MY-SL-BOX (MY-SL-BOX) 56(84) bytes of data.
--- MY-SL-BOX ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 50 received, 50% packet loss, time 743ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 2.464/2.906/3.606/0.220 ms, ipg/ewma 7.505/2.927 ms
[root@EC2-box ~]#

Test from an EC2 instance to (or any other website):-

[root@EC2-box ~]# ping -f -c 100
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.

--- ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 100 received, 0% packet loss, time 1168ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 35.143/35.485/36.216/0.211 ms, pipe 4, ipg/ewma 11.804/35.518 ms
[root@EC2-box ~]#

Test from my server at softlayer to EC2 instance :-

[root@MY-SL-BOX ~]# ping -f -c 100 7EC2-box
PING 7EC2-box (7EC2-box) 56(84) bytes of data.
--- 7EC2-box ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 51 received, 49% packet loss, time 866ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 2.067/2.378/2.679/0.131 ms, ipg/ewma 8.756/2.414 ms

Test from my server at softlayer to instance :-

[root@MY-SL-BOX ~]# ping -f -c 100
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
--- ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 48 received, 52% packet loss, time 1424ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 33.677/34.041/34.693/0.240 ms, pipe 4, ipg/ewma 14.386/34.083 ms

Note.. in all the above cases, when I don't use the "-f" option, there is no packet loss at all. 7EC2-box and MY-SL-BOX are real IPs. I masked them to post here.

If I do a traceroute to any other IP from my server, and even ping -f the first node shown there, it shows a 50% packet loss, and no loss without "-f".

I spoke to the support, and they said that since there is no problem without the "-f" there is no issue here.

Are they right?

It's odd that the "ping -f" from any external network to any site shows no loss but only to mine.

I've been searching for an hour now, would be very grateful if someone can point me to some detailed instructions for testing packet loss.

share|improve this question
what is -f supposed to do, because on my server (debian) it just does 'gui' type stuff? –  Unkwntech Jul 12 '09 at 13:48
-f Flood ping. For every ECHO_REQUEST sent a period . is printed, while for ever ECHO_REPLY received a backspace is printed. This provides a rapid display of how many packets are being dropped. If interval is not given, it sets interval to zero and outputs packets as fast as they come back or one hundred times per second, whichever is more. Only the super-user may use this option with zero interval. –  Mark Davidson Jul 12 '09 at 13:50
@Mark that was my point how would that effect in any way packet-loss> –  Unkwntech Jul 12 '09 at 15:39
From the man page: Outputs packets as fast as they come back or one hundred times per second, whichever is more. –  Safado Jun 28 '11 at 19:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Some machines (hosts, firewalls or routers) will, if they allow ICMP transit at all, throttle ICMP ping requests/responses to avoid performance (CPU or network) being impaired by excessive ping activity. Using -f without setting a reasonable interval (see -i parameter to ping) is discouraged in most environments as it can be disruptive (in effect -f -c 100 sends 100 ping requests back to back with no gap between them). Whilst you might use -f as a parameter (always with conservative -c and/or -i parameters) on your own network most other network administrators won't want you doing it on theirs.

share|improve this answer
your explanation makes sense. The support ticket has been escalated. If the ISP tells me that they are throttling ICMP at the firewal, my worries will do away and ill get on with my work. –  sajal Jul 12 '09 at 14:35
If we observed that sort of behavior on our network, the IPS would generate an event and the on-call network staff would likely disable the port that your server was connected to. :) –  duffbeer703 Jul 12 '09 at 17:16
confirmed. Tech support told me the firewal throttles ICMP requests to 50/sec ... that explains 50 packets received ... using option -c 50 -f shows no packet loss... –  sajal Jul 12 '09 at 21:50
Thanks for the confirmation. I'm pleased you don't have a packet loss problem that needs fixing. –  mas Jul 13 '09 at 5:09

I would perhaps suggest using Nmap to do a packet trace might give you an idea of where the packets are getting lost.

Another idea have you tried doing it while specifying an interval to slow it down a bit

ping -f -i 0.5

if you don't get such a massive amount of packet loss with that could indicate a firewall or something blocking it.

share|improve this answer
slowing down shows no packet loss. speeding up to -i 0.1 also shows no loss. probably mas's answer (… ) explains whats going on. –  sajal Jul 12 '09 at 14:37

Yeah I would try removing the -f flood option. Most likely that a firewall is not happy. Do you get good pings in both directions normally? What's the trace route say for each?

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