dormando edited this page Dec 19, 2016 · 3 revisions



Most deployments of memcached today exist within trusted networks where clients may freely connect to any server and the servers don't discriminate against them.

There are cases, however, where memcached is deployed in untrusted networks or where administrators would like to exercise a bit more control over the clients that are connecting.

This does not provide encryption, but can provide authentication. Do not run this over the internet large, do use this to protect from neighbors and accidents from within large mostly trusted networks.

This page mostly exists to describe the protocol. If you just want to use it, check out the SASL howto

Authentication Concepts

Authentication is abstracted from the server using the Simple Authentication and Security Layer.

Among other things, this provides administrators with consistent credential management that is mostly independent from the services that are authenticating clients.

Protocol Definitions

Error Codes and Conditions

There are two status codes provided by the SASL protocol to enable authentication:


If a message is returned with a status code of 0x20, this is considered an authentication or authorization failure.

This may be in response to an explicit authentication command indicating the credentials were not accepted or the authorization was otherwise not granted to access the server.

Continue Authentication

Some SASL mechanisms require multiple messages to be sent between the client and server. If a server responds to an authentication message with a status code of 0x21, this will indicate your client needs to do more work to complete the authentication negotiation.

Authentication Not Supported

If a server responds to an authentication request indicating the command is unknown (status 0x81), it likely doesn't support authentication. It is generally acceptable for the client to consider authentication successful when communicating to a server that doesn't support authentication.

Authentication Requests

List Mechanisms

In order to negotiate authentication, a client may need to ask the server what authentication mechanisms it supports.

A command 0x20 with no extras, key, or value will request a mechanism list from the server. The mechanisms are returned as a space-separated value.

Authentication Request

To begin an authentication request, send a request with command 0x21, the requested mechanism as the key, and the initial authentication data as the value if any is required for the chosen mechanism.

Authentication Continuation

If the authentication request responded with a continuation request (status 0x21), the body will contain the data needed for computing the next value in the authentication negotiation.

The next step's data will be transmitted similarly to the initial step, but using command 0x22. Note that this includes the mechanism within the key as in the initial request.

Error Reference

Status Code Meaning
0x20 Authentication required / Not Successful
0x21 Further authentication steps required.

Command Reference

Command Op Code Key Value
List Mechanisms 0x20 None None
Start Authentication 0x21 Mechanism Auth Data
Authentication Step 0x22 Mechanism Auth Data

See Also

memcached SASL howto