Berkeley sockets

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Berkeley sockets (or BSD sockets) is a computing library with an application programming interface (API) for internet sockets and Unix domain sockets, used for inter-process communication (IPC).

As the API has evolved with little modification from a de facto standard into part of the POSIX specification. POSIX sockets are basically Berkeley sockets.

History and implementations[edit]

Berkeley sockets originated with the 4.2BSD Unix operating system (released in 1983) as an API. Only in 1989, however, could UC Berkeley release versions of its operating system and networking library free from the licensing constraints of AT&T Corporation's proprietary Unix. This interface implementation is the original API of the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP).

All modern operating systems now have some implementation of the Berkeley socket interface, as it became the standard interface for connecting to the Internet. Even the Winsock implementation for MS Windows, developed by unaffiliated developers, closely follows the Berkeley standard.

BSD vs POSIX[edit]

As the Berkeley socket API evolved over time, and ultimately into the POSIX socket API,[1] certain functions were deprecated or even removed and replaced by others. The POSIX API is also designed to be reentrant. These features now set the classic BSD API apart from the POSIX API.

Action BSD POSIX
Conversion from text address to packed address inet_aton inet_pton
Conversion from packed address to text address inet_ntoa inet_ntop
Forward lookup for host name/service gethostbyname, gethostbyaddr, getservbyname, getservbyport getaddrinfo
Reverse lookup for host name/service gethostbyaddr, getservbyport getnameinfo

C and other programming languages[edit]

The BSD sockets API is written in the C programming language. Most other programming languages provide similar interfaces, typically written as a wrapper library based on the C API.[2]

Alternatives[edit]

The STREAMS-based Transport Layer Interface (TLI) API offers an alternative to the socket API. However, recent systems that provide the TLI API also provide the Berkeley socket API.

Header files[edit]

The Berkeley socket interface is defined in several header files. The names and content of these files differ slightly between implementations. In general, they include:

<sys/socket.h>
Core BSD socket functions and data structures.
<netinet/in.h>
AF INET and AF INET6 address families and their corresponding protocol families PF_INET and PF_INET6. Widely used on the Internet, these include IP addresses and TCP and UDP port numbers.
<sys/un.h>
PF_UNIX/PF_LOCAL address family. Used for local communication between programs running on the same computer. Not used on networks.
<arpa/inet.h>
Functions for manipulating numeric IP addresses.
<netdb.h>
Functions for translating protocol names and host names into numeric addresses. Searches local data as well as DNS.

Socket API functions[edit]

Flow diagram for TCP sockets.

This list is a summary of functions or methods provided by the Berkeley sockets API library:

  • socket() creates a new socket of a certain socket type, identified by an integer number, and allocates system resources to it.
  • bind() is typically used on the server side, and associates a socket with a socket address structure, i.e. a specified local port number and IP address.
  • listen() is used on the server side, and causes a bound TCP socket to enter listening state.
  • connect() is used on the client side, and assigns a free local port number to a socket. In case of a TCP socket, it causes an attempt to establish a new TCP connection.
  • accept() is used on the server side. It accepts a received incoming attempt to create a new TCP connection from the remote client, and creates a new socket associated with the socket address pair of this connection.
  • send() and recv(), or write() and read(), or sendto() and recvfrom(), are used for sending and receiving data to/from a remote socket.
  • close() causes the system to release resources allocated to a socket. In case of TCP, the connection is terminated.
  • gethostbyname() and gethostbyaddr() are used to resolve host names and addresses. IPv4 only.
  • select() is used to pend, waiting for one or more of a provided list of sockets to be ready to read, ready to write, or that have errors.
  • poll() is used to check on the state of a socket in a set of sockets. The set can be tested to see if any socket can be written to, read from or if an error occurred.
  • getsockopt() is used to retrieve the current value of a particular socket option for the specified socket.
  • setsockopt() is used to set a particular socket option for the specified socket.

Further details are given below.

socket()[edit]

socket() creates an endpoint for communication and returns a file descriptor for the socket. socket() takes three arguments:

  • domain, which specifies the protocol family of the created socket. For example:
    • AF_INET for network protocol IPv4 or
    • AF_INET6 for IPv6.
    • AF_UNIX for local socket (using a file).
  • type, one of:
    • SOCK_STREAM (reliable stream-oriented service or Stream Sockets)
    • SOCK_DGRAM (datagram service or Datagram Sockets)
    • SOCK_SEQPACKET (reliable sequenced packet service), or
    • SOCK_RAW (raw protocols atop the network layer).
  • protocol specifying the actual transport protocol to use. The most common are IPPROTO_TCP, IPPROTO_SCTP, IPPROTO_UDP, IPPROTO_DCCP. These protocols are specified in <netinet/in.h>. The value 0 may be used to select a default protocol from the selected domain and type.

