CS110: Principles of Computer Systems

Autumn 2021
Jerry Cain

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Lecture 22: Network System Calls, Library Functions

  • The three data structures presented below are in place to model IP address/port pairs:
struct sockaddr { // generic socket
    unsigned short sa_family; // protocol family for socket
    char sa_data[14];
    // address data (and defines full size to be 16 bytes)
};

The sockaddr_in is used to model IPv4 address/port pairs.

  • The sin_family field should always be initialized to be AF_INET, which is a constant used when IPv4 addresses are being used. If it feels redundant that a record dedicated to IPv4 needs to store a constant saying everything is IPv4, then stay tuned.
  • The sin_port field stores a port number in network byte (i.e. big endian) order.
  • The sin_addr field stores an IPv4 address as a packed, big endian int, as you saw with gethostbyname and the struct hostent.
  • The sin_zero field is generally ignored (though it's often set to store all zeroes). It exists to pad the record up to 16 bytes.
struct sockaddr_in { // IPv4 socket address record
    unsigned short sin_family;
    unsigned short sin_port;
    struct in_addr sin_addr;
    unsigned char sin_zero[8];
};
struct sockaddr_in6 { // IPv6 socket address record
    unsigned short sin6_family;
    unsigned short sin6_port;
    unsigned int sin6_flowinfo;;
    struct in6_addr sin6_addr;
    unsigned int sin6_scope_id;
};

Lecture 22: Network System Calls, Library Functions

The sockaddr_in6 is used to model IPv6 address/port pairs.

  • The sin6_family field should always be set to AF_INET6. As with the sin_family field, sin6_family field occupies the first two bytes of surrounding record.
  • The sin6_port field holds a two-byte, network-byte-ordered port number, just like sin_port does.
  • A struct in6_addr is also wedged in there to manage a 128-bit IPv6 address.
  • sin6_flowinfo and sin6_scope_id are beyond the scope of what we need, so we'll ignore them.
  • The three data structures presented below are in place to model IP address/port pairs:
struct sockaddr { // generic socket
    unsigned short sa_family; // protocol family for socket
    char sa_data[14];
    // address data (and defines full size to be 16 bytes)
};
struct sockaddr_in { // IPv4 socket address record
    unsigned short sin_family;
    unsigned short sin_port;
    struct in_addr sin_addr;
    unsigned char sin_zero[8];
};
struct sockaddr_in6 { // IPv6 socket address record
    unsigned short sin6_family;
    unsigned short sin6_port;
    unsigned int sin6_flowinfo;;
    struct in6_addr sin6_addr;
    unsigned int sin6_scope_id;
};

Lecture 22: Network System Calls, Library Functions

The struct sockaddr is the best C can do to emulate an abstract base class.

  • You rarely if ever declare variables of type struct sockaddr, but many system calls will accept parameters of type struct sockaddr *.
  • Rather than define a set of network system calls for IPv4 addresses and a second set of system calls for IPv6 addresses, Linux defines one set for both.
  • If a system call accepts a parameter of type struct sockaddr *, it really accepts the address of either a struct sockaddr_in or a struct sockaddr_in6. The system call relies on the value within the first two bytes—the sa_family field—to determine what the true record type is.
  • The three data structures presented below are in place to model IP address/port pairs:
struct sockaddr { // generic socket
    unsigned short sa_family; // protocol family for socket
    char sa_data[14];
    // address data (and defines full size to be 16 bytes)
};
struct sockaddr_in { // IPv4 socket address record
    unsigned short sin_family;
    unsigned short sin_port;
    struct in_addr sin_addr;
    unsigned char sin_zero[8];
};
struct sockaddr_in6 { // IPv6 socket address record
    unsigned short sin6_family;
    unsigned short sin6_port;
    unsigned int sin6_flowinfo;;
    struct in6_addr sin6_addr;
    unsigned int sin6_scope_id;
};

Lecture 22: Network System Calls, Library Functions

At this point, we know most of the directives needed to implement and understand how to implement createClientSocket and createServerSocket.

  • createClientSocket is the easier of the two, so we'll implement that one first. (For simplicity, we'll confine ourselves to an IPv4 world.)
  • Fundamentally, createClientSocket needs to:
    • Confirm the host of interest is really on the net by checking to see if it has an IP address. gethostbyname does this for us.
    • Allocate a new descriptor and configure it to be a socket descriptor. We'll rely on the socket system call to do this.
    • Construct an instance of a struct sockaddr_in that packages the host and port number we're interested in connecting to.
    • Associate the freshly allocated socket descriptor with the host/port pair. We'll rely on an aptly named system call called connect to do this.
    • Return the fully configured client socket.
  • The full implementation of createClientSocket is on the next slide (and right here).

