This document specifies the Datagram Authenticated Session Protocol or DASP. This protocol is designed to provide an unordered, reliable, secure session for full-duplex datagram exchange that can be implemented for low power wireless networks and low cost devices. Specifically we target networks that include 6LoWPAN. These networks are typically comprised of devices without the resources to run a protocol such as TCP and must implement their protocol stacks in under 100KB of memory.


The following requirements dictate the design of DASP:

  1. DASP runs over an unordered, unreliable packet based transport layer, which is assumed to be UDP or provide the same functionality.
  2. DASP will be a datagram oriented protocol, not a stream oriented protocol. Datagram boundaries will be maintained.
  3. DASP will deliver datagrams reliably with associated retries. Datagrams are guaranteed to be delivered exactly once.
  4. DASP will not guarantee delivery of datagrams in order. Because DASP is designed to run on devices with limited RAM resources, we must assume that buffer space is extremely scarce. Any ordering of datagrams is the responsibility of the application layer.
  5. DASP datagrams are delivered within the context of a session. Sessions allow us to efficiently associate datagrams with application context. Application context might include user account privileges, eventing state, or the state associated with a file transfer.
  6. DASP sessions are full-duplex - either endpoint may initiate a datagram.
  7. DASP sessions are established by authenticating a username and password. However the term password is loosely defined to include any type of secret key.
  8. DASP session setup will include an extensible mechanism for negotiating the cryptography capabilities of the two endpoints. The protocol will support plugging in new cryptography standards, but standardizes on SHA-1 for message digest. Version 1.0 does not specify encryption, but could be added via new handshaking headers.
  9. DASP will provide flow control in the delivery of datagrams between the endpoints using a sliding window. For example, a session might span both a high speed network such as Ethernet and a low speed network such as 6LoWPAN running over 802.15.4. Compounding the problem is that low speed networks may have few memory resources to allocate to buffering and can quickly be overwhelmed by bursts of packets.


A DASP session is established when a client initiates a connection to a server. The two endpoints exchange a set of messages called the handshake to establish or reject the session. Once a session is established it is assigned an unsigned 16-bit identifier called the sessionId. The sessionId is included in all subsequent messaging within the context of that session. Messages within the session are consecutively numbered with an unsigned 16-bit value, which we call the sequence number or seqNum. Each endpoint of the session maintains its own sequence and sliding window of outstanding datagrams. This sliding window is used to implement reliability and flow control. Sessions are terminated explicitly via a special control message, or may be timed out after a period where no messages have been received from the remote endpoint.

Message Format

DASP messages are described as a data structure using the following primitive types:

All DASP messages are formatted as follows:

  u2      sessionId
  u2      seqNum
  u1      high 4-bits msgType, low 4-bits numFields
  field[] headerFields
  u1[]    payload

The data in the message is summarized:

Message Types

The following table specifies the full list of message type identifiers:

0x0discoverSent by client or server during device discovery process
0x1helloSent by client to initiate handshake
0x2challengeResponse to client's hello message
0x3authenticateSent by client to provide authentication credentials
0x4welcomeResponse to client's authenticate message if successful
0x5keepAliveHeartbeat message and message acknowledgements
0x6datagramIndicates an application datagram message
0x7closeClose the session

Header Fields

Header fields define a generic way to include an arbitrary set of name/value pairs in an DASP header. They are used much like HTTP header fields - each message type defines required and optional header fields and how they are to be interpreted. Additional header fields can be added to future versions of this specification without breaking the generic processing of DASP messages.

Header fields are prefixed with a one byte headerId. The headerId conveys the name of the header in the high 6 bits and the value type of the header in the bottom 2 bits. Implementations can always look at the least significant 2-bits of the headerIds to determine how to decode or skip the header value. Implementations must ignore unknown headers. The 2-bit value type identifiers:

0x0nilThe header has no value - the header itself indicates a boolean
0x1u2Unsigned 16-bit integer in network byte order
0x2strUTF-8 encoded text string, followed by null terminator (zero) byte
0x3bytes8-bit length, followed by string of raw bytes

The list of headerIds defined by this specification:

Id (6b, 2b)NamTypeDescription (default)
0x05 (1,1)versionu2Version of the protocol to use
0x09 (2,1)remoteIdu2Remote endpoint's session id
0x0e (3,2)digestAlgorithmstrName of digest to use ("SHA-1")
0x13 (4,3)noncebytesNonce to use for digest hash
0x16 (5,2)usernamestrName of user to authenticate
0x1b (6,3)digestbytesValue of digest hash to authenticate
0x1d (7,1)idealMaxu2Ideal max size in bytes (512)
0x21 (8,1)absMaxu2Absolute max size in bytes (512)
0x25 (9,1)acku2Ack a single seqNum
0x2b (a, 3)ackMorebytesAck a list of seqNums (0x01)
0x2d (b,1)receiveMaxu2Max size of receiving window in bytes (31)
0x31 (c, 1)receiveTimeoutu2Receive timeout in seconds (30sec)
0x35 (d,1)errorCodeu2One of the predefined error codes
0x3a (e,2)platformIdstrDevice's platform ID string

Header fields may be specified in any order. Implementations must never assume a specific order.