The function returns -1 if an error occurred. Otherwise, it returns an integer representing the newly assigned descriptor.

Prototype
int socket(int domain, int type, int protocol);

bind()[edit]

bind() assigns a socket to an address. When a socket is created using socket(), it is only given a protocol family, but not assigned an address. This association with an address must be performed with the bind() system call before the socket can accept connections to other hosts. bind() takes three arguments:

  • sockfd, a descriptor representing the socket to perform the bind on.
  • my_addr, a pointer to a sockaddr structure representing the address to bind to.
  • addrlen, a socklen_t field specifying the size of the sockaddr structure.

Bind() returns 0 on success and -1 if an error occurs.

Prototype
int bind(int sockfd, const struct sockaddr *my_addr, socklen_t addrlen);

listen()[edit]

After a socket has been associated with an address, listen() prepares it for incoming connections. However, this is only necessary for the stream-oriented (connection-oriented) data modes, i.e., for socket types (SOCK_STREAM, SOCK_SEQPACKET). listen() requires two arguments:

  • sockfd, a valid socket descriptor.
  • backlog, an integer representing the number of pending connections that can be queued up at any one time. The operating system usually places a cap on this value.

Once a connection is accepted, it is dequeued. On success, 0 is returned. If an error occurs, -1 is returned.

Prototype
int listen(int sockfd, int backlog);

accept()[edit]

When an application is listening for stream-oriented connections from other hosts, it is notified of such events (cf. select() function) and must initialize the connection using the accept() function. The accept() function creates a new socket for each connection and removes the connection from the listen queue. It takes the following arguments:

  • sockfd, the descriptor of the listening socket that has the connection queued.
  • cliaddr, a pointer to a sockaddr structure to receive the client's address information.
  • addrlen, a pointer to a socklen_t location that specifies the size of the client address structure passed to accept(). When accept() returns, this location indicates how many bytes of the structure were actually used.

The accept() function returns the new socket descriptor for the accepted connection, or -1 if an error occurs. All further communication with the remote host now occurs via this new socket.

Datagram sockets do not require processing by accept() since the receiver may immediately respond to the request using the listening socket.

Prototype
int accept(int sockfd, struct sockaddr *cliaddr, socklen_t *addrlen);

connect()[edit]

The connect() system call connects a socket, identified by its file descriptor, to a remote host specified by that host's address in the argument list.

Certain types of sockets are connectionless, most commonly user datagram protocol sockets. For these sockets, connect takes on a special meaning: the default target for sending and receiving data gets set to the given address, allowing the use of functions such as send() and recv() on connectionless sockets.

connect() returns an integer representing the error code: 0 represents success, while -1 represents an error.

Prototype
int connect(int sockfd, const struct sockaddr *serv_addr, socklen_t addrlen);

gethostbyname() and gethostbyaddr()[edit]

The gethostbyname() and gethostbyaddr() functions are used to resolve host names and addresses in the domain name system or the local host's other resolver mechanisms (e.g., /etc/hosts lookup). They return a pointer to an object of type struct hostent, which describes an Internet Protocol host. The functions take the following arguments:

  • name specifies the name of the host. For example: www.wikipedia.org
  • addr specifies a pointer to a struct in_addr containing the address of the host.
  • len specifies the length, in bytes, of addr.
  • type specifies the address family type (e.g., AF_INET) of the host address.

The functions return a NULL pointer in case of error, in which case the external integer h_errno may be checked to see whether this is a temporary failure or an invalid or unknown host. Otherwise a valid struct hostent * is returned.

These functions are not strictly a component of the BSD socket API, but are often used in conjunction with the API functions. Furthermore, these functions are now considered legacy interfaces for querying the domain name system. New functions that are completely protocol-agnostic (supporting IPv6) have been defined. These new function are getaddrinfo() and getnameinfo(), and are based on a new addrinfo data structure.

Prototypes
struct hostent *gethostbyname(const char *name);
struct hostent *gethostbyaddr(const void *addr, int len, int type);

Protocol and address families[edit]

The socket API is a general interface for Unix networking and allows the use of various network protocols and addressing architectures.

