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Socket Programming

Sockets provide point-to-point, two-way communication between two processes. Sockets are very versatile and are a basic component of interprocess and intersystem communication. A socket is an endpoint of communication to which a name can be bound. It has a type and one or more associated processes.

Sockets exist in communication domains. A socket domain is an abstraction that provides an addressing structure and a set of protocols. Sockets connect only with sockets in the same domain. Twenty three socket domains are identified (see <sys/socket.h>), of which only the UNIX and Internet domains are normally used Solaris 2.x Sockets can be used to communicate between processes on a single system, like other forms of IPC.

The UNIX domain provides a socket address space on a single system. UNIX domain sockets are named with UNIX paths. Sockets can also be used to communicate between processes on different systems. The socket address space between connected systems is called the Internet domain.

Internet domain communication uses the TCP/IP internet protocol suite.

Socket types define the communication properties visible to the application. Processes communicate only between sockets of the same type. There are five types of socket.

A stream socket

— provides two-way, sequenced, reliable, and unduplicated flow of data with no record boundaries. A stream operates much like a telephone conversation. The socket type is SOCK_STREAM, which, in the Internet domain, uses Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).


A datagram socket

— supports a two-way flow of messages. A on a datagram socket may receive messages in a different order from the sequence in which the messages were sent. Record boundaries in the data are preserved. Datagram sockets operate much like passing letters back and forth in the mail. The socket type is SOCK_DGRAM, which, in the Internet domain, uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP).

A sequential packet socket

— provides a two-way, sequenced, reliable, connection, for datagrams of a fixed maximum length. The socket type is SOCK_SEQPACKET. No protocol for this type has been implemented for any protocol family.

A raw socket

provides access to the underlying communication protocols.

These sockets are usually datagram oriented, but their exact characteristics depend on the interface provided by the protocol.

Socket Creation and Naming

                int socket(int domain, int type, int protocol) is called to create a socket in the specified domain and of the specified type. If a protocol is not specified, the system defaults to a protocol that supports the specified socket type. The socket handle (a descriptor) is returned. A remote process has no way to identify a socket until an address is bound to it. Communicating processes connect through addresses. In the UNIX domain, a connection is usually composed of one or two path names. In the Internet domain, a connection is composed of local and remote addresses and local and remote ports. In most domains, connections must be unique.

int bind(int s, const struct sockaddr *name, int namelen) is called to bind a path or        internet address to a socket. There are three different ways to call bind(), depending on the domain of the socket.

·                     For UNIX domain sockets with paths containing 14, or fewer characters, you can:

·    #include <sys/socket.h>
·     ... 
·    bind (sd, (struct sockaddr *) &addr, length);

·                     If the path of a UNIX domain socket requires more characters, use:

·    #include <sys/un.h> 
·    ... 
·    bind (sd, (struct sockaddr_un *) &addr, length); 

·                     For Internet domain sockets, use

·    #include <netinet/in.h>
·    ... 
·    bind (sd, (struct sockaddr_in *) &addr, length);

In the UNIX domain, binding a name creates a named socket in the file system. Use unlink() or rm () to remove the socket.

Connecting Stream Sockets

Connecting sockets is usually not symmetric. One process usually acts as a server and the other process is the client. The server binds its socket to a previously agreed path or address. It then blocks on the socket. For a SOCK_STREAM socket, the server calls int listen(int s, int backlog) , which specifies how many connection requests can be queued. A client initiates a connection to the server’s socket by a call to int connect(int s, struct sockaddr *name, int namelen) . A UNIX domain call is like this:

struct sockaddr_un server; 
connect (sd, (struct sockaddr_un *)&server, length);

while an Internet domain call would be:

struct sockaddr_in; 
connect (sd, (struct sockaddr_in *)&server, length);

If the client’s socket is unbound at the time of the connect call, the system automatically selects and binds a name to the socket. For a SOCK_STREAM socket, the server calls accept(3N) to complete the connection.

int accept(int s, struct sockaddr *addr, int *addrlen) returns a new socket descriptor which is valid only for the particular connection. A server can have multiple SOCK_STREAM connections active at one time.

Stream Data Transfer and Closing

Several functions to send and receive data from a SOCK_STREAM socket. These are write(), read(), int send(int s, const char *msg, int len, int flags), and int recv(int s, char *buf, int len, int flags). send() and recv() are very similar to read() and write(), but have some additional operational flags.

The flags parameter is formed from the bitwise OR of zero or more of the following:


— Send “out-of-band” data on sockets that support this notion. The underlying protocol must also support “out-of-band” data. Only SOCK_STREAM sockets created in the AF_INET address family support out-of-band data.


— The SO_DONTROUTE option is turned on for the duration of the operation. It is used only by diagnostic or routing pro- grams.


— “Peek” at the data present on the socket; the data is returned, but not consumed, so that a subsequent receive operation will see the same data.

A SOCK_STREAM socket is discarded by calling close().

Datagram sockets

A datagram socket does not require that a connection be established. Each message carries the destination address. If a particular local address is needed, a call to bind() must precede any data transfer. Data is sent through calls to sendto() or sendmsg(). The sendto() call is like a send() call with the destination address also specified. To receive datagram socket messages, call recvfrom() or recvmsg(). While recv() requires one buffer for the arriving data, recvfrom() requires two buffers, one for the incoming message and another to receive the source address.

Datagram sockets can also use connect() to connect the socket to a specified destination socket. When this is done, send() and recv() are used to send and receive data.

accept() and listen() are not used with datagram sockets.


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