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A Socket wrapper that provides simple framing protocol

Frap - Framing Wrapper

(If you understand framing protocols and the need for them with sockets, skip this Problem/Solution section.)

When your sender writes a series of buffers to a socket, the receiver receives data by way of on, or more, 'data' socket events; each event with a single Buffer as the event input. Each received Buffer is not guaranteed to be just one of the sender's socket write() calls worth of data, or even an integer number of the sender's write() data. Sockets just guarantee the same number of bytes will be received as was sent and in the same order, but sockets do not guarantee the data will be received as the same chunks as they were sent.

You need to put some data in the stream of bytes that tells the receiver when these chunks begin and end. This is called a framing protocol. Henceforth chunk will be called frame, and a frame is defined as an ordered sequence of bytes your sender transmits and receiver receives.

There are two common solutions:

  1. Frame Separator: Put an identifier between each frame. That identifier can not occur inside the frame. Then parse each input blob of bytes looking for the identifier. Then emit an event for the received frame. Often in nodejs people are sending utf8 encoded strings of JSON objects so a common identifier is a single newline charater.

  2. Frame Header: Put a fixed binary header at the beginning of each frame telling the receiver how many bytes are in the frame. A simple header need only be 4 bytes encoded as a unsigned 32bit integer in big-endian format (aka network order). The receiver reads this integer as the "frame length" and just reads the next "frame length" bytes off the socket as the frame.

Typically (or at least in non-dynamic languages) Frame Header solutions are faster and easier to implement. However, the V8 Javascript engine Node.js is based on has quite fast string manipulation, and the Buffer objects are a "bolt on" to the V8 engine. So scanning thru input strings for newline characters is pretty fast and splicing/joining those string similarly speedy. Splicing/joining Buffer object do not have any special optimizations. So my tests show that frames have to be on the order of 100,000 bytes long before the Frame Header method is faster.

Regardless of performance, the Frame Header approach is better if your frames do not contain only strings, and/or you do not want to enforce the Frame Separator rule that a frame may not contain the identifier.


var svr = net.createServer().listen(7000)

svr.on('connection', function(sk){
  var frap = new Frap(sk)
  frap.on('frame', function(bufs) {
    //simple echo


var msg = {cmd: "print", args: ["hello", "world"]}
  , sk = net.createConnection(7000, function() {
  frap = new Frap(sk)

  frap.on('data', function(buf) {
    var recv_msg = JSON.parse(buf.toString('utf8'))
    console.log("recv:", msg)
    frap.end() //does not end the socket

  frap.write(msg, 'utf8')


var sk = net.connect(PORT, function(){
  var frap = new Frap(sk)
    , basename = path.basename(FILENAME)
    , namebuf = new Buffer(basename, 'utf8')

  function sendFile(frap, filename, filesize) {
    var rstream = fs.createReadStream(filename)
      , wstream = frap.createWriteStream(filesize)
    wstream.once('close', function(){
      log("file, %s, sent", filename)
      log("closing socket")

  sendFile(frap, FILENAME, FILESTAT.size)


var svr = net.createServer(PORT, function(sk){
  var frap = new Frap(sk)

  var state = 'filename'
    , filename
  frap.on('data', function (buf) {
    if (state !== 'filename') return

    filename = buf.toString('utf8')
    log("using filename, %s", filename)

    state = 'filedata'
  frap.on('header', function (rstream, framelen) {
    if (state !== 'filedata') return

    var dl_filename = path.join(DL_DIR, filename)
      , wstream = fs.createWriteStream(dl_filename)

    rstream.once('close', function(){
      state = 'filename'


sk is usually a net.Socket, but it can be any read/write Stream.

options is an optional argument. It must be an object. The following properties are recognized:

  • noframes is an boolean. If true, buffers will not be accumulated to emit 'frame' and 'data' events. There is two reasons for this: First, for a large frame, megabytes or gigabytes large, the Frap object would have to collect the incoming Buffers until a complete frame was received. Second, in order for a 'data' event to be emitted those collected buffers would have to be joined into a new, rather large, Buffer; an expensive operation.
  • Event: 'frame'

    function (bufs, framelen)

    Where bufs is an array of Buffer objects. and framelen is an integer number of bytes of the frame size and the sum of the lengths of each of the Buffer objects in bufs.

    sendFrame() is the complement of 'frame' events.

    Disabled if options.noframe === true passed to constructor. You might want to disable 'frame' events to stop this library from accumulating very large number buffers in memory.

  • Event: 'data'

    function (buf) { }

    Where buf is a single Buffer object.

    'data' events are the same as 'frame' events except that they have had the buffers concatenated into a single buffer. This concatenation operation is expensive so if there is no listeners for 'data' events the concatenation will not occur.

    write() is the complement of 'data' events.

    Disabled if options.noframe === true passed to constructor.

  • Event: 'header'

    function (rstream, framelen) { }

    Emitted when a header is encountered in the input stream.

  • Event: 'part'

    function (buf, pos) { }

    Emitted for each buffer in the input stream. pos is the position where the buffer starts within the frame.

  • Event: 'drain'

    function () { }

    Emitted when the source stream flushes all the pending writes.

  • Event: 'error'

    function (err) { }

    A simple pass thru of any 'error' event from the input data stream.

  • Event: 'end'

    function () { }

    Emitted when end() is called.

  • Event: 'close'

    function (had_error) { }

    Emitted when destroy() is called.

  • sendFrame(bufs)

  • sendFrame(buf0, buf1, ..., bufN)

    bufs may be an array of Buffer objects, or buf0, buf1, ..., bufN are Buffer objects. The lengths of these buffers are summed to determine the frame length.

    This is can be more efficient than concatenating these buffers and using write() to send the whole large buffer as one frame.

  • write(buf)

  • write(str, enc)

    Write a new frame with buf.length as the frame length.

  • pause()

    Suspend emitting 'data', 'frame', 'header' or 'part' events. It will also call pause() on the underlying source stream (sk from the constructor).

  • resume()

    Resume emitting 'data', 'frame', 'header' or 'part' events. It will also call resume() on the underlying sk object (from the constructor).

  • pipe(dst)

    A specialized pipe for Frap. If dst is a Frap object, then the current Frap object will be piped into the dst Frap object using each partial data buffer, rather than buffering up an entire frame and writing that into the dst object. This is much more efficient. * * If dst is not an instanceof Frap, then it will use the default Stream pipe.

  • end()

  • end(buf)

  • end(str, enc)

    Stop the Frap object from emitting any new 'data', 'frame', 'header' or 'part' events and allow any unsent data to drain.

  • destroy()

    Close this Stream regardless of any unsent data. Emit a 'close' event.

  • destroySoon()

    Close this Stream. Allow any unsent data to drain. Then Emit a 'close' event.

  • enableEmitFrame()

    Start accumulating partial buffers to emit 'frame' and 'data' events.

  • disableEmitFrame()

    Disable the accumulation of partial buffers and no longer emit 'frame' and 'data' events.

  • createReadStream(framelen)

    Create and return a RFrameStream object. Only one may exist at a time for each Frap object, otherwise it will throw an AssertionError.

  • createWriteStream(framelen)

    Create and return a WFrameStream object. Only one may exist at a time for each Frap object, otherwise it will throw an AssertionError.