Skip to main content

Processing Multiple Replies for One Request in NETCONF

The information below is for an old version of the document.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft whose latest revision state is "Expired".
Authors Bing Liu , Guangying Zheng , Mahesh Jethanandani , Kent Watsen
Last updated 2015-03-09
RFC stream (None)
Stream Stream state (No stream defined)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
RFC Editor Note (None)
IESG IESG state I-D Exists
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
netconf                                                           B. Liu
Internet-Draft                                                  G. Zheng
Intended status: Standards Track                     Huawei Technologies
Expires: September 10, 2015                              M. Jethanandani
                                                       Ciena Corporation
                                                               K. Watsen
                                                        Juniper Networks
                                                           March 9, 2015

         Processing Multiple Replies for One Request in NETCONF


   This document discusses several scenarios that multiple replies for a
   single request are needed, with the ability to terminate the replies
   at any time.  Such scenarios are not well supported by current
   NETCONF (Network Configuration) protocol.  Several solution
   candidates are also discussed in this document.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on September 10, 2015.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2015 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 1]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Requirements Language and Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Scenarios and Problems  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.1.  Bulk <rpc-reply>  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.2.  Persistent <rpc-reply>  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.3.  Long time <rpc-reply> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Requriments for NETCONF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Candidate Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     5.1.  Fragmentation Mechanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       5.1.1.  Design Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       5.1.2.  <get-block> extention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.2.  Linked Replies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     5.3.  Subtree Iteration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   8.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   9.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Appendix A.  Examples of the Candidate Solutions  . . . . . . . .   9
     A.1.  <get-next> (RPC Fragmentation) Example  . . . . . . . . .   9
     A.2.  Linked-replies Example  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     A.3.  <get-list> (Subtree Iteration) Example  . . . . . . . . .  11
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13

1.  Introduction

   The message procedures of NETCONF [RFC6241] are based on RPC (Remote
   Procedure Call) interactions.  A NETCONF client/server sends a <rpc>
   message to the counterpart and then receives a replying <rpc-reply>

   In some situations, it might need multiple <rpc-reply> messages for a
   <rpc> request.  For example, the the <rpc-reply> message might be
   very large that it needs to be fragmented into multiple small ones;
   or some operations (e.g. ping) need persistent replies till such time
   that a terminaing condition is encountered or when the operation is

   This document discusses such kind of multiple replies scenarios,
   analyzes the issues of current NETCONF protocol in supporting these
   scenarios, and proposes several candidate solutions for discussion.

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 2]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

2.  Requirements Language and Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   [RFC2119] when they appear in ALL CAPS.  When these words are not in
   ALL CAPS (such as "should" or "Should"), they have their usual
   English meanings, and are not to be interpreted as [RFC2119] key


   CLI: Command Line interface

   DOM: Document Object Model, which is a cross-platform and language-
   independent convention for representing and interacting with objects
   in HTML, XHTML and XML documents.  Objects in the DOM tree may be
   addressed and manipulated by using methods on the objects.

   RPC: Remote Procedure Call

   SAX: Simple API for XML, which is an event sequential access parser
   API developed by the XML-DEV mailing list for XML documents.  SAX
   provides a mechanism for reading data from an XML document that is an
   alternative to that provided by the DOM.  Where the DOM operates on
   the document as a whole, SAX parsers operate on each piece of the XML
   document sequentially.

   libxml: a software library for parsing XML documents.

   <get-block>: a capability and operation defined in this document to
   handle large size <rpe-reply> messages.

3.  Scenarios and Problems

   This section discusses several scenarios where multiple replies might
   be needed, and anylizes the problems of current NETCONF protocol in
   supporting these scenarios.

3.1.  Bulk <rpc-reply>

   The <rpc-reply> message might be very large in following situations:

   o  retrieving a large amount of routes in a core router

   o  retrieving a large interface statistics list

   o  doing a full-synchronizing with a device

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 3]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

   Current we already have some methods of processing bulk replies as
   the following.  However, there are some issues as analyzed below.

   1) Stream-Oriented Handling

   Stream-Oriented handling mainly includes the following two aspects:

   o  The server encapsulates the large size replying data in a <rpc-
      reply> message and streams it to the client through TCP protocol.

   o  The client parses the received <rpc-reply> content in a stream-
      oriented way.  More specifically, the client could utilize SAX
      parsing to instantly parse the received content without waiting
      for the whole message been transported.

   The problems are:

   o  Stream-Oriented method lacks the capability of discontinuing large
      size processing in the server.  It would cause unnecessary
      resource/performance cost in the devices if the NMS has already
      got the intended portion or just canceled by the administrators.

   o  Another problem is the implementation of SAX parsing is more
      complex than DOM parsing in the Netconf client.  More computing
      burden will be taken in Netconf client to support SAX parsing.

   2) Requesting a Portion of Data

   The clients actively limit the search range of the data so that the
   servers only need to reply with a part of the large size data.  Thus
   the clients could control the replies in a reasonable size.  One
   example is that the clients get a list of the content, and provide a
   start offset and a max-count, to get a portion at a time.

