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Client Protocol


Doozer is a highly-available, consistent lock service. It also lets you store small amounts of metadata as files in a directory tree. See data model for a complete description.

The doozer protocol is used for messages between clients and servers. A client connects to doozerd by TCP and transmits request messages to a server, which subsequently returns response messages to the client.

(Note: this protocol is partially based on 9P, the Plan 9 file protocol. Parts of this document are paraphrased from the 9P man pages.)

Each message consists of a sequence of bytes comprising two parts. First, a four-byte header field holds an unsigned integer, n, in big-endian order (most significant byte first). This is followed by n bytes of data; these n bytes represent structured data encoded in Protocol Buffer format.

Two Protocol Buffer structures, Request and Response, are used for requests and responses, respectively. See src/pkg/server/msg.proto for their definitions.

Each request contains at least a tag, described below, and a verb, to identify what action is desired. The other fields may or may not be required; their meanings depend on the verb, as described below.

The tag is chosen and used by the client to identify the message. The reply to the message will have the same tag. Clients must arrange that no two outstanding requests on the same connection have the same tag.

Each response contains at least a tag. Other response fields may or may not be present, depending on the verb of the request.

A client can send multiple requests without waiting for the corresponding responses, but all outstanding requests must specify different tags. The server may delay the response to a request and respond to later ones; this is sometimes necessary, for example when the client has issued a WAIT request and the response is sent after a file is modified in the future.

Data Model

For a thorough description of Doozer's data model, see Data Model. Briefly, doozer's store holds a tree structure of files identified by paths similar to paths in Unix, and performs only whole-file reads and writes, which are atomic. The store also records the revision of each write. This number can be given to a subsequent write operation to ensure that no intervening writes have happened.

Glob Notation

Some of the requests take a glob pattern that can match zero or more concrete path names.

  • ? matches a single char in a single path component
  • * matches zero or more chars in a single path component
  • ** matches zero or more chars in zero or more components
  • any other sequence matches itself


Each verb shows the set of request fields it uses, followed by the set of response fields it provides.

  • DEL path, rev ⇒ ∅

    Del deletes the file at path if rev is greater than or equal to the file's revision.

  • GET path, revvalue, rev

    Gets the contents (value) and revision (rev) of the file at path in the specified revision (rev). If rev is not provided, get uses the current revision.

  • GETDIR path, rev, offsetpath

    Returns the nth entry in path (a directory) in the specified revision (rev), where n is offset. It is an error if path is not a directory.

  • NOP (deprecated)

  • REV ∅ ⇒ rev

    Returns the current revision.

  • SET path, rev, valuerev

    Sets the contents of the file at path to value, as long as rev is greater than or equal to the file's revision. Returns the file's new revision.

  • WAIT path, revpath, rev, value, flags

    Responds with the first change made to any file matching path, a glob pattern, on or after rev. The response path is the file that was changed; the response rev is the revision of the change. Value is the new contents of the file.

    Flags is a bitwise combination of values with the following meanings (values 1 and 2 are not used):

    • set = 4

      The file was changed or created.

    • del = 8

      The file was deleted.

  • WALK path, rev, offsetpath, rev, value

    Returns the nth file with a name matching path (a glob pattern) in the specified revision (rev), where n is offset.


The server might send a response with the err_code field set. In that case, err_detail might also be set, and the other optional response fields will be unset.

If err_detail is set, it provides extra information as defined below.

Error codes are defined with the following meanings:


    The server has noticed that the client sent two or more requests with the same tag. This is a serious error and always indicates a bug in the client.

    The server is not guaranteed to send this error.


    The verb used in the request is not in the list of verbs defined in the server.


    The Doozer connection is read-only. Clients can attempt a connection to a new server if writes a needed.


    The rev given in the request is invalid; it has been garbage collected.

    The current default of history kept is 360,000 revs.


    A write operation has failed because the revision given was less than the revision of the file being set.


    The given path contains invalid characters.


    The request's verb requires certain fields to be set and at least one of those fields was not set.


    The offset provided is out of range.


    The request operates only on a directory, but the given path is not a directory (either because it is a file or it is missing).


    The request operates only on a regular file, but the given path is a directory.


    Some component of path doesn't exist.


    Some other error has occurred. The err_detail string provides a description.

Error value 0 is reserved.