Stuart Cheshire
Document: draft-cheshire-dnsext-nbp-00.txt                Apple Computer
Expires 10th March 2002                              10th September 2001

   Requirements for the Replacement of AppleTalk Name Binding Protocol


Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.  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."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

   Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   An understood, but poorly specified, goal of the current work on
   Multicast DNS is the ability to retire AppleTalk Name Binding
   Protocol and replace it with an all-IP solution. This draft outlines
   the specific properties required of an IP replacement for AppleTalk
   Name Binding Protocol.

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1. Introduction

   A common goal of many of the parties working on Multicast DNS
   [mDNS-EAT] [mDNS-SC] is to provide a viable IP-based replacement for
   AppleTalk Name Binding Protocol (NBP). Unfortunately, the precise
   requirements of such an IP-based replacement have been assumed but
   not written down. Furthermore, it is likely that each person has a
   different idea of what the unstated assumptions are, leading to
   miscommunication and misunderstandings when discussing what Multicast
   DNS should do and how it should work. Finally, there are many who are
   experts in the area of DNS who know nothing about NBP, and without
   any knowledge of the unstated goal, many of the discussions on this
   topic probably look like utter nonsense.

   This draft seeks to remedy this problem by clearly stating the
   requirements for an IP-based replacement for NBP. Replacing NBP is
   not the only goal of Multicast DNS, and therefore these requirements
   are not the only design considerations. However, replacing NBP is a
   major motivation behind the work in Multicast DNS. A Multicast DNS
   solution that is, amongst other things, a viable replacement for NBP,
   is much more compelling than one which is not.

   In most cases, the requirements presented in this document are simply
   a restatement of what AppleTalk NBP currently does. However, this
   document is not restricted to describing only what NBP currently
   does. In some cases, the requirements for a viable IP-based
   replacement go beyond NBP. For example, AppleTalk NBP uses Apple
   Extended ASCII for its character set. It is clear that an IP-based
   replacement being designed today should use Unicode, probably in the
   form of UTF-8. AppleTalk NBP has no built-in security provisions; an
   IP-based replacement cannot have that same error. AppleTalk NBP has a
   reputation, partially deserved, partially not, for being too 'chatty'
   on the network. An IP-based replacement should not have this same
   failing. The intent is to learn from NBP and build a superset of its
   functionality, not to replicate it precisely with all the same flaws.

   The proposals described in "Performing DNS queries via IP Multicast"
   [mDNS-SC] and "Discovering Named Instances of Abstract Services using
   DNS" [NIAS], taken together, describe a solution that meets these
   requirements. This document is written, in part, in response to a
   request for more background information to support why those
   proposals are necessary.

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2. Requirements

   This Section lists the 11 requirements for an IP-based replacement
   for AppleTalk NBP.

2.1 Name-to-Address Mapping

   NBP's primary function is translating names to addresses.

   NBP stands for Name Binding Protocol, not Network Browsing Protocol.
   Many people know NBP only as "that thing that lets you browse the
   network in the Macintosh Chooser". While browsing is an important
   facility of NBP, it is secondary to NBP's primary function of
   translating names to addresses.

   Every time a user prints using AppleTalk, the printing software takes
   the name of the currently selected printer, looks up the current
   AppleTalk address associated with that named service, and establishes
   a connection to that service on the network. The user may invoke
   NBP's browsing capability once when first selecting the desired
   printer in the Chooser, but then after that, every single time they
   print anything, it is a simple efficient name-to-address lookup that
   is being performed, not a full-fledged browsing operation.

   Any NBP replacement needs to support, as it's primary function,
   an efficient name-to-address lookup operation.

2.2 Name Services, not Hardware

   The primary named entities in NBP are services, not "hosts",
   "machines", "devices", or pieces of hardware of any kind. This
   concept is more subtle than it may seem at first, so it bears some

   The AppleTalk NBP philosophy is that naming a piece of hardware on
   the network is of little use if you can't communicate with that piece
   of hardware. To communicate with a piece of hardware, there needs to
   be a piece of software running on that hardware which sends and
   receives network packets conforming to some specific protocol. This
   means that whenever you communicate with a machine, you are really
   communicating with some piece of software on that machine. Even if
   you just 'ping' a machine to see if it is responding, it is not
   really the machine that you are 'pinging', it is the software on that
   machine that generates ICMP Echo Responses.

