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RFC 171 - The Data Transfer Protocol


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Network Working Group                                      Abhay Bhushan
Request for Comments: 171                                            MIT
NIC 6793                                                      Bob Braden
Categories: D.4, D.5, and D.7                                       UCLA
Updates: 114                                               Will Crowther
Obsolete: None                                             Alex McKenzie
                                                                     BBN
                                                            Eric Harslem
                                                            John Heafner
                                                                    Rand
                                                             John Melvin
                                                             Dick Watson
                                                                     SRI
                                                            Bob Sundberg
                                                                 HARVARD
                                                               Jim White
                                                                    UCSB
                                                            23 June 1971

                       THE DATA TRANSFER PROTOCOL

I. INTRODUCTION

   A common protocol is desirable for data transfer in such diverse
   applications as remote job entry, file transfer, network mail system,
   graphics, remote program execution, and communication with block data
   terminals (such as printers, card, paper tape, and magnetic tape
   equipment, especially in context of terminal IMPs).  Although it
   would be possible to include some or even all of the above
   applications in an all-inclusive file transfer protocol, a separation
   between data transfer and application functions would provide
   flexibility in implementation, and reduce complexity.  Separating the
   data transfer function would also reduce proliferation of programs
   and protocols.

   We have therefore defined a low-level data transfer protocol (DTP) to
   be used for transfer of data in file transfer, remote job entry, and
   other applications protocols.  This paper concerns itself solely with
   the data transfer protocol.  A companion paper (RFC 172) describes
   file transfer protocol.

II. DISCUSSION

   The data transfer protocol (DTP) serves three basic functions.  It
   provides for convenient separation of NCP messages into "logical"
   blocks (transactions, units, records, groups, and files), it allows
   for the separation of data and control information, and it includes
   some error control mechanisms.

   Three modes of separating messages into transactions [1] are allowed
   by DTP.  The first is an indefinite bit stream which terminates only
   when the connection is closed (i.e., the bit stream represents a
   single transaction for duration of connection).  This mode would be
   useful in data transfer between hosts and terminal IMPs (TIPs).

   The second mode utilizes a "transparent" block convention, similar to
   the ASCII DLE (Data Link Escape).  In "transparent" mode,
   transactions (which may be arbitrarily long) end whenever the
   character sequence DLE ETX is encountered (DLE and ETX are 8-bit
   character codes).  To prevent the possibility of a DLE ETX sequence
   occurring within data stream, any occurrence of DLE is replaced by
   DLE DLE on transmission.  The extra DLE is stripped on reception.  A
   departure from the ASCII convention is that "transparent" block does
   not begin with DLE STX, but with a transaction type byte.  This mode
   will be useful in data transfer between terminal IMPs.

   The third mode utilizes a count mechanism.  Each transaction begins
   with a fixed-length descriptor field containing separate binary
   counts of information bits and filler bits.  If a transaction has no
   filler bits, its filler count is zero.  This mode will be useful in
   most host-to-host data transfer applications.

   DTP allows for the above modes to be intermixed over the same
   connection (i.e., mode is not associated with connection, but only
   with transaction).  The above transfer modes can represent transfer
   of either data or control information.  The protocol allows for
   separating data or control information at a lower level, by providing
   different "type" codes (see SPECIFICATIONS) for data and control
   transactions.  This provision may simplify some implementations.

   The implementation of a workable [2] subset of the above modes is
   specifically permitted by DTP.  To provide compatibility between
   hosts using different subsets of transfer modes, an initial
   "handshake" procedure is required by DTP.  The handshake involves
   exchanging information on modes available for transmit and receive.
   This will enable host programs to agree on transfer modes acceptable
   for a connection.

   The manner in which DTP is used would depend largely on the
   applications protocol.  It is the applications protocol which defines
   the workable subset of transfer modes.  For example, the file
   transfer protocol will not work just with the indefinite bit stream
   modes.  At least, for control information one of the other two modes
   is required.  Again, the use of information separator and abort
   functions provided in DTP (see SPECIFICATIONS) is defined by the
   applications protocol.  For example, in a remote job entry protocol,
   aborts may be used to stop the execution of a job while they may not

   cause any action in another applications protocol.

   It should also be noted that DTP does not define a data transfer
   service.  There is no standard server socket, or initial connection
   protocol defined for DTP.  What DTP defines is a mechanism for data
   transfer which can be used to provide services for block data
   transfers, file transfers, remote job entry, network mail and
   numerous other applications.

   There are to be no restrictions on the manner in which DTP is
   implemented at various sites.  For example, DTP may be imbedded in an
   applications program such as for file transfer, or it may be a
   separate service program or subroutine used by several applications
   programs.  Another implementation may employ macros or UUO's (user
   unimplemented operations on PDP-10's), to achieve the functions
   specified in DTP.  It is also possible that in implementation, the
   separation between the DTP and applications protocols be only at a
   conceptual level.

