New Protocol Plugins

The new protocol APIs enable you to extend Traffic Server to be a web proxy for any protocol. This chapter describes new protocol APIs and the plugins that support new protocols. It also provides a detailed review of code for a sample Protocol plugin that supports a very simple artificial HTTP-like protocol.

About the Sample Protocol

The sample protocol enables a client to ask a server for a file. Clients send requests to a specific Traffic Server port (specified in plugin.config); each request has the following structure:

server_name file_name

Using the Protocol plugin, Traffic Server can accept these requests, parse them, and act as a proxy cache (i.e., request the file from the origin server on the client’s behalf and store copies of response messages in cache). The Protocol plugin is a state machine that flows through the states illustrated in the Sample Protocol State Diagram. This figure illustrates the steps that Traffic Server and the Protocol plugin go through in order to support the sample protocol.

In more specific terms, Traffic Server and the Protocol plugin must:

  • Listen for and accept client connections (on the accept port specified in plugin.config)
  • Read incoming client requests
  • Look up the requested content in the Traffic Server cache
  • Serve content from cache if the request is a cache hit (this simple example does not do freshness checking)
  • Open a connection to the origin server if the request is a cache miss (on the server port specified in plugin.config)
  • Forward the request to the origin server
  • Receive the origin server response
  • Cache the response and send it on to the client

Sample Protocol State Diagram

Sample Protocol State Diagram

Sample Protocol State Diagram

Protocol Plugin Structure

To see how the Protocol plugin works, you need to understand some broader concepts. This section assumes you’re familiar with the concepts of continuation, Traffic Server’s asynchronous event model, and basic Traffic Server plugin structure. If you are not familiar with these concepts, then you may want to begin with the Getting Started section.

Continuations in the Protocol Plugin

The Protocol plugin creates a static continuation that is an “accept” state machine - that is, a state machine whose job is to accept client connections on the appropriate port. When Traffic Server accepts a net connection from a client on that port, the accept state machine is activated. It then creates a new continuation: a transaction state machine. The accept state machine creates one transaction state machine for each transaction (where a transaction consists of a client request and Traffic Server’s response). Each transaction state machine lives until the transaction completes; then it is destroyed. If the client’s request for content is a cache miss, then a transaction state machine might need to open a connection to the origin server. This is illustrated in the Protocol Plugin Overview diagram below.

Protocol Plugin Overview

Protocol Plugin Overview

Protocol Plugin Overview

The first steps for writing the Protocol plugin are now clear: in TSPluginInit, you must create a continuation that listens for net connections on the client port specified in plugin.config (this continuation is the accept state machine).

Below is a summary of the continuations implemented for the Protocol plugin:

  • An accept state machine that listens for client connections, and then creates transaction state machines whenever Traffic Server accepts a new client connection. The accept state machine lives as long as Traffic Server is running.
  • Transaction state machines that read client requests, process them, and are then destroyed when the transaction is finished.

Event Flow

Implementing the rest of the Protocol plugin requires that you understand the flow of events during the course of a transaction. Unlike HTTP transaction plugins, this plugin must read data from network connections and then read/write data to the Traffic Server cache. This means that its continuations do not receive HTTP state machine events; they receive events from Traffic Server’s processor subsystems. For example: the accept state machine is activated by an TS_EVENT_NET_ACCEPT event from Traffic Server’s Net Processor; the handler function for the accept state machine must therefore be able to handle that event.

The transaction state machines are activated when the client connection receives incoming request data. The Net Processor notifies the transaction state machine of incoming data. The transaction state machine reads the data; when finished, it initiates a cache lookup of the requested file. When the cache lookup completes, the transaction state machine is activated by the Traffic Server Cache Processor.

If the transaction state machine needs to open a connection to the origin server to fetch content (in the case of a cache miss), then the transaction state machine initiates a DNS lookup of the server name. The transaction state machine is activated by a DNS lookup event from the Traffic Server Host Database Processor. If the transaction must connect to the origin server, then the transaction state machine initiates a net connection and waits for an event from the Net Processor.

Protocol Plugin Flow of Events

Protocol Plugin Flow of Events

Protocol Plugin Flow of Events

The flow of events is illustrated in the Protocol Plugin Flow of Events diagram above. The thin straight lines show Net Processor event flow, the thin dashed lines represent Host Database event flow, and the thick dashed lines show Cache event flow.

Notice that this flow of events is independent of the Protocol plugin’s design (i.e., whether you build accept or transaction state machines). Any plugin that supports network connections uses the net vconnection interfaces (TSNetAccept(), TSNetConnect()) and thus receives events from the Net Processor. Any plugin that performs cache lookups or cache writes uses TSCacheRead(), TSCacheWrite(), TSVConnRead(), and TSVConnWrite() and thus receives events from the Cache Processor and Traffic Server event system. Similarly, any plugin that does DNS lookups receives events from the Host Database Processor.

One Way to Implement a Transaction State Machine

Transaction state machines (TSMs) in the Protocol plugin must do the following:

  • Keep track of the state of the transaction
  • Handle events received (based on the state of the transaction and the event received)
  • Update the state of the transaction as it changes

Below is one way you can implement TSMs. Details about how the Protocol plugin does this are provided in the next section.