Lecture 15: Network System Calls, Library Functions

Here is the full implementation of createClientSocket:
int createClientSocket(const string& host, unsigned short port) {
    struct hostent *he = gethostbyname(host.c_str());
    if (he == NULL) return -1;

    int s = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0);
    if (s < 0) return -1;

    struct sockaddr_in address;
    memset(&address, 0, sizeof(address));
    address.sin_family = AF_INET;
    address.sin_port = htons(port);

    // h_addr is #define for h_addr_list[0]
    address.sin_addr = *((struct in_addr *)he->h_addr); 
    if (connect(s, (struct sockaddr *) &address, sizeof(address)) == 0) return s;

    close(s);
    return -1;
}

Lecture 15: Network System Calls, Library Functions

Here are key details about my createClientSocket implementation worth calling out:

  • We call gethostbyname first before we call socket, because we want to confirm the host has a registered IP address—which means it's reachable—before we allocate any system resources.
  • Recall that gethostbyname is intrinsically IPv4. If we wanted to involve IPv6 addresses instead, we would need to use gethostbyname2.
  • The call to socket finds, claims, and returns an unused descriptor. AF_INET configures it to be compatible with an IPv4 address, and SOCK_STREAM configures it to provide reliable data transport, which basically means the socket will reorder data packets and requests missing or garbled data packets to be resent so as to give the impression that data that is received in the order it's sent.
    • The first argument could have been AF_INET6 had we decided to use IPv6 addresses instead. (Other arguments are possible, but they're less common.)
    • The second argument could have been SOCK_DGRAM had we preferred to collect data packets in the order they just happen to arrive and manage missing and garbled data packets ourselves. (Other arguments are possible, though they're less common.)

Lecture 15: Network System Calls, Library Functions

Here are a few more details:

  • address is declared to be of type struct sockaddr_in, since that's the data type specifically set up to model IPv4 addresses. Had we been dealing with IPv6 addresses, we'd have declared a struct sockaddr_in6 instead.
    • It's important to embed AF_INET within sin_family, since those two bytes are examined by system calls to determine the type of socket address structure.
    • The sin_port field is, not surprisingly, designed to hold the port of interest. htons—that's an abbreviation for host-to-network-short—is there to ensure the port is stored in network byte order (which is big endian order). On big endian machines, htons is implemented to return the provided short without modification. On little endian machines (like the myths), htons returns a figure constructed by exchanging the two bytes of the incoming short. In addition to htons, Linux also provided htonl for four-byte longs, and it also provides ntohs and ntohl to restore host byte order from network byte ordered figures.
  • The call to connect associates the descriptor s with the host/IP address pair modeled by the supplied struct sockaddr_in *. The second argument is downcast to a struct sockaddr *, since connect must accept a pointer to any type within the entire struct sockaddr family, not just struct sockaddr_ins.  connect will return -1 (with errno set to ECONNREFUSED) if the server of interest isn't running.

Lecture 15: Network System Calls, Library Functions

Here is the full implementation of createServerSocket (and online right here):

int createServerSocket(unsigned short port, int backlog) {
    int s = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0);
    if (s < 0) return -1;

    struct sockaddr_in address;
    memset(&address, 0, sizeof(address));
    address.sin_family = AF_INET;
    address.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
    address.sin_port = htons(port);

    if (bind(s, (struct sockaddr *)&address, sizeof(address)) == 0 &&
        listen(s, backlog) == 0) return s;

    close(s);
    return -1;
}

Lecture 15: Network System Calls, Library Functions

Here are key details about my implementation of createServerSocket:

  • The call to socket is precisely the same here as it was in createClientSocket. It allocates a descriptor and configures it to be a socket descriptor within the AF_INET namespace.
  • The address of type struct sockaddr_in here is configured in much the same way it was in createClientSocket, except that the sin_addr.s_addr field should be set to a local IP address, not a remote one. The constant INADDR_ANY is used to state that address should represent all local addresses.
  • The bind call simply assigns the set of local IP addresses represented by address to the provided socket s. Because we embedded INADDR_ANY within address, bind associates the supplied socket with all local IP addresses. That means once createServerSocket has done its job, clients can connect to any of the machine's IP addresses via the specified port.
  • The listen call is what converts the socket to be one that's willing to accept connections via accept. The second argument is a queue size limit, which states how many pending connection requests can accumulate and wait their turn to be accepted. If the number of outstanding requests is at the limit, additional requests are simply refused.