III. SPECIFICATIONS

   1.  Byte Size for Network Connection

       The standard byte size for network connections using DTP is 8-
       bit.  However, other byte sizes specified by higher-level
       applications protocols or applications programs are also allowed
       by DTP.  For the purpose of this document bytes are assumed to be
       8-bits, unless otherwise stated.

2.  Transactions

       At DTP level, all information transmitted over connection is a
       sequence of transactions.  DTP defines the rules for delimiting
       transactions. [3]

2A. Types

       The first byte of each transaction shall define a transaction
       type, as shown below.  (Note that code assignments do not
       conflict with assignments in TELNET protocol.)  The transaction
       types may be referred by the hexadecimal code assigned to them.
       The transactions types are discussed in more detail in section
       2B.

           Code                 Transaction Type
      Hex       Octal

      B0         260        Indefinite bit stream -- data.
      B1         261        Transparent (DLE) block--data.
      B2         262        Descriptor and counts--data.
      B3         263        Modes available (handshake).
      B4         264        Information separators (endcode).
      B5         265        Error codes.
      B6         266        Abort.
      B7         267        No operation (NoOp).
      B8         270        Indefinite bit stream--control.
      B9         271        Transparent (DLE) block--control.
      BA         272        Descriptor and counts--control.
      BB         273        (unassigned but reserved for data transfer)
      BC         274                  "         "         "
      BD         275                  "         "         "
      BE         276                  "         "         "
      BF         277                  "         "         "

   2B.  Syntax and Semantics

   2B.1  Type B0 and B8 (indefinite bitstream modes) transactions
         terminate only when the NCP connection is "closed".  There is
         no other escape convention defined in DTP at this level.  It
         should be noted, that closing connection in bitstream mode
         represents an implicit file separator (see section 2B.5).

   2B.2  Type B1 and B0 (transparent block modes) transactions terminate
         when the byte sequence DLE ETX is encountered.  The sender
         shall replace any occurrence of DLE in data stream by the
         sequence DLE DLE.  The receiver shall strip the extra DLE.  The
         transaction is assumed to by byte-oriented.  The code for DLE
         is Hex '90' or Octal '220' (this is different from the ASCII
         DLE which is Hex '10' or Octal '020).  ETX is Hex '03' or Octal
         '03' (the same as ASCII ETX) [4].

   2B.3  Type B2 and BA (descriptor and counts modes) transactions have
         three fields, a 9-byte (72-bits) descriptor field [5] and
         variable length (including zero) info and filler fields, as
         shown below.  The total length of a transaction is
         (72+info+filler) bits.

|<B2 or BA><Info count><NUL><Seq #><NUL><filler count>|<info><filler> |

|  3-bits    24-bits 8-bits 16-bits 8-bits  8-bits    |Variable length|

|<----- 72-bit descriptor field --------------------->|info and filler|

         Info count is a binary count of number of bits in info field,
         not including descriptor or filler bits.  Number of info bits
         is limited to (2**24 - 1), as there are 24 bits in info count
         field.

         Sequence # is a sequential count in round-robin manner of B2
         and BA type transaction.  The inclusion of sequence numbers
         would help in debugging and error control, as sequence numbers
         may be used to check for missing transactions, and aid in
         locating errors.  Hosts not wishing to implement this mechanism
         should have all 1's in the field.  The count shall start from
         zero and continue sequentially to all 1's, after which it is
         reset to all zeros.  The permitted sequence numbers are one
         greater than the previous, and all 1's.

         Filler count is a binary count of bits used as fillers (i.e.,
         not information) after the end of meaningful data.  Number of
         filler bits is limited to 255, as there are 8 bits in filler
         count field.

         The NUL bytes contain all 0's.

   2B.4  Type B3 (modes available) transactions have a fixed length of 3
         bytes, as shown below.  First byte defines transaction type as
         B3, second byte defines modes available for send, and third
         byte defines modes available for receive.

         +------------------+---------------------+---------------------+
         |    Type          |     I send          |     I receive       |
         |                  | | |  |  |  |  |  |  | | |  |  |  |  |  |  |
         |     B3           |0|0|BA|B2|B9|B1|B8|B0|0|0|BA|B2|B9|B1|B8|B0|
         +------------------+---------------------+---------------------+

         The modes are indicated by bit-coding, as shown above.  The
         particular bit or bits, if set to logical "1", indicate that
         mode to be available.  The 2 most significant bits should be
         set to logical "0".  The use of type B3 transactions is
         discussed in section 3B.

   2B.5  Type B4 (information separator) transactions have fixed length
         of 2 bytes, as shown below.  First byte defines transaction
         type as B4, and second byte defines the separator.

