COMS 4995 Advanced Systems Programming

Domain sockets

Summary of UNIX IPC so far

Shared memory

  1. Multiple threads in a single process
    • Process address space is already shared among the threads
  2. Related processes (i.e., parent and child)
    • Anonymous mmap
  3. Unrelated processes
    • File-backed mmap


  1. Multiple threads in a single process
    • pthread mutex, condition variable, reader-writer lock
  2. Multiple processes with some shared memory
    • pthread mutex, condition variable, reader-writer lock with PTHREAD_PROCESS_SHARED attribute
    • Unnamed POSIX semaphore
  3. Multiple processes with no shared memory
    • Named POSIX semaphore

Data passing

  1. Related processes
    • Unnamed pipe
      • created by pipe()
      • half duplex (i.e., one way communication)
  2. Unrelated processes
    • Named pipe (aka FIFO)
      • created by mkfifo()
      • still half duplex
  3. Distant processes (i.e., anywhere on the Internet)
    • TCP socket
      • full duplex
      • reliable byte stream delivery
      • high protocol overhead
      • message boundaries are not preserved
    • UDP socket
      • full duplex
      • unreliable datagram delivery
      • low protocol overhead
      • message boundaries are preserved

UNIX domain sockets

Best of pipes and sockets, but only for local processes:

  1. Unnamed pair of connected sockets for related processes
    • created by socketpair(AF_UNIX, ... )
    • just like a pipe, but full duplex
  2. Named local-only socket for unrelated processes
    • created by socket(AF_UNIX, ... )
    • represented by a special file
  3. reliable when used in datagram mode

  4. can transport special things like open file descriptor

Unnamed socket pair as Full duplex pipe

int socketpair(int domain, int type, int protocol, int sv[2]);

        // Returns 0 if OK, -1 on error

Same picture as the one for pipe() but arrows going both ways:

Figure 17.1, APUE

Example of exchanging datagram using named domain socket

Passing open file descriptors

Duplicate a file descriptor across running processes:

Figure 17.11, APUE

Last updated: 2023-02-21