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TFTP Blocksize Option

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 2348.
Authors Gary S. Malkin , Art Harkin
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 1998-03-17)
RFC stream Legacy stream
Stream Legacy state (None)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
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IESG IESG state RFC 2348 (Draft Standard)
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draft-malkin-tftpexts-blksize-opt-02.txt        G. Malkin / Bay Networks
TFTP Blocksize Option                    A. Harkin / Hewlett Packard Co.
Obsoletes RFC 1783                                          January 1998

                         TFTP Blocksize Option


   The Trivial File Transfer Protocol [1] is a simple, lock-step, file
   transfer protocol which allows a client to get or put a file onto a
   remote host.  One of its primary uses is the booting of diskless
   nodes on a Local Area Network.  TFTP is used because it is very
   simple to implement in a small node's limited ROM space.  However,
   the choice of a 512-octet blocksize is not the most efficient for use
   on a LAN whose MTU may 1500 octets or greater.

   This document describes a TFTP option which allows the client and
   server to negotiate a blocksize more applicable to the network
   medium.  The TFTP Option Extension mechanism is described in [2].

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
   and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.

   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."

   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
   "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
   Directories on (US East Coast),
   (Europe), (US West Coast), or (Pacific

Blocksize Option Specification

   The TFTP Read Request or Write Request packet is modified to include
   the blocksize option as follows.  Note that all fields except "opc"
   are NULL-terminated.

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      |  opc  |filename| 0 |  mode  | 0 | blksize| 0 | #octets| 0 |

         The opcode field contains either a 1, for Read Requests, or 2,
         for Write Requests, as defined in [1].

         The name of the file to be read or written, as defined in [1].

         The mode of the file transfer: "netascii", "octet", or "mail",
         as defined in [1].

         The Blocksize option, "blksize" (case in-sensitive).

         The number of octets in a block, specified in ASCII.  Valid
         values range between "8" and "65464" octets, inclusive.  The
         blocksize refers to the number of data octets; it does not
         include the four octets of TFTP header.

   For example:

      |   1   | foobar | 0 | binary | 0 | blksize| 0 |  1428  | 0 |

   is a Read Request, for the file named "foobar", in binary transfer
   mode, with a block size of 1428 octets (Ethernet MTU, less the TFTP,
   UDP and IP header lengths).

   If the server is willing to accept the blocksize option, it sends an
   Option Acknowledgment (OACK) to the client.  The specified value must
   be less than or equal to the value specified by the client.  The
   client must then either use the size specified in the OACK, or send
   an ERROR packet, with error code 8, to terminate the transfer.

   The rules for determining the final packet are unchanged from [1].
   The reception of a data packet with a data length less than the
   negotiated blocksize is the final packet.  If the blocksize is
   greater than the amount of data to be transfered, the first packet is
   the final packet.  If the amount of data to be transfered is an
   integral multiple of the blocksize, an extra data packet containing
   no data is sent to end the transfer.

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Proof of Concept

   Performance tests were run on the prototype implementation using a
   variety of block sizes.  The tests were run on a lightly loaded
   Ethernet, between two HP-UX 9000, in "octet" mode, on 2.25MB files.
   The average (5x) transfer times for paths with (g-time) and without
   (n-time) a intermediate gateway are graphed as follows:

        37 +      g
        35 +
        33 +
        31 +
        29 +
        27 +
           |             g              blocksize   n-time   g-time
        25 +                            ---------   ------   ------
      s    |       n                      512       23.85    37.05
      e 23 +                g            1024       16.15    25.65
      c    |                             1428       13.70    23.10
      o 21 +                             2048       10.90    16.90
      n    |                             4096        6.85     9.65
      d 19 +                             8192        4.90     6.15
      s    |
        17 +                    g
           |             n
        15 +
           |                n
        13 +
        11 +                    n
           |                           g
         9 +
         7 +                           n
           |                                  g
         5 +                                  n
         0 +------+------+--+---+------+------+---
                 512    1K  |  2K     4K     8K
                    blocksize (octets)

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Internet Draft           TFTP Blocksize Option              January 1998

   The comparisons between transfer times (without a gateway) between
   the standard 512-octet blocksize and the negotiated blocksizes are:

      1024     2x   -32%
      1428   2.8x   -42%
      2048     4x   -54%
      4096     8x   -71%
      8192    16x   -80%

   As was anticipated, the transfer time decreases with an increase in
   blocksize.  The reason for the reduction in time is the reduction in
   the number of packets sent.  For example, by increasing the blocksize
   from 512 octets to 1024 octets, not only are the number of data
   packets halved, but the number of acknowledgement packets is also
   halved (along with the number of times the data transmitter must wait
   for an ACK).  A secondary effect is the efficiency gained by reducing
   the per-packet framing and processing overhead.

   Of course, if the blocksize exceeds the path MTU, IP fragmentation
   and reassembly will begin to add more overhead.  This will be more
   noticable the greater the number of gateways in the path.

Security Considerations

   The basic TFTP protocol has no security mechanism.  This is why it
   has no rename, delete, or file overwrite capabilities.  This document
   does not add any security to TFTP; however, the specified extensions
   do not add any additional security risks.


   [1]  Sollins, K., "The TFTP Protocol (Revision 2)", Request for
        Comments 1350 (STD 33), October 1992.

   [2]  Malkin, G., Harkin, A., "TFTP Option Extension", RFC 1782 March

Authors' Addresses

   Gary Scott Malkin
   Bay Networks
   8 Federal Street
   Billerica, MA  10821

   Phone:  (978) 916-4237

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   Art Harkin
   Networked Computing Division
   Hewlett-Packard Company
   19420 Homestead Road MS 43LN
   Cupertino, CA  95014

   Phone: (408) 447-3755

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