Error Codes

The following types defines the error codes to be used with the errorCode header field:

0xe1incompatibleVersionServer doesn't support version specified by hello
0xe2busyServer is too busy to allocate new session
0xe3digestNotSupportedClient does not support digest algorithm in challenge
0xe4notAuthenticatedClient supplied invalid credentials
0xe5timeoutRemote endpoint is timing out the session


A session is established by a series of messages called the handshake:

  1. The client sends the server a hello message
  2. The server responds with the challenge, welcome, or close message
  3. The client responds with the authenticate or close message
  4. The server responds with either a welcome or close message

Once the client receives the welcome message from either step 2 or step 4, then the session is established. An close message during any step terminates the handshake.


The hello message is sent by a client to initiate a session. The following header fields apply:

The sessionId of a hello message must be set to 0xffff to indicate a new session from the server's perspective. The remoteId header specifies the client's sessionId, all messages back to the client will use this sessionId.

The seqNum should be a randomly chosen number between 0 and 0xffff, which becomes the start of the client sending window - this sequence number must be the seqNum of the first datagram message sent by the client to server.


Once a hello message has been received, the server assigns a randomly chosen, unused sessionId and then returns a challenge message. The remoteId header of the challenge contains the server side's newly assigned session identifier. The sessionId of the challenge message is the value of the hello's remoteId header.

The seqNum should be randomly chosen between 0 and 0xffff - this becomes the start of the server's sending window - the first datagram sent by the server to the client must use this seqNum.

The following header fields apply:

If the server doesn't support the version specified by the client in the hello message, then it should send the close message with the incompatibleVersion error code. The close message returned should include the version header field, which tells the client which version the server does support. The client may then choose to retry the handshake if supports the server's version.

If the server is too busy to allocate a new session, then it should send back a close with the busy error code.

A server can by-pass authentication completely by directly sending back a welcome message.


Once the client receives the challenge message, it has enough information to generate the authenticate message. Clients never pass user credentials directly to the server over the network. Instead the client sends the server a digest of the username, password, and nonce. The algorithm to compute the digest is defined by the digestAlgorithm field defined in the challenge message (or if unspecified then SHA-1 is assumed). The following function is used to compute the digest:

credentials = digestAlgorithm(username + ":" + password)
digest      = digestAlgorithm(credentials + nonce)

First we hash the UTF-8 encoded credentials string, which is the username and password separated by a single ":" colon character. We call this hash the credentials. We then run the hash function against the credentials and the nonce, which produces a one-time use digest. This mechanism permits DASP enabled devices to avoid storing a password in plain text by storing the username and only the credentials hash. However a device could store the username and password directly and compute the credentials hash as needed.

Once the client computes the digest, it sends the server the authenticate message. The authenticate message uses the sessionId specified in the challenge's remoteId header. The seqNum should be the same as that used by the hello message.

The following header fields apply:

If the client does not support the digest algorithm specified by the server's challenge message, then the client should immediately send the server a close message with the digestNotSupported error code.


Once the server receives the authenticate message, it validates the username and digest against its user database. If the authentication is successful, then the server responds to the client with the welcome message type. The sessionId of the welcome is the remoteId specified by the client in its hello. The seqNum should be the same as that used by the server's challenge message.

The following fields apply:

If authentication fails, then the server sends the client back a close message with the notAuthenticated error code.


The absMax and idealMax header fields are used to negotiate message sizes between the client and server. The absMax is the absolute maximum number of bytes that a message may contain including the DASP headers, but not the transport headers (such as the UDP headers themselves). Typically this value maps to the amount of buffer space a device can dedicate to processing DASP messages. For example a device that can only allocate 256 bytes to buffering an DASP message will not be able to handle larger messages.

The idealMax header field specifies the ideal maximum number of bytes a message should contain including the DASP headers (not including the transport headers). Often DASP is running over a network like 6LoWPAN that can support UDP packets larger than the MTU of a 802.15.4 frame. However if implementing a protocol like file transfer, it is desirable to chunk the stream such that messages fit within individual 802.15.4 frames without additional fragmentation overhead. The idealMax header provides for this optimization.