   Consequently, this means that the only thing worth naming is the
   software entities with which you can communicate. A user who wants to
   use a print server or a file server needn't care about what hardware
   implements those services. There may be a single machine hosting both
   services, or there may be two separate machines. The end user doesn't
   need to care.

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   The one exception to this is network managers, who may want to name
   physical hardware for the purpose of tracking physical inventory.
   However, even this can be recast into a service-oriented view of the
   world by saying that what you're naming is not the hardware, but the
   ICMP Echo Responder that runs (or is assumed to be running) on every
   piece of IP hardware.

2.3 Address Services, not Hardware
    Escape the Tyranny of Well Known Ports

   The reader may argue that DNS already supports the philosophy of
   naming services instead of hosts. When we see names like
   "", "", "",
   "" and "", we do not assume that
   each of those names refer to a different host. They are clearly
   intended to be logical service names, and could in fact all refer to
   the same IP address.

   The shortcoming here is that although the names are clearly logical
   service names, the result today of doing a conventional ("A" Record)
   DNS lookup for those names gives you only the IP address of the
   hardware where the service is located. To communicate with the
   desired service, you also need to know the TCP or UDP port number at
   which the service can be reached, not just the IP address.

   This means that the port number has to be communicated out-of-band,
   in some other way. One way is for the port number to be a specific
   well-known constant for any given protocol. This makes it hard to
   run more than one instance of a service on a single piece of
   hardware. Another way is for the user to explicitly type in the port
   number, for example, "" instead of
   "", but needing to know and type in a port number is
   as ugly and fragile as needing to know and type in an IP address.

   Another aspect of the difficulty of running more than one instance of
   a service on a single piece of hardware is that it forces application
   programmers to write their own demultiplexing capability. For
   example, if an AppleTalk print server offers three print queues, each
   print queue runs as its own independent service, listening on its own
   port number (called a socket number in AppleTalk terminology) and
   each is advertised as a separate independent named NBP entity. When a
   client looks up the address of that named NBP entity, the reply
   encodes not only on which net and subnet the service resides, and on
   which host on that subnet (like an IP address does), but also on
   which port number (socket number) within that host. In contrast, if
   an lpr print server offers three print queues, all three print queues
   are typically reached through the same well-known port number, and
   then the lpr protocol has to use it own demultiplexing capability
   (the print queue name) in order to determine which print queue is
   sought. This makes it especially difficult to run two different

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   pieces of print queue software from different vendors on the same
   machine, because they cannot both use the same well-known port.

   A similar trick is used in HTTP 1.1, where the Host header is used to
   allow multiple logical http services to run at the same IP address.
   Again, this works for a single-vendor solution, but if you have an
   image server, a database program, an http email access gateway, and a
   regular http server, they can't all run on the same TCP port on the
   same machine.

   Yet another problem of well-known ports is that port numbers are a
   finite resource. Originally, port numbers 0-1023 were reserved for
   well-known services, and the remaining 98% of the port space was free
   for dynamic allocation. Since then, the range of "Registered Ports"
   has crept upwards until today, ports 0-49151 are reserved, and only
   25% of the space remains available for dynamic allocation. Even
   though 65535 may seem like a lot of available port numbers, with the
   pace of software development today, if every new protocol gets its
   own private port number, we will eventually run out. To avoid having
   to do application-level demultiplexing, protocols like the X Window
   System wisely use a range of port numbers, and let TCP do the
   demultiplexing for them. The X Window System uses 64 ports, in the
   range 6000-6063. If every new protocol were to get its own chunk of
   64 ports, we would run out even faster.