   The problems are:

   o  This method has an implication that the client needs to know the
      list/index of the intended large size data in advance before it
      starting the search request.  It can't fit the scenarios of real-
      time on-demand data retrieving.  And there is no standard to
      specify the list/index format in a uniform way.  Thus it is only
      suitable for private implementation, thus multi-vendor interaction
      is not supported.

   o  More important, it is just an indirect way to solve the problem.
      It could not fit the scenarios where the client just needs the
      whole large size data in the server.

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 4]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

3.2.  Persistent <rpc-reply>

   One of the operations that CLI offers today is the ability to issue
   an operation that might result in multiple responses being returned,
   till such time that a terminaing condition is encountered or when the
   operation is cancelled.  An example of such an operation is when the
   ping or a traceroute command is issued.  In the former case, the
   operation can continue sending responses back till it is cancelled,
   while in the latter case there is usually a terminating condition
   that stops the responses.

   NETCONF protocol as defined today sends a single Remote Procedure
   Call (RPC) request and expects a single reply to that request.  The
   "persistent" operation defined above expects multiple responses for a
   single request, till such time a terminating condition is

3.3.  Long time <rpc-reply>

   Some operations might take a long time to perform (e.g. network link
   performance validation), so there could be multiple responses for the
   request.  For example, initial responses returns handle which the
   client uses to monitor progress till the final result.  The client
   should be able to cancel the request at any time.

4.  Requriments for NETCONF

   Given above mentioned multiple-replies scenarios and problems, the
   requriments for NETCONF protocol could be summarized as a mechanism
   with the following abilities:

   o  be able to generate and handle multiple <rpc-reply> messages for a
      given <rpc> message

   o  be able to terminate the <rpc-reply> at any time

   o  be able to cancel the request in pipeline scenarios

5.  Candidate Solutions

   (Editor notes: this section discusses several possible solutions.
   The fragmentation mechanism is the original proposal of the draft.
   The other two were proposed during mailing list discussion by Andy
   Bierman and Juergen Schoenwaelder respectively.  We include all of
   them for discussion and solution selection.)

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 5]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

5.1.  Fragmentation Mechanism

   This section proposes a method of extending the NETCONF protocol to
   allow handling large size data as fragmented <rpc-reply> messages.
   The fragmentation is done at the NETCONF level, so it allows the
   NETCONF client to terminate the large size data processing
   momentarily by protocol interactions; and also allows the fragmented
   messages to be instantly parsed piece by piece.  Specifically, the
   fragmentation is achieved through a newly defined <get-block>
   capability and relevant operations.

5.1.1.  Design Requirements

   Two essential requirements of the fragmentation mechanism are:

   o  It needs to allow the NETCONF client to terminate the large size
      data processing momentarily by protocol interactions.  In the
      proposed mechanisms in this draft, when the NETCONF server replies
      the client an <rpc-reply> fragmentation, it will wait the response
      from the client that whether it needs to send the next
      fragmentation.  So if the initiator has got the intended portion,
      it could terminate the large size process immediately.

   o  It needs to allow the NETCONF client to instantly parse the
      fragmentations piece by piece through the more widely supported
      DOM parsing.  So in this document, it specifies that each <rpc-
      reply> fragmentation MUST be in a complete XML form.

5.1.2.  <get-block> extention

   o Function

      The devices can only use <get-block> operation when the Get-block
      capability was announced.

      The <get-block> fragmentation rules are:

      A.  There should be a Max-Size for fragmentation.  [Open
          Question]Should there be a clear specification of the size?
          E.g. 64K bytes.

      B.  When the message reaches the Max-Size, it is sent to the
          client and the next message could be created in advance.

      C.  Different records from one same table could be put into
          different <rpc-reply> messages

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 6]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

      D.  All of the fields in one record MUST be put into one <rpc-
          reply> message.

      E.  XML syntax MUST be complete in each fragmented message, so
          that each fragmentation could be parsed individually.

      F.  If the record(s) of the child node(s)/table(s) and the parent
          node(s)/table(s) are replied in different fragmentations, the
          child node/table fragmentations MUST include the path and
          index information of all the ancestor node(s)/table(s) in a
          hierarchical mode.

   o Parameters

      <discard/>: in <get-block> operation, if the <discard/> parameter
      is conveyed, it means the operation is terminated.  Then it
      doesn't need to reply the remaining fragmentations.

   o Successful Operation Reply

      A <rpc-reply> message conveying a <data> element indicates the
      operation is successful.

      If there exists a next fragment, then an set-id attribute MUST be
      included in the <rpc-reply> messge.  The attribute set-id is used
      to identify different fragment sets.

   o Exception Handling

      After the NETCONF server replies a fragment, if there is no
      corresponding Get-block request from the client in a reasonable
      period (the time valued to be specified in the future), then the
      server release the offset of the replying data and cannot use
      <get-block> operation anymore, and the remaining data needs to be

   Please refer to Appendix A.1 for an example.