The following lists a sampling of protocol families (preceded by the standard symbolic identifier) defined in a modern Linux or BSD implementation:

PF_LOCAL, PF_UNIX, PF_FILE
                Local to host (pipes and file-domain)
PF_INET         IP protocol family
PF_AX25         Amateur Radio AX.25
PF_IPX          Novell Internet Protocol
PF_APPLETALK    Appletalk DDP
PF_NETROM       Amateur radio NetROM
PF_BRIDGE       Multiprotocol bridge
PF_ATMPVC       ATM PVCs
PF_X25          Reserved for X.25 project
PF_INET6        IP version 6
PF_ROSE         Amateur Radio X.25 PLP
PF_DECnet       Reserved for DECnet project
PF_NETBEUI      Reserved for 802.2LLC project
PF_SECURITY     Security callback pseudo AF
PF_KEY          PF_KEY key management API
PF_NETLINK, PF_ROUTE
                routing API
PF_PACKET       Packet family
PF_ASH          Ash
PF_ECONET       Acorn Econet
PF_ATMSVC       ATM SVCs
PF_SNA          Linux SNA Project
PF_IRDA         IrDA sockets
PF_PPPOX        PPP over X sockets
PF_WANPIPE      Wanpipe API sockets
PF_BLUETOOTH    Bluetooth sockets

A socket for communications using any family is created with the socket() function (see above), by specifying the desired protocol family (PF_-identifier) as an argument.

The original design concept of the socket interface distinguished between protocol types (families) and the specific address types that each may use. It was envisioned that a protocol family may have several address types. Address types were defined by additional symbolic constants, using the prefix AF_ instead of PF_. The AF_-identifiers are intended for all data structures that specifically deal with the address type and not the protocol family. However, this concept of separation of protocol and address type has not found implementation support and the AF_-constants were simply defined by the corresponding protocol identifier, rendering the distinction between AF_ versus PF_ constants a technical argument of no significant practical consequence. Indeed, much confusion exists in the proper usage of both forms.[3]

However, the current POSIX.1—2008 specification doesn't specify any of PF_-constants, but only AF_-constants[4]

Raw sockets[edit]

Main article: raw socket

The most detailed and powerful method is control at the raw socket level. Very few applications need the degree of control over communications that this provides, so raw sockets support was intended to be available only on computers used for developing Internet-related technologies. Examples of programs using raw sockets are ping and traceroute. Most operating systems support raw sockets, due to its ease of implementation.

Options for sockets[edit]

After creating a socket, it is possible to set options on it. Some of the more common options are:

  • TCP_NODELAY disables the Nagle algorithm.
  • SO_KEEPALIVE enables periodic 'liveness' pings, if supported by the OS.

Blocking vs. non-blocking mode[edit]

Berkeley sockets can operate in one of two modes: blocking or non-blocking.

A blocking socket will not return control until it has sent (or received) some or all data specified for the operation. It is normal for a blocking socket not to send all data. The application must check the return value to determine how many bytes have been sent or received and it must resend any data not already processed.[5] It also may cause problems if a socket continues to listen: a program may hang as the socket waits for data that may never arrive. When using blocking sockets, special consideration should be given to accept() as it may still block after indicating readability if a client disconnects during the connection phase.

On the other hand, a non-blocking socket will return whatever is in the receive buffer and immediately continue. If not written correctly, programs using non-blocking sockets are particularly susceptible to race conditions due to variances in network link speed.

A socket is typically set to blocking or nonblocking mode using the fcntl() or ioctl() functions.

Terminating sockets[edit]

The operating system does not release the resources allocated to a socket until a close() call occurs on the socket descriptor. This is especially important if the connect() call fails and may be retried. Each successful call to socket() must have a matching call to close() in all possible execution paths. The header file <unistd.h> defines the close function.

When the close() system call is initiated by an application, only the interface to the socket is destroyed, not the socket itself. It is the kernel's responsibility to destroy the socket internally. Sometimes, a socket may enter a TIME_WAIT state, on the server side, for up to 4 minutes.[6]

On SVR4 systems use of close() may discard data. The use of shutdown() or SO_LINGER may be required on these systems to guarantee delivery of all data.[7]

Client-server example using TCP[edit]

The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a connection-oriented protocol that provides a variety of error correction and performance features for transmission of byte streams. A process creates a TCP socket by calling the socket() function with the parameters for the protocol family (PF_INET, PF_INET6), the socket mode for Stream Sockets (SOCK_STREAM), and the IP protocol identifier for TCP (IPPROTO_TCP).

