Thursday, December 27, 2012

UDP Lite...

Many people know for TCP and UDP, at least those that work in the field of networking or are learning computer networks in some course. But, the truth is that there are others too, e.g. SCTP, DCCP, UDP Lite. And all of those are actually implemented in Linux kernel. What I'm going to do is describe each one of those in the following few posts and give examples of their use. In this post, I'm going to talk about UDP Lite. I'll assume that you know UDP and also that you know how to use socket API to write UDP application.

UDP Lite is specified in RFC3828: The Lightweight User Datagram Protocol (UDP-Lite) . The basic motivation for the introduction of a new variant of UDP is that certain applications (primarily multimedia ones) want to receive packets even if they are damaged. The reason is that codecs used can recover and mask errors. UDP itself has a checksum field that covers the whole packet and if there is an error in the packet, it is silently dropped. It should be noted that this checksum is quite weak actually and doesn't catch a lot of errors, but nevertheless it is problematic for such applications. So, UDP lite changes standard UDP behavior in that it allows only part of the packet to be covered with a checksum. And, because it is now different protocol, new protocol ID is assigned to it, i.e. 136.

So, how to use UDP Lite in you applications? Actually, very easy. First, when creating socket you have to specify that you want UDP Lite, and not (default) UDP:
Next, you need to define what part of the packet will be protected by a checksum. This is achieved with socket options, i.e. setsockopt(2) system call. Here is the function that will set how many octets of the packet has to be protected:
void setoption(int sockfd, int option, int value)
    if (setsockopt(sockfd, IPPROTO_UDPLITE, option,
            (void *)&value, sizeof(value)) == -1) {
It receives socket handle (sockfd) created with socket function, option that should be set (option) and the option's value (value). There are two options, UDPLITE_SEND_CSCOV and UDPLITE_RECV_CSCOV. Option UDPLITE_SEND_CSCOV sets the number of protected octets for outgoing packets, and UDPLITE_RECV_CSCOV sets at least how many octets have to be protected in the inbound packets in order to be passed to the application.

You can also obtain values using the following function:
int getoption(int sockfd, int option)
  int cov;
  socklen_t len = sizeof(int);
  if (getsockopt(sockfd, IPPROTO_UDPLITE, option,
  (void *)&cov, &len) == -1) {
return cov;
This function accepts socket (sockfd) and option it should retrieve (i.e. UDPLITE_SEND_CSCOV or UDPLITE_RECV_CSCOV) and returns the option's value. Note that the two constants, UDPLITE_SEND_CSCOV or UDPLITE_RECV_CSCOV, should be explicitly defined in your source because it is possible that glibc doesn't (yet) define them.

I wrote fully functional client and server applications you can download and test. To compile them you don't need any special options. So that should be easy. Only change you'll probably need is the IP address that clients sends packets to. This is a constant SERVER_IPADDR which contains server's IP address hex encoded. For example, IP address is 0x7f000001.

Finally, I have to say that UDP Lite will probably have problems traversing NATs. For example, I tried  it on my ADSL connection and it didn't pass through the NAT. What I did is that I just started client with IP address of one of my servers on the Internet, and on that server I sniffed packets. Nothing came to the server. This will probably be a big problem for the adoption of UDP Lite, but the time will tell...

You can read more about this subject on the Wikipedia page and in the Linux manual page udplite(7).

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scientist, consultant, security specialist, networking guy, system administrator, philosopher ;)

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