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RFC 671 - Note on Reconnection Protocol


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Network Working Group                                    Richard Schantz
RFC # 671                                                      BBN-TENEX
NIC # 31439                                             December 6, 1974

                    A Note on Reconnection Protocol

INTRODUCTION

   This note documents the experience we have had in implementing a
   modified, experimental version of the Telnet reconnection protocol
   option within the context of the Resource Sharing Executive (RSEXEC).
   The reconnection protocol specifies a procedure for transforming a
   configuration from one in which the initiating process has
   connections to two correspondent processes, to one in which there is
   a direct connection between the correspondents. When the procedure is
   successfully completed, the initiating process is no longer in the
   communication path between the correspondents.

   Resource sharing computer networks and distributed computing will
   increasingly give rise to specialization by task among the computer
   installations. In such an environment, a "job" is the dynamically
   varying interconnection of a subset of these specialized modules.
   Connections are the "glue" in "bonding" the job together.
   Reconnection provides for a dynamically changing "bonding" structure.
   (For a more complete discussion of the utility of reconnection, see
   RFC 426).

   This document deals with reconnection in terms of its current ARPANET
   definition as a Telnet protocol option.  The first section defines a
   modified reconnection protocol. The second section discusses general
   network implementation details, while the final section describes
   aspects of the TENEX/RSEXEC implementation.

   Familiarity with the new ARPANET Telnet protocol (RFC 495) is
   assumed.

I.  PROTOCOL for RECONNECTING TELNET COMMUNICATION PATHS

   A process initiates the reconnection of two of its Telnet connections
   by sending (or requesting its "system" to send) the
   <IAC><DO><RECONNECT> Telnet command sequence over each of the two
   send connections.  The process initiating the reconnection is
   attempting to cause the direct connection of the objects of the two
   Telnet connections. In this manner, the initiating process can remove
   itself from the communication path between Telnet objects.

   The initiating process awaits positive responses to both reconnection
   requests before proceeding further with the reconnection. A
   reconnection request may be accepted by replying with the Telnet
   sequence <IAC><WILL><RECONNECT>. It may be rejected by sending the
   Telnet sequence <IAC><WONT><RECONNECT>. Rejection of both requests
   means normal communication may resume at once. Rejection of one
   request (but not the other) requires that the process agreeing to the
   reconnection be notified by sending it the Telnet sequence
   <IAC><DONT><RECONNECT> in response to its acceptance reply.

   After receiving positive responses to both requests, the initiating
   agent next selects the object of one of the Telnet connections for a
   passive role in the subsequent connection attempt. The other is
   designated as the active participant. The passive participant is to
   listen on a set of sockets, and the active participant is to send
   Request for Connections (RFCs) for those sockets. By designating
   roles, we are trying to reduce the probability of synchronization
   problems.

   The initiating process next enters into subnegotiation with the
   process designated as being passive. This subnegotiation involves
   sending the Telnet sequence <IAC> <SB> <RECONNECT> <PASSIVE>
   <NEWHOST> <NEWSOCKET1> <NEWSOCKET2> <NEWSOCKET3> <NEWSOCKET4> <IAC>
   <SE>. The <PASSIVE> parameter indicates that the recipient is to
   listen for RFCs from the socket pair denoted by <NEWHOST>
   <NEWSOCKET1-4>. The "NEWHOST" is one 8-bit byte designating the
   address of the host on which the active process (i.e., the one to
   reconnect to) resides.  NEWSOCKET1-4 are four 8-bit bytes indicating
   the 32-bit send socket number of the Telnet pair from the active
   process. The <IAC><SE> fields terminate the subnegotiation
   parameters. The initiating agent awaits a response from the passive
   process before proceeding.  The legal responses are:

     1) Telnet sequence <IAC><WONT>(RECONNECT>
        Meaning: The passive process has decided not to complete the
        reconnection, after having initially indicated willingness. This
        may be due to unexpected parameters during the subnegotiation
        (e.g., it refuses to connect to NEWHOST), or perhaps some error
        condition at the passive host.

     2) Telnet sequence <IAC><SE>
        Meaning: Positive acknowledgement of the subnegotiation
        sequence. The passive process has accepted the reconnection
        parameters and will proceed with reconnection.

   If the reply was <WONT><RECONNECT>, the initiator is obliged to send
   the Telnet <IAC><DONT><RECONNECT> to the active participant, to
   cancel the outstanding reconnection request. A confirming
   <IAC><WONT><RECONNECT> should follow.