5.2.  Linked Replies

   Another solution is to change or augment NETCONF at some point in
   time such that an <rpc> can lead to a sequence of <rpc-reply> with a
   suitable cancel mechanism.  A simple approach is to add a linked-
   replies capability.  If a server announces "linked-replies"
   capablility and the client supports it as well, the client can add an
   additional parameter to an rpc to indicate the possible use of

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 7]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

   Please refer to Appendix A.2 for an example.

   This would address the concern of large data retrievals but would
   also allow long running asynchronous rpcs (the ping or traceroute
   example).  This approach may lead to better support for asynchronous
   rpcs and rpcs that potentially return very large chunks of data than
   trying to solve this problem without enhancements of the rpc layer.
   Design details concerning data merging, error handling, how to send a
   cancel for a given link-id (e.g., by sending a new <rpc-cancel>
   message with a matching link-id) and whether it is necessary to
   negotiate linked rpc-reply sizes or whether it is good enough for the
   server to decide freely as it likes etc. need further study.

5.3.  Subtree Iteration

   An "iterator" approach allows a list resource to be retrieved in
   chunks.  An RPC function could be added to do the iteration

   Please refer to Appendix A.3 for an example.

   There is a problem with rapidly changing lists (could get repeat
   entries on miss some entries).

   (Editor's note: this solution is specifically for bulk response
   problem.  It doesn't support persistent response and long time
   response since it follows one <rpc> and one <rpc-reply> approach.)

6.  Security Considerations


7.  IANA Considerations

   This draft does not request any IANA action.

8.  Acknowledgements

   Gang Yan and Shouchuan Yang made significant contribution to form the
   draft.  Valuable comments were received from Andy Bierman, Juergen
   Schoenwaelder, Balazs Lengyel, Martin Bjorklund, Chong Feng and some
   other people in Netconf working group.

   This document was produced using the xml2rfc tool [RFC2629].
   (initiallly prepared using  )

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 8]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

9.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [RFC2629]  Rose, M., "Writing I-Ds and RFCs using XML", RFC 2629,
              June 1999.

   [RFC6241]  Enns, R., Bjorklund, M., Schoenwaelder, J., and A.
              Bierman, "Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF)", RFC
              6241, June 2011.

Appendix A.  Examples of the Candidate Solutions

A.1.  <get-next> (RPC Fragmentation) Example

Example 1: Get the next fragment
     <rpc message-id="101"
         <filter type="subtree">
           <top xmlns="">

     <rpc-reply message-id="101"
         <top xmlns="">
               <full-name>Charlie Root</full-name>
             <!-- additional <user> elements appear here... -->

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015               [Page 9]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015


<rpc message-id="102"
       <get-block xmlns=""
     <rpc-reply message-id="102"
         <top xmlns="">
               <full-name>Jim Green</full-name>
             <!-- additional <user> elements appear here... -->

Example 2: Abandon the remaining fragments
     <rpc message-id="103"
       <get-block xmlns=
        /1.0 set-id="1">

     <rpc-reply message-id="103"

Example 3: Following is an example of the rule f in Section 4.1.2.

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015              [Page 10]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

The child eTable is in a different message with the parents
aTable->bTable->cTable->dTable. Then the path and index information
of all the ancestors MUST included in the search data.


A.2.  Linked-replies Example

Here is what a new client might do if it wants to use linked replies:

<rpc message-id="101" link-id="123" xmlns="...">

The server can either simply send an rpc-reply or it starts sending
linked replies, e.g.:

<rpc-reply message-id="101" next-message-id="101" link-id="123" xmlns="...">

<rpc-reply message-id="101" next-message-id="101" link-id="124" xmlns="...">

<rpc-reply message-id="101" link-id="125" xmlns="...">

A.3.  <get-list> (Subtree Iteration) Example

      rpc get-list {
        input {
          leaf target {
             type schema-instance-identifier;

Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015              [Page 11]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

             description "Identifies subtree to retrieve.";
         leaf start {
            type uint32;
            default 0;
            description "Number of entries to skip before starting
         leaf max-entries {
           type uint32 { range "1..max"; }
           default 25;
           description "Maximum number of list entries to retrieve";
       output {
          anyxml data {
             description "Contains the requested data";


              <interface>   .... first entry </interface>
              <interface>   .... 25th entry </interface>



Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015              [Page 12]
Internet-Draft    draft-liu-netconf-multiple-replies-00       March 2015

              <interface>   .... 26th entry </interface>
              <interface>   .... 50th entry </interface>

Authors' Addresses

   Bing Liu
   Huawei Technologies
   Q14, Huawei Campus, No.156 Beiqing Road
   Hai-Dian District, Beijing, 100095
   P.R. China


   Guangying Zheng
   Huawei Technologies
   Huawei Nanjing R&D Center
   101 Software Avenue, Yuhua District, Nanjing, Jiangsu, 210012
   P.R. China


   Mahesh Jethanandani
   Ciena Corporation
   3939 North 1st Street
   San Jose, CA  95134

   Phone: 408.904.2160
   Fax:   408.436.5582

   Kent Watsen
   Juniper Networks


Liu, et al.            Expires September 10, 2015              [Page 13]