High performance streaming memcached protocol parser for Node.js. Code name: flaming-octo-bear
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CHANGELOG.md [dist] 0.0.2 Mar 14, 2013


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Table of Contents

Memcached-stream is a streaming Memcached ASCII protocol parser for Node.js. The module is build with performance in mind and features an extensive micro benchmark suite that was used to research the best way to parse the stream of incoming data. My work on an Memcached ASCII parser originally started out for my node-memcached module. I decided to extract it out so it can be reused by different servers that are now using the Memcached protocol to communicate such as:

  • Couchbase, Database
  • MySQL InnoDB, Database
  • Kestrel, Message Queue
  • Darner, Message Queue

The parser has been build on top of the Node.js stream interface so it can take advantage of the Stream#pipe method to work it's parsing magic. The parser assumes that you have set the encoding of the connection to UTF-8 using the Stream#setEncoding method, this ensures that we will not destroy multi-byte strings and that your data is intact.


The reason that I have chosen to support the ASCII protocol is that its easier to debug. This might sound silly to you, but being able to see what is actually being send over the network in a human readable format is priceless when you have to debug something in production.


Install the module using the Node Package Manager (NPM):

npm install memcached-stream --save

The --save flag tells NPM to automatically add the package to your package.json.


All the examples assume the following boot strapped code:

var Parser = require('memcached-stream');

And we assume that the stream variable is a valid TCP connection that already had setEncoding('utf-8') applied to it so it will not terminate UTF-8 chars.

Initializing the parser

The parser inherits from the Node.js Stream interface. This allows you to easily attach the parser to a connection by using the Stream#pipe method which is available on every Stream interface in node. The best thing about using the pipe method is that it takes care of all the flow control for us.

var parser = new Parser();


Adding optional flag parsers

Memcached allows you to store 16 / 32 bits unsigned integers as flags when you store your response. This is mostly used to indicate what kind of data is actually stored.

The flag function takes 2 arguments:

  • flag, an unsigned 16 or 32 bit integer (depends on your memcached version)
  • parser, an function that receives 2 arguments:
    • str, the string representation of the value
    • buffer, the buffer representation of the value.

Please note that this is a sync call.

// a JSON parser for when the 1 flag is used
parser.flag(1, function parse(str, buffer) {
  return JSON.parse(str);

Listening for the parser's events

The parser emit's a couple of events that you should be listening on:

  • response The parser has received a new response from the server
  • error:response The parser received an Error response from the server
  • error The parser is in a horrible state, and should be killed.
The response event

The first 2 arguments of this are the most important. The first argument command is the response command that was returned from the server. It would be VALUE, END, OK, NOT_STORED etc. The second argument is the value of the response. This is the same for every response. Most responses will be a Boolean value. This will indicate if the command indicates success or failure.

Non boolean responses should probably be queued until you receive an END command. This only applies for VALUE, STAT and KEY. These commands also receive a couple of extra arguments.

    • command, command name
    • value, the value
    • flags, the flags of the response
    • cas, an optional cas key
    • key, the key of the value
  • STAT
    • command, command name
    • key, the stat key
    • value, the stat value

The KEY response here is the odd ball, where it's value is key. Please note that the KEY response isn't offically support by memcached.

parser.on('response', function response(command, ..args) {
  // command is the response type, VALUE, END, STORED etc.
The error:response event

The error response is still a response from the server, this is a sepeare event as it will recieve an Error argument. This error argument you can easily pass to your callback functions. The error:response is only called for known error responses from a memcached server such as ERROR, CLIENT_ERROR and SERVER_ERROR.

parser.on('error:response', function error(err) {
  // err.code is the actual response type
The error event

In addition to these events, we also have an error event that gets emitted when we receive an unknown response. When this happens the parser is destroyed immediately as we have no idea in what state our parser is in.

parser.on('error', function error(err) {
  // optionally you can check the cause of the error, if it's due to a parser
  // failure it will have a `code` property

  // rebuild the parser and pipe it the connection again

Resetting the parsers internal state

To make it possible to re-use parsers, theres a reset method that will reset the internals back to the same state as it as when it was freshly initialized. Please note that the reset method does not remove the assigned event listeners.

// reset internals

// also nuke the eventListeners

Finishing it up

Once you are done with parsing you can terminate it by calling:


Or you can completely destroy the parser by calling:



Please see the CONTRIBUTING.md