   Any NBP replacement needs to provide, not just the network number,
   subnet number, and host number within that subnet (i.e. the IP
   address) but also the port number within that host where the service
   is located. Furthermore, since many existing IP services such as lpr
   *do* already use additional application-layer demultiplexing
   information such as a print queue name, an NBP replacement needs to
   support this too by including this information as part of the
   complete package of addressing information provided to the client to
   enable it to use the service. The NBP replacement needs to name
   individual print queues as first-class entities in their own right.
   It is not sufficient to name a print server, within which separate
   print queues can be found.

   One possible answer here is that an IP-based NBP replacement could
   use a solution derived from DNS "SRV" records instead of "A" records,
   since SRV records *do* provide a port number. However, this alone is
   not a complete solution, because "SRV" records cannot tell you an lpr
   print queue name.

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2.4 Typed Name Space

   AppleTalk NBP names are structured names, of the form:

      Name : Type @ Zone

   The Name is the user-visible name of the service.

   The Type is an opaque identifier which identifies the type of
   service. For convenience, the opaque identifier is generally
   constructed using descriptive ASCII text, but this text has no
   meaning to the protocol, and care should be taken in inferring too
   much meaning from it. For example, the NBP Service Type "LaserWriter"
   means "any service that speaks PostScript over AppleTalk Printer
   Access Protocol". It does not necessarily mean an Apple-branded
   "LaserWriter" printer; nor does the service even have to be a
   printer. A device that archives documents to recordable CDs could
   advertise itself as a "LaserWriter", meaning that it speaks
   PostScript over PAP, not necessarily that it prints that PostScript
   on paper when it gets it. The end-user never directly sees the
   Service Type. It is implicit in the user's action; e.g. when
   printing, the printing software knows what protocol(s) it speaks and
   consequently what Service Type(s) it should be looking for -- the
   user doesn't have to tell it.

   The Zone is an organizational or geographical grouping of named
   services. Typical AppleTalk Zone Names are things like "Engineering"
   and "Sales". The equivalent concept in DNS could be a subdomain such
   as "" or ""

   Each {Type,Zone} pair defines a name space in which service names can
   be registered. It is not a name conflict to have a printer called
   "Sales" and a file server called "Sales", because one is
   "Sales:LaserWriter@Zone" and the other is "Sales:AFPServer@Zone".

   Any NBP replacement needs to provide a mechanism that allows names to
   be grouped into organizational or geographical "zones", and within
   each "zone", to provide an independent name space for each service

2.5 User-Friendly Names

   When repeatedly typing in names on command-line systems, it is
   helpful to have names that are short, all lower-case, with no spaces
   or other unusual characters.

   Since Service Names are intended to be selected from a list, not
   repeatedly typed in on a keyboard, there is no for them to be
   restricted so. Users should be able to give their printers names like
   "Sales", "Marketing", and "3rd Floor Copy Room", not just
   "" Of course a user is free to restrict their

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   Service Names to lower-case letters without spaces if they wish, but
   they should not be forced to do that.

   Any NBP replacement needs to support a full range of rich text
   characters, including upper case, lower case, spaces, accented
   characters, and so on. The correct solution is likely to be Unicode,
   probably in the form of UTF-8.

   Note that although the characters ':' and '@' are used when writing
   AppleTalk NBP names, they are simply a notational convenience in
   written text. In the on-the wire protocol and in the software data
   structures, NBP Name, Type and Zone strings are all allowed to
   contain arbitrary characters, including ':' and '@'.

2.6 Zeroconf Operation

   AppleTalk NBP is self-configuring. On a network of just two hosts,
   they communicate peer-to-peer using multicast. On a large managed
   network, AppleTalk routers automatically perform an aggregation
   function, allowing name lookups to be performed via unicast to a
   service running on the router, instead of by flooding the entire
   network with multicast packets to every host.

   Any NBP replacement needs to operate in the absence of external
   network infrastructure. It should also be able to take advantage of
   appropriate external network infrastructure, where present, to
   perform queries via unicast instead of multicast.