  • Create a data structure for transactions that contains all of the state data you need to keep track of. In the Protocol plugin this is a struct, Txn_SM.
  • When you create the TSM’s continuation, initialize data of type Txn_SM. Initialize the data to the initial state of a transaction (in this case, a net connection has just been accepted). Associate this data to the TSM continuation using TSContDataSet.
  • Write state handler functions that handle the expected events for each state.
  • Write the handler for the TSM. Its job is to receive events, examine the current state, and execute the appropriate state handler function. In the Protocol plugin, the handler is main_handler. main_handler calls the state handler functions to handle each state.

The steps below describe the flow of execution illustrated in “How Transaction State Machines are Implemented in the Protocol Plugin”.

  1. The handler for the TSM, (called main_handler in the Protocol plugin) receives events from the TSM.
  2. main_handler examines the state of the transaction-in particular, it examines the current handler.
  3. main_handler calls the current_handler (which is one of the state handler functions), and then passes the current event to current_handler. In the image below below, the current handler is called state2_handler.
  4. The current_handler handles the event and updates the data. In the image below below, the state is changed from state2 to state3 (and the current handler is changed from state2_handler to state3_handler). The next time main_handler receives an event, it will be processed by state3_handler.
  5. state2_handler arranges the next callback of the TSM. Typically, it gives Traffic Server additional work to do (such as writing a file to cache) so that it can progress to the next state. The TSM (main_handler) then waits for the next event to arrive from Traffic Server.

How Transaction State Machines are Implemented in the Protocol Plugin

How Transaction State Machines are Implemented in the Protocol Plugin

How Transaction State Machines are Implemented in the Protocol Plugin

Processing a Typical Transaction

The code is contained in the following files:

  • Protocol.c and Protocol.h
  • TxnSM.c and TxnSM.h

Below is a step-by-step walk-through of the code that processes a typical transaction.

  1. The TSPluginInit() function is in the Protocol.c file. It checks the validity of the plugin.config entries (there must be two: a client accept port and a server port) and runs an initialization routine, init.
  2. The init function (in Protocol.c) creates the plugin’s log file using TSTextLogObjectCreate().
  3. The init function creates the accept state machine using AcceptCreate. The code for AcceptCreate is in the Accept.c file.
  4. The init function arranges the callback of the accept state machine when there is a network connection by using TSNetAccept().
  5. The handler for the accept state machine is accept_handler in the Protocol.c file. When Traffic Server’s Net Processor sends TS_EVENT_NET_ACCEPT to the accept state machine, accept_handler creates a transaction state machine (txn_sm) by calling TxnSMCreate. Notice that accept_event creates a mutex for the transaction state machine, since each transaction state machine has its own mutex.
  6. The TxnSMCreate function is in the TxnSM.c file. The first thing it does is initialize the transaction’s data, which is of type TxnSM (as defined in TxnSM.h). Notice that the current handler (q_current_handler) is set to state_start.
  7. TxnSMCreate then creates a transaction state machine using :c:func`TSContCreate`. The handler for the transaction state machine is main_handler, which is in the TxnSM.c file.
  8. When accept_event receives TS_EVENT_NET_ACCEPT, it calls the transaction state machine ( TSContCall (txn_sm, 0, NULL); ). The event passed to main_handler is 0 (TS_EVENT_NONE).
  9. The first thing main_handler does is examine the current txn_sm state by calling TSContDataGet(). The state is state_start.
  10. main_handler then invokes the handler for state_start by using the function pointer TxnSMHandler (as defined in TxnSM.h).
  11. The state_start handler function (in the TxnSM.c file) is handed an event (at this stage, the event is TS_EVENT_NET_ACCEPT) and a client vconnection. state_start checks to see if this client vconnection is closed; if it is not, then state_start attempts to read data from the client vconnection into an TSIOBuffer (state_start is handling the event it receives).
  12. state_start changes the current handler to state_interface_with_client (that is, it updates the state of the transaction to the next state).
  13. state_start initiates a read of the client vconnection (arranges for Traffic Server to send TS_EVENT_VCONN_READ_READY events to the TSM) by calling TSVConnRead().
  14. state_interface_with_client is activated by the next event from Traffic Server. It checks for errors and examines the read VIO for the read operation initiated by TSVConnRead().
  15. If the read VIO is the client_read_VIO (which we are expecting at this stage in the transaction), then state_interface_with_client updates the state to state_read_request_from_client .
  16. state_read_request_from_client handles actual TS_EVENT_VCONN_READ_READY events and reads the client request.
  17. state_read_request_from_client parses the client request.
  18. state_read_request_from_client updates the current state to the next state, state_handle_cache_lookup .
  19. state_read_request_from_client arranges for Traffic Server to call back the TSM with the next set of events (initiating the cache lookup) by calling TSCacheRead().
  20. When the TSCacheRead() sends the TSM either TS_EVENT_CACHE_OPEN_READ (a cache hit) or TS_EVENT_CACHE_OPEN_READ_FAILED (a cache miss), main_handler calls state_handle_cache_lookup.