Server[edit]

Setting up a simple TCP server involves the following steps:

  • Creating a TCP socket, with a call to socket().
  • Binding the socket to the listen port, with a call to bind(). Before calling bind(), a programmer must declare a sockaddr_in structure, clear it (with memset()), and the sin_family (AF_INET), and fill its sin_port (the listening port, in network byte order) fields. Converting a short int to network byte order can be done by calling the function htons() (host to network short).
  • Preparing the socket to listen for connections (making it a listening socket), with a call to listen().
  • Accepting incoming connections, via a call to accept(). This blocks until an incoming connection is received, and then returns a socket descriptor for the accepted connection. The initial descriptor remains a listening descriptor, and accept() can be called again at any time with this socket, until it is closed.
  • Communicating with the remote host, which can be done through send() and recv() or write() and read().
  • Eventually closing each socket that was opened, once it is no longer needed, using close().

Code may set up a TCP server on port 1100 as follows:

  /* Server code in C */
 
  #include <sys/types.h>
  #include <sys/socket.h>
  #include <netinet/in.h>
  #include <arpa/inet.h>
  #include <stdio.h>
  #include <stdlib.h>
  #include <string.h>
  #include <unistd.h>
 
  int main(void)
  {
    struct sockaddr_in stSockAddr;
    int SocketFD = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, IPPROTO_TCP);
 
    if(-1 == SocketFD)
    {
      perror("can not create socket");
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    memset(&stSockAddr, 0, sizeof(stSockAddr));
 
    stSockAddr.sin_family = AF_INET;
    stSockAddr.sin_port = htons(1100);
    stSockAddr.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
 
    if(-1 == bind(SocketFD,(struct sockaddr *)&stSockAddr, sizeof(stSockAddr)))
    {
      perror("error bind failed");
      close(SocketFD);
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    if(-1 == listen(SocketFD, 10))
    {
      perror("error listen failed");
      close(SocketFD);
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    for(;;)
    {
      int ConnectFD = accept(SocketFD, NULL, NULL);
 
      if(0 > ConnectFD)
      {
        perror("error accept failed");
        close(SocketFD);
        exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
      }
 
      /* perform read write operations ... 
      read(ConnectFD,buff,size)*/
 
      if (-1 == shutdown(ConnectFD, SHUT_RDWR))
      {
        perror("can not shutdown socket");
        close(ConnectFD);
        close(SocketFD);
        exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
      }
      close(ConnectFD);
    }
 
    close(SocketFD);
    return EXIT_SUCCESS;  
}

Client[edit]

Programming a TCP client application involves the following steps:

  • Creating a TCP socket, with a call to socket().
  • Connecting to the server with the use of connect(), passing a sockaddr_in structure with the sin_family set to AF_INET, sin_port set to the port the endpoint is listening (in network byte order), and sin_addr set to the IP address of the listening server (also in network byte order.)
  • Communicating with the server by using send() and recv() or write() and read().
  • Terminating the connection and cleaning up with a call to close().
  /* Client code in C */
 
  #include <sys/types.h>
  #include <sys/socket.h>
  #include <netinet/in.h>
  #include <arpa/inet.h>
  #include <stdio.h>
  #include <stdlib.h>
  #include <string.h>
  #include <unistd.h>
 
  int main(void)
  {
    struct sockaddr_in stSockAddr;
    int Res;
    int SocketFD = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, IPPROTO_TCP);
 
    if (-1 == SocketFD)
    {
      perror("cannot create socket");
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    memset(&stSockAddr, 0, sizeof(stSockAddr));
 
    stSockAddr.sin_family = AF_INET;
    stSockAddr.sin_port = htons(1100);
    Res = inet_pton(AF_INET, "192.168.1.3", &stSockAddr.sin_addr);
 
    if (0 > Res)
    {
      perror("error: first parameter is not a valid address family");
      close(SocketFD);
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
    else if (0 == Res)
    {
      perror("char string (second parameter does not contain valid ipaddress)");
      close(SocketFD);
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    if (-1 == connect(SocketFD, (struct sockaddr *)&stSockAddr, sizeof(stSockAddr)))
    {
      perror("connect failed");
      close(SocketFD);
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
    /* perform read write operations ... */
 
    (void) shutdown(SocketFD, SHUT_RDWR);
 
    close(SocketFD);
    return EXIT_SUCCESS;
  }

Client-server example using UDP[edit]

The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a connectionless protocol with no guarantee of delivery. UDP packets may arrive out of order, multiple times, or not at all. Because of this minimal design, UDP has considerably less overhead than TCP. Being connectionless means that there is no concept of a stream or permanent connection between two hosts. Such data are referred to as datagrams (Datagram Sockets).

UDP address space, the space of UDP port numbers (in ISO terminology, the TSAPs), is completely disjoint from that of TCP ports.