2.7 Name Space Management
    Name Conflict Detection

   Because an NBP replacement needs to operate in a Zeroconf
   environment, it cannot be assumed that a central network
   administrator is managing the network. In a managed network normal
   administrative controls may apply, but in the Zeroconf case an NBP
   replacement must make it easy for users to name their devices as they
   wish, without the inconvenience or expense of having to seek
   permission or pay some organization like a domain name registry for
   the privilege. However, this ease of naming and freedom to choose any
   desired name means that two users may independently decide to run a
   personal file server on their laptop computers, and (unimaginitively)
   name it "My Computer". When these two users later attend the next
   IETF meeting and find themselves part of the same wireless network,
   there may be problems.

   Similarly, every Epson Ethernet printer may ship from the factory
   with its Service Name set to "Epson Printer". On a typical small home
   network where there is only one printer this is not a problem, but it
   could be a problem if two or more such printers are connected to the
   same network.

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   Any NBP replacement needs to detect such conflicts, and handle them
   appropriately. In the case of the laptop computers, which have
   keyboards, screens, and human users, the software should display a
   message telling one or both users that they need to select a new

   In the case of the printers which have no keyboard or screen, the
   software should automatically select a new unique name, perhaps by
   appending an integer to the end of the existing name, e.g. "Epson
   Printer 2".

   Because of the potentially transient nature of connectivity on the
   wireless networks that are becoming more and more common, this name
   conflict detection needs to be an ongoing process. It is not
   sufficient to simply verify uniqueness of names for a few seconds
   during the boot process and then assume that the names will remain
   unique indefinitely.

2.8 Late Binding

   When the user selects their default printer, the software should not
   store the IP address and port number, but just the name. Then, every
   time the user prints, the software should look up the name to find
   the current IP address and port number for that service. This allows
   a named logical service to be moved from one piece of hardware to
   another without disrupting the user's ability to print to that named
   print service.

   On a network using DHCP or self-assigned link-local addresses, a
   device's IP address may change from day to day. By deferring binding
   of name to address until actual use, this allows the client to get
   the correct IP address at the time the service is used.

   Similarly, with a service using a dynamic port number instead of a
   fixed well-known port, the service may not get the same port number
   every time it is started or restarted. By deferring binding of name
   to port number until actual use, this allows the client to get the
   correct port number at the time the service is used.

2.9 Simplicity

   Any NBP replacement needs to be simple enough that vendors of even
   the cheapest ink-jet printer can afford to implement it in the
   device's limited firmware.

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2.10 Network Browsing

   AppleTalk NBP offers certain limited wildcard functionality. For
   example, the service name "*" means "any name". This allows a client
   to perform an NBP lookup such as "*:LaserWriter@MyZone" and receive
   back in response a list of all the PAP (AppleTalk Printer Access
   Protocol) printers in the Zone called "MyZone".

   Any NBP replacement needs to allow a piece of software, such as a
   printing client, or a file server client, to enumerate all the named
   instances of services in a specified zone (domain) which speak its

2.11 Browsing and Registration Guidance

   AppleTalk NBP provides certain meta-information to the client.

   On a network with multiple AppleTalk Zones, the AppleTalk network
   infrastructure informs the client of the list of Zones that are
   available for browsing. It also informs the client of the default
   Zone, which defines the client's logical "home" location. This is the
   Zone that is selected by default when the Macintosh Chooser is
   opened, and is usually the Zone where the user is most likely to find
   services like printers that are physically nearby, but the user is
   still free to browse any Zone in the offered list that they wish.

   An Epson printer may be preconfigured at the factory with the Service
   Name "Epson Printer", but they do not know on which network the
   printer will eventually be installed, so the printer will have to
   learn this from the network on arrival. On a network with multiple
   AppleTalk Zones, the AppleTalk network infrastructure informs the
   client of a single default Zone within which it may register Service
   Names. In the case of a device with a human user, the AppleTalk
   network infrastructure may also inform the client of a list of Zones
   within which the client may register Service Names, and the user may
   choose to register Service Names in any one of those Zones instead of
   in the suggested default Zone.

   Any NBP replacement needs to provide the following information to
   the client:

   * The suggested zone (domain) in which to register Service Names.
   * A list of recommended available zones (domains) in which Service
     Names may be optionally registered.
   * The suggested default zone (domain) for network browsing.
   * A list of available zones (domains) which may be browsed.

