DNET - Netman

netman was the main component of DNET. It was a DNIX Handler, usually mounted on /netphys, and was responsible for providing all Layer 2 and Layer 3 X.25 protocol handling. It talked to the Ethernet and HDLC device drivers. It also provided the service name registry, and the WAN gateway functionality. Resident servers could also utilize, at their instigation, a Layer 3 protocol stack (called 'serverprot') between themselves and netman, allowing them to support up to 4095 client connections through one file descriptor (to netman). Such servers were called complex resident servers, so named in honor of the relatively complicated (though not large) bit of protocol code that had to be included to handle the multiplexing and flow control. Simple resident and transient servers consumed a file descriptor per client connection. It was possible to run more than one netman process, for testing or other special purposes. (Such a process would be configured to use different Ethertype and handler mount points, at a minimum.) The /usr/lib/net/servtab file was the usual location for the configuration file controlling WAN configuration and transient servers.

Client applications would open /netphys/servicename, this would normally result in an open connection to a server somewhere, possibly even on the same machine. Resident servers would open /netphys/listen/servicename, this would register their service name with netman. Transient servers were pre-registered via their entry in servtab, and would be forked/execed with their connection already established by netman. Machine-specific services (such as ncu---network login) would contain the machine name as part of the service name, installation-specific services (such as dmap---a site's machine status servers) would not.

Service name resolution was handled entirely between netman processes. A client's representative would multicast the desired service name to the network using a MUI extension to X.25. Responses indicating server availability would be directed (not multicast) back by potential server representatives. When there was more than one respondent to the multicast (as was normal for, say, dmap) the first one would be selected for opening a connection. Only one server was ever contacted per client service request. As with all UI-class messages in X.25, packet loss was possible, so the MUI process was conducted up to three times if there was no response.

The X.25-ness of connections, namely datagram control, was exposed to applications (both client and server) as an extra control byte at the beginning of each read and write through a connection. As was customary in network header processing, this byte was usually accessed at a -1 offset within any application's networking code, only the buffer allocation and the read(2)/write(2) calls were usually aware of it. This byte contained the X.25 M, D, and Q bits (for More, Delivery, and Qualifier). DNET never implemented the D (delivery confirmation) bit, but the other two were useful, particularly the M bit. The M bits were how datagrams were delimited. A byte-stream application could safely ignore them. Any read with a clear M bit indicated that the read result contained an entire datagram and could be safely processed. Reads that were too small to contain an entire datagram would get the part that would fit into the buffer, with the M bit set. M bits would continue to be set on reads until a read contained the end of the original datagram. Datagrams were never packed together, you could get at most one per read. Any write with the M bit set would propagate to the other end with the M bit set, indicating to the other end that it should not process the data yet as it was incomplete. (The network was free to coalesce M'd data at its discretion.) The usual application merely wrote an entire datagram at once with a clear M bit, and was coupled with a small read loop to accumulate entire datagrams before delivery to the rest of an application. (Though not often required due to automatic fragmentation and reassembly within the protocol stack, this protective loop ensured that allowable exposed fragmentation was never harmful.) The Q bit was a simple marker, and could be used to mark 'special' datagrams. In effect it was a single header bit that could be used to mark metadata.

Out-of-band (OOB) data, which bypassed all buffering, flow control, and delivery confirmation was accomplished via DNIX's ioctl mechanism. It was limited (per X.25) to 32 bytes of data. (Asynchronous I/O reads were usually utilized so that out of band data could be caught at any time.) As with UDP, it was possible to lose OOB data, but this normally could only happen if it was overutilized. (The lack of a reader waiting for it resulted in OOB data being discarded.)

flow control was accomplished within the network (between netman processes, and possibly involving external X.25 WAN links) using the usual X.25 mechanisms. It was exposed to the applications only insofar as whether the network data reads and writes blocked or not. If a request could be satisfied via the buffering abilities of the netman handler and/or the current state of the connection it would be satisfied immediately without blocking. If the buffering were exceeded the request would block until the buffers could satisfy what remained of the request. Naturally, Asynchronous I/O could be used to insulate the process from this blocking if it would be a problem. Also, complex resident servers used the 'serverprot' X.25 flow control mechanisms internally to avoid ever blocking on their single network file descriptor, this was vital considering that the file descriptor was shared by up to 4095 client connections.

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