While debugging a set of networked systems that seemed to be executing operations out of the expected order, I discovered an interesting feature of the protocol used by the application. The system is fairly old, and I was not involved in its creation, but I was asked to figure out why about 10% of the transactions were flagged as being in the wrong order. All the application communication happens using TCP. And since TCP guarantees the ordering of messages, I was confused as to how transactions between two systems could arrive out of order. What I found—by using Wireshark—was that the TCP stream was, as expected, in order, but the application protocol used on top of TCP had some rather odd properties.
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