         +------------------+------------------+
         |    Type          |     End Code     |
         |                  |            | |R| |
         |                  |            |G|E| |
         |     B4           |           F|R|C|U|
         |                  |           I|O|O|N|
         |                  |           L|U|R|I|
         |                  |           E|P|D|T|
         +------------------+------------------+

         The following separator codes are assigned:

                    Code                    Meaning
            Hex             Octal

            01              001             Unit separator
            03              003             Record separator
            07              007             Group separator
            0F              017             File separator

         Files, groups, records, and units may be data blocks that a
         user defines to be so.  The only restriction is that of the
         hierarchical relationship  File>Groups>Records>Units  (where
         '>' means 'contains').  Thus a file separator marks not only
         the end of file, but also the end of group, record, and unit.
         These separators may provide a convenient "logical" separation
         of data at the data transfer level.  Their use is governed by
         the applications protocol.

   2B.6  Type B5 (error codes) transactions have a fixed length of 3
         bytes, as shown below.  First byte defines transaction type as
         B5, second byte indicates an error code, and third byte may
         indicate the sequence number on which error occurred.

         +------------------+-------------------+-----------------+
         |    Type          |     Error Code    |     Sequence #  |
         |                  |                   |                 |
         |     B5           |                   |                 |
         +------------------+-------------------+-----------------+

         The following error codes are assigned:

             Error Code            Meaning
         Hex           Octal

         00            000         Undefined error
         01            001         Out of sync. (type code other
                                   than B0 through BF).
         02            002         Broken sequence (the sequence #
                                   field contains the first expected
                                   but not received sequence number).
         03            003         Illegal DLE sequence (other than
                                   DLE DLE or DLE ETX).
         B0            260
      through       through        The transaction type (indicated by
         BF            277         by error code) is not implemented.

         The error code transaction is defined only for the purpose of
         error control.  DTP does not require the receiver of an error
         code to take any recovery action.  The receiver may discard the
         error code transaction.  In addition, DTP does not require that
         sequence numbers be remembered or transmitted.

   2B.7  Type B6 (abort) transactions have a fixed length of 2 bytes, as
         shown below.  First byte defines transaction type as B6, and
         second byte defines the abort function.

         +-------------------+--------------------+
         |    Type           |    Function        |
         |                   |            | | |R| |
         |                   |            | |G|E| |
         |                   |            |F|R|C|U|
         |                   |            |I|O|O|N|
         |                   |            |L|U|R|I|
         |                   |            |E|P|D|T|
         +-------------------+--------------------+

         The following abort codes are assigned:

              Abort Code                              Meaning
            Hex            Octal

            00             000              Abort preceding transaction
            01             001              Abort preceding unit
            02             002              Abort preceding record
            07             007              Abort preceding group
            0F             017              Abort preceding file

         DTP does not require the receiver of an abort to take specific
         action, therefore sender should not necessarily make any
         assumptions.  The manner in which abort is handled is to be
         specified by higher-level applications protocols.

   2B.8  Type B7 (NoOp) transactions are one byte long, and indicate no
         operation.  These may be useful as fillers when byte size used
         for network connections is other than 8-bits.

3.  Initial Connection, Handshake and Error Recovery

   3A.  DTP does not specify the mechanism used in establishing
        connections.  It is up to the applications protocol (e.g., file
        transfer protocol) to choose the mechanism which suits its
        requirements. [6]

   3B.  The first transaction after connection is made will be type B3
        (modes available).  In a full-duplex connection, both server and
        user will communicate type B3 transactions, indicating modes
        available for send and receive.  In a simplex connection only
        sender will communicate a type B3 transaction.  It is the
        sender's responsibility to choose a mode acceptable to the
        receiver.  If an acceptable mode is not available or if mode
        chosen is not acceptable, the connection may be closed. [7]

   3C. No error recovery mechanisms are specified by DTP.  The
        applications protocol may implement error recovery and further
        error control mechanisms.

END NOTES

[1]  The term transaction is used here to mean a block of data defined
      by the transfer mode.

[2]  What constitutes a workable subset is entirely governed by the
      high-level application protocol.

[3]  Transactions suppress the notion of host-IMP messages, and may have
      a logical interpretation similar to that of flags (and data)
      defined by Mealy in RFC 91.

[4]  This assignment is made to be consistent with the TELNET philosophy
      of maintaining the integrity of the 128 Network ASCII characters.

[5]  A 72-b9t descriptor field provides a convenient separation of
      information bits, as 72 is the least common multiple of 8 and 36,
      the commonly encountered byte sizes on ARPA network host
      computers.

[6]  It is, however, recommended that the standard initial connection
      protocol be adopted where feasible.

[7]  It is recommended that when more than one mode is available, the
      sender should choose 'descriptor and count' mode (Type B2 or BA).
      The 'bitstream' mode (type B0 or B8) should be chosen only when
      the other two modes cannot be used.

          [ This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry ]
            [ into the online RFC archives by Samuel Etler 08/99 ]

 

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