DDSI Concepts

The DDSI standard is intimately related to the DDS 1.2 and 1.4 standards, with a clear correspondence between the entities in DDSI and those in DCPS. However, this correspondence is not one-to-one.

In this section we give a high-level description of the concepts of the DDSI specification, with hardly any reference to the specifics of the Eclipse Cyclone DDS implementation (addressed in Eclipse Cyclone DDS Specifics). This division aids readers interested in interoperability in understanding where the specification ends and the Eclipse Cyclone DDS implementation begins.

Mapping of DCPS Domains to DDSI Domains

In DCPS, a domain is uniquely identified by a non-negative integer, the domain id. In the UDP/IP mapping, this domain id is mapped to port numbers to be used for communicating with the peer nodes — these port numbers are particularly important for the discovery protocol — and this mapping of domain ids to UDP/IP port numbers ensures that accidental cross-domain communication is impossible with the default mapping.

DDSI does not communicate the DCPS port number in the discovery protocol; it assumes that each domain id maps to a unique port number. While it is unusual to change the mapping, the specification requires this to be possible, and this means that two different DCPS domain ids can be mapped to a single DDSI domain.

Mapping of DCPS Entities to DDSI Entities

Each DCPS domain participant in a domain is mirrored in DDSI as a DDSI participant. These DDSI participants drive the discovery of participants, readers, and writers in DDSI via the discovery protocols. By default, each DDSI participant has a unique address on the network in the form of its own UDP/IP socket with a unique port number.

Any data reader or data writer created by a DCPS domain participant is mirrored in DDSI as a DDSI reader or writer. In this translation, some of the structure of the DCPS domain is obscured because the standardized parts of DDSI have no knowledge of DCPS Subscribers and Publishers. Instead, each DDSI reader is the combination of the corresponding DCPS data reader and the DCPS subscriber it belongs to; similarly, each DDSI writer is a combination of the corresponding DCPS data writer and DCPS publisher. This corresponds to the way the standardized DCPS built-in topics describe the DCPS data readers and data writers, as there are no standardized built-in topics for describing the DCPS subscribers and publishers either. Implementations can (and do) offer additional built-in topics for describing these entities and include them in the discovery, but these are non-standard extensions.

In addition to the application-created readers and writers (referred to as endpoints), DDSI participants have a number of DDSI built-in endpoints used for discovery and liveliness checking/asserting. The most important ones are those absolutely required for discovery: readers and writers for the discovery data concerning DDSI participants, DDSI readers and DDSI writers. Some other ones exist as well, and a DDSI implementation can leave out some of these if it has no use for them. For example, if a participant has no writers, it doesn’t strictly need the DDSI built-in endpoints for describing writers, nor the DDSI built-in endpoint for learning of readers of other participants.

Reliable Communication

Best-effort communication is simply a wrapper around UDP/IP: the packet(s) containing a sample are sent to the addresses at which the readers reside. No state is maintained on the writer. If a packet is lost, the reader will simply ignore the samples contained in the lost packet and continue with the next one.

When reliable communication is used, the writer maintains a copy of the sample, in case a reader detects it has lost packets and requests a re-transmission. These copies are stored in the writer history cache (or WHC) of the DDSI writer. The DDSI writer is required to periodically send Heartbeats to its readers to ensure that all readers will learn of the presence of new samples in the WHC even when packets get lost. It is allowed to suppress these periodic Heartbeats if all samples in the WHC have been acknowledged by all matched readers. Eclipse Cyclone DDS exploits this freedom.

If a reader receives a Heartbeat and detects it did not receive all samples, it requests a re-transmission by sending an AckNack message to the writer. The timing of this is somewhat adjustable and it is worth remarking that a roundtrip latency longer than the Heartbeat interval easily results in multiple re-transmit requests for a single sample. In addition to requesting re-transmission of some samples, a reader also uses the AckNack messages to inform the writer up to which sample it has received everything, and which ones it has not yet received. Whenever the writer indicates it requires a response to a Heartbeat the readers will send an AckNack message even when no samples are missing. In this case, it becomes a pure acknowledgement.

The combination of these behaviours in principle allows the writer to remove old samples from its WHC when it fills up the cache, and allows readers to reliably receive all data. A complication exists in the case of unresponsive readers, readers that do not respond to a Heartbeat at all, or that for some reason fail to receive some samples despite re-sending them. The specification does not define how to handle these situations. The default behaviour of Eclipse Cyclone DDS is to never consider readers unresponsive, but it can be configured to consider them so after a certain length of time has passed at which point the participant containing the reader is undiscovered.

Note that while this Heartbeat/AckNack mechanism is straightforward, the specification actually allows suppressing heartbeats, merging of AckNacks and re-transmissions, etc. The use of these techniques is required to allow for a performant DDSI implementation, whilst avoiding the need for sending redundant messages.

DDSI-Specific Transient-Local Behaviour

The above describes the essentials of the mechanism used for samples of the volatile durability kind, but the DCPS specification also provides transient-local, transient and persistent data. Of these, the DDSI specification at present only covers transient-local, and this is the only form of durable data available when inter-operating across vendors.

In DDSI, transient-local data is implemented using the WHC that is normally used for reliable communication. For transient-local data, samples are retained even when all readers have acknowledged them. With the default history setting of KEEP_LAST with history_depth = 1, this means that late-joining readers can still obtain the latest sample for each existing instance.

Naturally, once the DCPS writer is deleted (or disappears for whatever reason), the DDSI writer disappears as well, and with it, its history. For this reason, transient data is generally preferred over transient-local data. Eclipse Cyclone DDS has a facility for retrieving transient data from an suitably configured OpenSplice node, but does not yet include a native service for managing transient data.

Discovery of Participants & Endpoints

DDSI participants discover each other by means of the Simple Participant Discovery Protocol or SPDP for short. This protocol is based on periodically sending a message containing the specifics of the participant to a set of known addresses. By default, this is a standardised multicast address (; the port number is derived from the domain id) that all DDSI implementations listen to.

Particularly important in the SPDP message are the unicast and multicast addresses at which the participant can be reached. Typically, each participant has a unique unicast address, which in practice means all participants on a node all have a different UDP/IP port number in their unicast address. In a multicast-capable network, it doesn’t matter what the actual address (including port number) is, because all participants will learn them through these SPDP messages.

The protocol does allow for unicast-based discovery, which requires listing the addresses of machines where participants may be located and ensuring each participant uses one of a small set of port numbers. Because of this, some of the port numbers are derived not only from the domain id, but also from a participant index, which is a small non-negative integer, unique to a participant within a node. (Eclipse Cyclone DDS adds an indirection and uses at most one participant index for a domain for each process, regardless of how many DCPS participants are created by the process.)

Once two participants have discovered each other and both have matched the DDSI built-in endpoints their peer is advertising in the SPDP message, the Simple Endpoint Discovery Protocol or SEDP takes over, exchanging information on the DCPS data readers and data writers (and for Eclipse Cyclone DDS, also publishers, subscribers and topics in a manner compatible with OpenSplice) in the two participants.

The SEDP data is handled as reliable, transient-local data. Therefore, the SEDP writers send Heartbeats, the SEDP readers detect they have not yet received all samples and send AckNacks requesting retransmissions, the writer responds to these and eventually receives a pure acknowledgement informing it that the reader has now received the complete set.

Note that the discovery process necessarily creates a burst of traffic each time a participant is added to the system: all existing participants respond to the SPDP message, following which all start exchanging SEDP data.