   The <IAC><SE> reply means that the passive participant has begun its
   connection shutdown, and will listen on the appropriate sockets. The
   initiator may now close its connections to the passive participant
   and supply the parameters to the active participant.  This can be
   done with the assurance that it (the initiator) has done all it can
   to ensure that the passive process listens before the active process
   sends its RFCs. Failure to coordinate these actions may result in the
   failure of the reconnection, if, for example, the passive host does
   not queue unmatched RFCs. Persistence on the part of the active
   participant should be an integral part of the protocol, due to
   uncertainties of synchronization.

   The parameter list sent to the active participant is the Telnet
   sequence <IAC> <SB> <RECONNECT> <ACTIVE> <NEWHOST> <NEWSOCKET1>
   <NEWSOCKET2> <NEWSOCKET3> <NEWSOCKET4> <IAC> <SE>. The <ACTIVE>
   parameter indicates to the recipient that it is to send RFCs to the
   socket pair denoted by <NEWHOST><NEWSOCKET1-4>. The initiator again
   waits for a reply. The legal replies are:

     1) Telnet sequence <IAC><WONT><RECONNECT>
        Meaning: Process will not complete the reconnection (e.g., it
        couldn't parse the parameter string).
        Possible action of initiator: Attempt to re-establish
        communication with the passive participant by sending RFCs for
        the sockets on which the passive participant is listening. This
        will succeed if the listener is willing to accept connections
        from either the host/socket specified by the reconnect
        parameters or the host/socket of the former connection. If it is
        successful in reestablishing the connection, the initiator could
        send the Telnet sequence <IAC><DONT><RECONNECT> to confirm that
        reconnection has been aborted.

     2) Telnet sequence <IAC><SE>
        Meaning: Positive confirmation of the reconnection
        subnegotiation. The active participant indicates with this reply
        that it will close the connections to the initiator and send the
        necessary RFCs to connect to the passive participant. The
        initiator may close the connections to the active participant,
        thereby removing itself from the communication path between the
        objects of the reconnection.

DEFAULT CONDITIONS and RACES

   The default for this option is as for most other Telnet options: DONT
   and WONT. An initiator uses the <DONT><RECONNECT> Telnet sequence to
   return to the default state, while a participant uses
   <WONT><RECONNECT> to maintain or return to the default state. The
   reconnection state is only a transient one.  When accepted by all
   parties, the reconnection state lasts only until the reconnection is
   completed. Upon completion, and without further interaction among the
   parties, the state of the new connection is the default state, with
   the negotiated reconnection forgotten.

   Since reconnection is an option concerning the entire Telnet
   connection, the asynchronous nature of the option processing
   mechanism exemplified by many other Telnet options (e.g., echo), is
   not applicable. That is, a race condition occurs when two
   <IAC><DO><RECONNECT> requests cross each other in the network. A
   solution to this problem was presented in RFC 426; the following is a
   modified version of that protocol extension. The modification is
   concerned mainly with preserving the right of a process to deny a
   reconnection attempt by another process, while having its own
   reconnection request pending.

   The race condition is detected when a process receives a
   <DO><RECONNECT> while awaiting a reply to a <DO><RECONNECT> it has
   previously issued on the same Telnet connection. (This condition is
   detected at both ends of the connection). The strategy to resolve the
   race utilizes a function, evaluated at both ends of the connection,
   to determine which reconnection request shall take precedence. The
   evaluation involves comparing the numbers obtained by concatenating
   the host address (which becomes the high order 8 bits) and the
   receive socket number (becomes the low order 32 bits) for the two
   ends of the Telnet connection. The process owning the receive socket
   with the larger of the two concatenated numbers will have its
   reconnection attempt precede that of the other process. Thus, if
   there is a Telnet connection between host A local sockets X,X+1 and
   host B local sockets Y,Y+1, and if <A><X> is greater than <B><Y>,
   then the reconnect request from <A><X> must he completed (or aborted)
   before the reconnection request from <B><Y> can be considered. This
   is achieved by requiring that the process with the higher
   <host><socket> number reply to the reconnect request of the other
   process with an <IAC><WONT><RECONNECT>, thereby canceling
   (temporarily) the reconnection attempted from the lower numbered
   <host><socket>. Since the request emanating from the higher
   <host><socket> process is given precedence, the process with the
   lower <host><socket> can reply to the reconnection request as if it
   had not issued a reconnection request of its own. That is, it may
   reply <IAC><WILL><RECONNECT> to accept the reconnection attempt or

   <IAC><WONT><RECONNECT> to refuse the attempt. This process should
   note, however, that the rejection it receives to its reconnect
   request is due to protocol requirement, and may not reflect the
   actual desire of the corresponding process. It should also note that
   its reconnection request may be re-issued after the first
   reconnection activity is complete. This is an example of a situation
   where an option change request can be re-issued after a denial,
   without a corresponding change in state.