Both absMax and idealMax negotiation works the same way. The client specifies its absMax and idealMax fields in its hello message. If either of the header fields are omitted, then they are implied to be 512 bytes. The server has its own absMax and idealMax, which it returns in the welcome message (or else they default to 512). The actual absMax and idealMax used for the session is the minimum between the client and server. For example:

client: absMax=512, idealMax=256
server: absMax=1024, idealMax=64
session: absMax=512, idealMax=64

Error Handling

Because we assume DASP runs over an unreliable transport, implementations must be prepared to handle lost, delayed, or unordered messages during the handshake process. The following are specific conditions that may arise, and the recommended action for each:

The client sends the hello, but does not receive the challenge. In this case, either the hello or the challenge may have been lost. In either case, a new hello request should be sent. If after three attempts fail, then the client should assume communication with the server is not available

The server sends the challenge, but doesn't receive an authenticate message. In this case, either the challenge or the authenticate message might have been dropped. In either case the server should never attempt resending the challenge, but rather should time out the session if no authenticate is received. During the handshake process, the server should use a shortened time out period (compared to normal session communication).

The client sends the authenticate, but does not receive the welcome. In this case, either the authenticate or the welcome message was lost. The client should resend the authenticate message two more times, before giving up. Servers should gracefully handle receiving multiple authenticate messages for the same session.


Once the session has successfully been established, either end point may initiate application level messaging via the datagram message type. When an endpoint receives a datagram message it performs the following steps:

  1. Matches the sessionId to a valid session. If not a valid session, the request is ignored.
  2. Checks that the remote address matches the one used to setup the session. If not the request is ignored.
  3. Checks that the seqNum is within the valid receiving sliding window, otherwise it is ignored.
  4. Checks that the datagram hasn't already been processed, otherwise it is ignored. Each endpoint must keep track of messages it has already processed within its receiving window.
  5. Updates its receiving window
  6. Sends the datagram to the application layer for processing.
  7. Receiver eventually piggybacks an ack on an outgoing message


In order to provide reliability, datagrams have to be acknowledged. If there are outgoing messages, then the ack header should be piggybacked to avoid extra messaging. Otherwise a keepAlive message with an ack header is sent back to the remote endpoint to acknowledge the datagrams received so far. The ack header specifies the most recent seqNum successfully received. When an ack header is received, an endpoint can assume that all seqNums <= ackNum have been successfully received and that ackNum+1 has not been received yet by the remote endpoint.

If an endpoint has received messages with gaps in the sequence numbering, it can use the ackMore header to enumerate the seqNums it has received. This allows us to avoid resending those messages just because we've had partial failures. The ackMore is encoded as a list of bits that indicate messages received (bit is set), and messages not received (bit is zero). The least significant bit corresponds to the seqNum in the ack header, and the most significant bit n corresponds to ackNum+n. The ackMore header must always be accompanied by the ack header. By definition the least significant bit of the bitmask must always be one since it corresponds to ackNum itself. Some examples:

ack=10 ackMore=15          -> 0x21
ack=10 ackMore=12, 13      -> 0x0d
ack=10 ackMore=15, 18, 19  -> 0x03 0x21


Note: the following behavior is not currently implemented in the opensource Sedona Framework implementations of DASP.

Once an endpoint has sent a datagram message, it should wait for a period of time called the sendRetry (default = 1 sec) (see Flow Control for details). If no acknowledgement has been received for the datagram's seqNum, then one of two things has happened: the original datagram was lost or the acknowledgement was lost. The endpoint should resend the datagram message with the original sequence number, then wait again for sendRetry period. This process should be repeated until the datagram has been sent the number of times specified by the maxSend (default = 3) parameter. If the maxSend attempt fails, then the session should be timed out and the close message sent to the remote endpoint with the timeout error code.

Sliding Window

DASP supports full duplex messaging - either side may initiate application messages, which are identified with a 16-bit sequence number. An endpoint can have multiple outstanding messages that have not been acknowledged. The sequence of unacknowledged messages sent is called the sending window.

Each endpoint also maintains a receiving window, which is the sequence of messages it is prepared to receive. Any messages outside of the receiving window are ignored. The receiveMax header is used to communicate the maximum size of receiving window so that the remote endpoint can tune its sending window. The receiveMax header of the client is specified in its hello message, and the receiveMax of the server is specified in the welcome message. Once receiveMax is established during the handshake, it cannot be changed.