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3. Existing Protocols

   The question has been asked, "Isn't SLP the IETF replacement for

   SLP [RFC 2608] provides extremely rich and flexible facilities in the
   area of Requirement 10, "Network Browsing". However, SLP provides
   none of the service naming, automatic name conflict detection, or
   efficient name-to-address lookup which form the majority of what
   AppleTalk NBP does.

   SLP returns results in the form of URLs. In the absence of DNS, URLs
   cannot usefully contain DNS names. Discovering a service URL of the
   form "" is not particularly informative to the
   user. Discovering a service URL of the form
   "" is slightly more informative
   (though still not very user-friendly), but on a Zeroconf network this
   presupposes the existence of Multicast DNS to do the name lookup.

   SLP provides fine-grained query capabilities, such as the ability to
   prune a long list of printers to show only those that have blue paper
   in the top tray, which could be useful on extremely large networks
   with very many printers, but may be overkill for a small home network
   with only one or two printers.

   It is entirely possible that it may be possible to extend SLP in some
   trivial way to provide the desired name space definition and
   management functions as a standard feature of the protocol. If so, I
   welcome feedback from experts in the area of SLP about how that might
   be done.

4. IPv6 Considerations

   An IP replacement for AppleTalk Name Binding Protocol needs to
   support IPv6 addresses as well as it supports IPv4 addresses.

5. Security Considerations

   AppleTalk Name Binding Protocol has no inherent security mechanism.
   This would not be acceptable in an IP replacement. It should be
   possible for a client to verify the authenticity of the information
   it is receiving. It may also be useful for a server to be able to
   verify that a client has authority to request that information, and
   it may be useful to have a way to encrypt the data in transit to
   protect it against eavesdropping.

   A solution based on or derived from DNS may be able to use DNSSEC
   [RFC 2535] to meet some of these requirements.

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6. IANA Considerations

   AppleTalk Name Binding Protocol defines a name space for Zones, a
   name space for service Types, and name spaces for named instances of
   those services. Each name space uses 32-character ASCII text strings,
   so the name space for Type names is sufficiently large and
   sufficiently sparsely used that Apple never bothered with maintaining
   an official registry of assigned NBP service Type names.

   In an IP replacement, the name space of zones (domains) would be
   managed the same way as domains are currently managed, which is to
   say through delegation from the root. In addition, if Multicast DNS
   is successful [mDNS-EAT] [mDNS-SC] there will also be a specially
   reserved domain available for local use without the overhead of
   formal delegation.

   IANA should probably manage the name space of service type names, to
   prevent unintended name collisions. However, the name space of
   textual names is large enough that type names would not be a precious
   resource, so they could be handed out freely to anyone who needs one,
   effectively without limit.

   The name space of instance names is managed locally at each site.

7. Copyright

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society 8th March 2000.
   All Rights Reserved.

   This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
   others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
   or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
   and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
   kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
   included on all such copies and derivative works. However, this
   document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
   the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
   Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
   developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
   copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
   followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than

   The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
   revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

   This document and the information contained herein is provided on an

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8. References

   [mDNS-EAT] Esibov, Aboba & Thaler, "Multicast DNS",
              Internet-Draft (work in progress),
              draft-ietf-dnsext-mdns-03.txt, July 2001.

   [mDNS-SC]  S. Cheshire, "Performing DNS queries via IP Multicast",
              Internet-Draft (work in progress),
              draft-cheshire-dnsext-multicastdns-00.txt, July 2001.

   [NIAS]     S. Cheshire, "Discovering Named Instances of Abstract
              Services using DNS", Internet-Draft (work in progress),
              draft-cheshire-dnsext-nias-00.txt, July 2001.

   [RFC 2535] D. Eastlake, "Domain Name System Security Extensions",
              RFC 2535, March 1999.

   [RFC 2608] Guttman, Perkins, Veizades & Day, "Service Location
              Protocol, Version 2", RFC 2608, June 1999.

9. Author's Address

   Stuart Cheshire
   Apple Computer, Inc.
   1 Infinite Loop
   California 95014

   Phone: +1 408 974 3207

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