   ASIDE:

   The usefulness of reconnection is severely limited by its
   specification as an option for Telnet (i.e., terminal like)
   connections, rather than as part of a host-host protocol, which would
   allow it to be applied to general connections. First, it is
   questionable whether most systems will allow a user task to maintain
   more than one Telnet connection. If not, a process on such a system
   can not readily initiate a reconnection request.

   Second, there are certain indirect benefits that would result from
   including reconnection in a host-host protocol. Placing it at that
   level could simplify some of the timing problems in establishing the
   new connection. For example, an NCP would be aware when a
   reconnection was in progress, and therefore would not need to act as
   hastily with an RFC for a socket currently in use (i.e., connection
   still open) but involved in the reconnection. Since it is dealing
   with another NCP directly, it can expect to receive the "reconnect go
   ahead" reasonably soon, barring system crash. Also, the information
   necessary to complete the reconnection subnegotiation is available at
   the NCP level, whereas it must be duplicately maintained by the
   Telnet service routine when the potential for reconnection exists.

   Finally, the entire notion of reconnection is framed in terms of the
   entities of host-host protocol. By placing it at a higher level
   without adequate provision at the host-host level, an artificial and
   rigid constraint is placed on the type of communication path, which
   may be part of a reconnection. Since host-host protocol is the basis
   for function oriented levels, the notion of redirecting communication
   paths certainly is more suited to the semantically uninterrupted
   realm of OPENing and CLOSEing connections, rather than the realm of
   "open an 8 bit ASCII path with the conventions that ..."

II.  IMPLEMENTATION DETAILS

   1. A process initiating a reconnection designates one of the object
      processes as passive (i.e., to listen for RFCs), and the other as
      active (i.e., to send RFCs). The reconnection protocol does not
      specify the assignment of the active/passive roles, so the process

      is free in its selection. However, information regarding the types
      of participants in the reconnection attempt may dictate a role
      selection which will contribute to the eventual successful
      completion of the reconnection. Ignoring such information could
      conceivably force cancellation of the attempt. Certain types of
      hosts (e.g., space limited TIPs) may be better suited for active
      participation, since it need not go through the procedure of
      verifying the identity of the sender. The passive process should
      go through such verification.  Other types of hosts (e.g., one
      whose NCP will not let an arbitrary process listen on a socket)
      may be better suited for the active role. As more systems
      implement the reconnection option, the preferences of various
      types of systems will become known, and more definitive rules may
      emerge.

   2. To avoid possible deadlock, the active (passive) process must
      simultaneously send (listen for) RFCs for both send and receive
      connections, which will form the new Telnet connection. Since the
      reconnection protocol does not specify an ordering for
      establishing the connections, it is important that passive
      processes listen in parallel on both the potential send and
      receive sockets, and that active processes send RFCs in parallel
      for both the potential send and receive sockets.

   3. There are two levels of error recovery involved in reconnection.
      One level is required to handle the conditions where network and
      system delays cause the attempt to establish the new connection to
      get out of synchrony (e.g., the RFC arrives at the passive host
      before the passive process listens), or cause system timeouts.
      When these conditions occur the sockets/connections should be
      returned to a state in which the faulting operation can be
      automatically retried. The second level of recovery involves the
      failure of all such attempts to establish communication with the
      active (passive) process, the duration of these attempts may be
      influenced by such factors as the recovery procedures available,
      and whether or not a human user is awaiting the outcome. Recovery
      at this point is difficult since the connections with the
      initiating process have already been broken. Attempts to connect
      to some reasonable alternative (perhaps local, perhaps attempting
      to connect back to the original source of the reconnection) should
      be initiated if second level error recovery is necessary,
      indicating complete reconnection failure.

   4. A useful addition to the reconnection mechanism would be the
      definition of a standard way to reestablish contact with the
      reconnection initiator on task termination (including can't
      complete reconnection).

III.  TENEX RELATED DETAILS

   The context for our experiments was that of a TIP user using a
   TIPSER/RSEXEC. The TIPSER/RSEXEC would first authenticate the TIP
   user and then serve as a command interpreter. Among the available
   commands was one called TELCONN (TELnet CONNect) for connecting to
   other sites for service. A TELCONN command would trigger an attempt
   by the TIPSER/RSEXEC to reconnect the "TIP" directly to the host,
   which was the target of the TELCONN request (normally this would
   usually be a logger process at the host). When the reconnection is
   completed, the TIP is directly connected to the new job, and the
   TIPSER/RSEXEC is completely eliminated from the communication path.
   To avoid programming the TIP, a TENEX process was used to simulate
   the TIP.