Server[edit]

Code may set up a UDP server on port 7654 as follows:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <unistd.h> /* for close() for socket */ 
#include <stdlib.h>
 
int main(void)
{
  int sock = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_DGRAM, IPPROTO_UDP);
  struct sockaddr_in sa; 
  char buffer[1024];
  ssize_t recsize;
  socklen_t fromlen;
 
  memset(&sa, 0, sizeof sa);
  sa.sin_family = AF_INET;
  sa.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
  sa.sin_port = htons(7654);
  fromlen = sizeof(sa);
 
  if (-1 == bind(sock,(struct sockaddr *)&sa, sizeof(sa)))
  {
    perror("error bind failed");
    close(sock);
    exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
  }
 
  for (;;) 
  {
    printf ("recv test....\n");
    recsize = recvfrom(sock, (void *)buffer, sizeof(buffer), 0, (struct sockaddr *)&sa, &fromlen);
    if (recsize < 0) {
      fprintf(stderr, "%s\n", strerror(errno));
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
    printf("recsize: %d\n ", recsize);
    sleep(1);
    printf("datagram: %.*s\n", (int)recsize, buffer);
  }
}

This infinite loop receives any UDP datagrams to port 7654 using recvfrom(). It uses the parameters:

  • socket
  • pointer to buffer for data
  • size of buffer
  • flags (same as in recv or other receive socket function)
  • address struct of sending peer
  • length of address struct of sending peer.

Client[edit]

A simple demonstration of sending a UDP packet containing the string "Hello World!" to address 127.0.0.1 and port 7654 might look like this:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <arpa/inet.h>
 
 
int main(int argc, char *argv[])
{
  int sock;
  struct sockaddr_in sa;
  int bytes_sent;
  char buffer[200];
 
  strcpy(buffer, "hello world!");
 
  //create an internet, datagram, socket using UDP
  sock = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_DGRAM, IPPROTO_UDP);
  if (-1 == sock) /* if socket failed to initialize, exit */
    {
      printf("Error Creating Socket");
      exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
 
  //Zero out socket address
  memset(&sa, 0, sizeof sa);
 
  //The address is ipv4
  sa.sin_family = AF_INET;
 
   //ip_v4 adresses is a uint32_t, convert a string representation of the octets to the appropriate value
  sa.sin_addr.s_addr = inet_addr("127.0.0.1");
 
  //sockets are unsigned shorts, htons(x) ensures x is in network byte order, set the port to 7654
  sa.sin_port = htons(7654);
 
  //sendto(int socket, char data, int dataLength, flags, destinationAddress, int destinationStructureLength)
  bytes_sent = sendto(sock, buffer, strlen(buffer), 0,(struct sockaddr*)&sa, sizeof sa);
  if (bytes_sent < 0) {
    printf("Error sending packet: %s\n", strerror(errno));
    exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
  }
 
  close(sock); /* close the socket */
  return 0;
}

In this code, buffer is a pointer to the data to be sent, and buffer_length specifies the size of the data.

Caveats[edit]

For TCP connections, the operating system may have to retransmit the data given to it with a write() call. However, the user space program is free to delete the data buffer passed to write() after write() returns. This implies that the operating system must make a copy of the data which can lead to a considerable CPU load in high throughput/performance applications. Other APIs, such as those supporting RDMA require that the data buffer is not released until the acknowledgement from the remote end has been received and thus make it possible to have zero memory copy operations.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "— POSIX.1-2008 specification". Opengroup.org. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  2. ^ E. g. in the Ruby programming language ruby-doc::Socket
  3. ^ UNIX Network Programming Volume 1, Third Edition: The Sockets Networking API, W. Richard Stevens, Bill Fenner, Andrew M. Rudoff, Addison Wesley, 2003.
  4. ^ "The Open Group Base Specifications Issue 7". Pubs.opengroup.org. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  5. ^ "Beej's Guide to Network Programming". Beej.us. 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  6. ^ "terminating sockets". Softlab.ntua.gr. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  7. ^ "ntua.gr - Programming UNIX Sockets in C - Frequently Asked Questions: Questions regarding both Clients and Servers (TCP/SOCK_STREAM)". Softlab.ntua.gr. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 

The "de jure" standard definition of the Sockets interface is contained in the POSIX standard, known as:

  • IEEE Std. 1003.1-2001 Standard for Information Technology—Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX).
  • Open Group Technical Standard: Base Specifications, Issue 6, December 2001.
  • ISO/IEC 9945:2002

Information about this standard and ongoing work on it is available from the Austin website.

The IPv6 extensions to the base socket API are documented in RFC 3493 and RFC 3542.

External links[edit]

This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.