The receiveMax header specifies the maximum size of the sliding window, since any messages outside of that window will be ignored. An endpoint should never use a sending window size greater than the remote endpoint's receiving window. However, often the sending window is smaller than the remote's receive window. The sending window is grown and shrunk during the lifetime of the session to allow dynamic optimization of the session's throughput. Tuning the size of the sending window is the basis for flow control and congestion control.

Since seqNum is stored in an unsigned 16-bit integer, implementations must handle rollover. The seqNum 65535 is followed by the sequence number 0. For example given lower bound of 65530 and a window size of 10, then the window wraps from 65530 to 3 inclusively.

Sequence numbers and the sliding window are only used for datagram messages. The client's handshake hello and authenticate messages define the client's starting sequence number, which is the seqNum of the client's first datagram. The server's handshake challenge and welcome define the sequence number of the server's first datagram. The close and keepAlive messages should always use a sequence number of 0xffff.

Flow Control

A primary goal for DASP is to provide communication for traffic spanning networks and devices of varying capabilities. For example a common use case is a PC on an Ethernet network communicating to a low cost device on a 6LoWPAN network. The ability to tune a session's communication rates based on the capability of the endpoints is called flow control.

It is also common for traffic on networks to vary over time during the course of a session. Tuning the session to handle varying network loads is called congestion control. For practical purposes, flow control and congestion control are handled using the same mechanisms - so we will use the term flow control generically.

Flow control in DASP is always managed on the sending side by dynamically tuning the size of the sending window and the sendRetry time. These values are tuned based on analysis of the session's recent past performance.

Keep Alive and Termination

A session is terminated via one of the following conditions:


If possible, sessions should be gracefully shutdown using the close message type. If the failure is in the DASP layer (as opposed to the application layer), then the errorCode header should be specified.

If an endpoint receives either the close or error message types, then the session is immediately terminated and the sessionId invalidated. No acknowledgement is sent on close messages.

It is recommended that close messages be sent twice - endpoints should automatically ignore duplicate close/errors because the sessionId will be invalid. Errors during the handshake should only be sent once. However, since there is no acknowledgment, we can never guarantee that both endpoints are aware of the session termination (in which case we must rely on timeouts).


We can never assume that sessions are closed gracefully, because real-world applications and networks can't be trusted. If an endpoint has not received any messages after a period of time, then the session is timed out. A timed out session is terminated and the sessionId is invalidated. The endpoint should send the remote endpoint an close message with the timeout error code - this error should only be sent once since there is a good chance the remote endpoint is no longer available.

Each endpoint specifies its configured timeout via the receiveTimeout header. The client specifies receiveTimeout in its hello message, and the server in the welcome message. If the receiveTimeout is omitted during the handshake, then 30 sec should be assumed. Once the session is established the overall timeout of the session is the maximum timeout between the client and the server. Both endpoints must then use the longer timeout.

Because the timeout must be negotiated between the endpoints, care should be taken with using very long time outs. The longer timeout is used because we assume the less capable endpoint's network or device drives overall reliability and speed. However longer timeouts also mean longer periods where the critical memory resources of session state are tied up waiting for a session timeout.


The keepAlive message type is used to prevent session timeouts and carry acknowledgments when there are no outgoing application messages.

If there are no outgoing datagram messages to piggyback an ack header, then an endpoint should sent a keepAlive to acknowledge received messages. Implementations can send these acknowledgements immediately or may use a small delay called the ackDelay. The ackDelay provides a period of time to coalesce multiple acknowledgements and wait for an outgoing datagram message to be generated.

Even if all received messages have been acknowledged, then an endpoint still needs to send keepAlive messages to ensure that the remote endpoint doesn't timeout the session. In the absence of other messaging, an endpoint should send keepAlives three times as fast as the timeout period. For example if the negotiated timeout is 30 sec, then keepAlives should be sent every 10 sec. Keep alives should only be used when no application datagrams are being transmitted.

KeepAlives are themselves never part of the sliding window. The seqNum of a keepAlives should be 0xffff. When a keep alive is received, it is never checked against the receiving window and is never acknowledged. An endpoint that sends a keepAlive should never attempt to retry the keepAlive, since no acknowledgement is expected.

Device Discovery

DASP supports device discovery with the following sequence:

  1. The client sends a discover request to all listening Sedona servers
  2. Any server that receives the discover request opens a Sox session
  3. The server then sends a discover response containing its platform ID
  4. The server closes the Sox session immediately

Each discover response the client receives is added to a list of discovered nodes.


A discover message may be sent by a client or a server. The client sends a discover message with no header fields. The server's response message is identical except that it adds a single header field containing its platform ID.

How the discovered devices are collected and processed is not specified.