   Certain features of TENEX caused problems in creating the desired
   interaction between the TENEX jobs involved in the reconnection
   experiment. They are presented here because there may be similar
   problems in other systems.

   1. Along with the features supplied by the TENEX Telnet interface via
      the ATPTY system call (which transforms a pair of unused network
      connections into a Telnet connection pair), comes a loss of
      certain control functions. A program loses the ability to control
      when data is sent (i.e., loss of the use of the MTOPR system call
      to force transmission of buffered data), and can no longer
      determine the remote host/socket for the network connection (i.e.,
      GDSTS system call). In a highly interactive mode, such as option
      negotiation, short messages remaining in system buffers can result
      in a deadlock. A process must be able to override the buffering
      strategy at the conclusion of a logical message. Failure to have
      access to such a mechanism (e.g., MTOPR) requires that the
      connection be opened in a non-buffered mode, which is wasteful
      most of the time. Similarly, the inability to obtain the remote
      host/socket names of the connection requires that this information
      be remembered by the program for the duration of the connection in
      case it is needed. (This is the case despite the fact that the
      operating system maintains the information in any event. The need
      to access this information arises when we wish to reconnect the
      Telnet connection which linked the "TIP" to the TIPSER/RSEXEC.)

   2. There is no facility in TENEX for handling (initiating or
      responding to) Telnet options not recognized by the Telnet server.
      An interface between a user program and the option negotiation
      mechanism would be useful for testing new options and for
      implementing privates ones. Lack of this interface can be
      circumvented by switching the connection to binary mode
      transmission and reception. This works only if option negotiation

      is between two user processes (both aware of the binary
      transmission), since if a user process tried to negotiate with a
      system Telnet server obeying the binary transmission option, the
      required doubling of IACs for binary output would cause the
      request to be misinterpreted at the system Telnet.

   3. The switch to binary transmission requires two option
      negotiations. During this period data transfer is possible.
      However, the actual data transferred is dependent on the state of
      the negotiation at that point (e.g., depending upon the state, the
      IAC character may or may not be doubled). There does not seem to
      be a facility for alerting the process that the option has been
      accepted (rejected) and that all further transmissions will be in
      the new mode (binary). Perhaps suspending the process for the
      duration of the (timed out) option negotiation would eliminate
      this period of uncertainty in the mode switch. In TENEX, this
      could be coupled with pseudo-interrupts to note option negotiation
      failure for certain critical user initiated options.

   4. During peak load conditions, RFCs sent by the operating system
      (NCP) in response to program requests (OPENF system calls) were
      frequently timed out by the system. The passive process listening
      for the RFCs did not get rescheduled quickly enough to reply to
      the RFCs (acceptance or rejection) before they were timed out by
      the system. A confusing situation arose because of the difference
      in initiating the two connections (send and receive) that were to
      form the full-duplex path between the processes.  One OPENF
      specified immediate return, while the other waited for completion
      of the RFC. If both requests timed out, the states of the
      corresponding connections were different, and therefore the retry
      mechanism had to handle each differently (i.e., the "immediate
      return" connection had to he closed via CLOSF, whereas the other
      did not). This seems to be an unnecessary complication.  Also, the
      frequency of timeout during heavy load conditions may indicate
      that the RFC timeout interval is too short.

   5. In the TENEX user interface to the network there is no concept of
      logical messages when more than one process (fork) shares a
      network connection. Telnet option negotiation sequences are
      examples of strings, which must be sent in proper order, without
      interceding characters of any nature in order to have correct
      meaning. Even when a TENEX "string out" (SOUT) operation is
      executed by a process, which is indicative of some logical
      relationship between the characters of the string, the
      transmission is not guaranteed to be free from interference from
      other processes sending data over the same connection. (Multi-
      process organization for managing network connections is very
      common. One process is typically used to handle user output to the

      network, while another process reads data from the network and
      replies as required by protocol to certain network input).  These
      processes must synchronize on every output (and input) to assure
      the logical integrity of their messages. This synchronization
      would seem to be more suitably handled by the system routines,
      which manage network connections and handle string I/O.

          [ This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry ]
          [ into the online RFC archives by Alex McKenzie with    ]
          [ support from BBN Corp. and its successors.     7/2000 ]

 

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