Thursday, September 1, 2016

IoT Ready OSS ASN.1 Tools

Minimizing the ASN.1 encoder/decoder footprint is an increasingly common requirement of customers in various industries. It is a particularly critical requirement of customers developing solutions for IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices. A great numbers of the devices expected to be connected to the network will have very limited memory capacity, typically a few hundred kilobytes, available for the application.

The OSS ASN.1 Tools have several features customers can use to reduce the size of the ASN.1 encoder/decoder and meet this challenging memory requirement. In several cases, simply using these features we were able to achieve a footprint size of 200 kilobytes for the OSS PER (Packed Encoding Rule) encoder/decoder supporting a large ASN.1 protocol such as RRC (Radio Resource Control).  We were even able to achieve a footprint size of 61 kilobytes for one customer!

The OSS ASN.1 tools for C have two main components, an ASN.1 compiler and a set of runtime libraries. The ASN.1 compiler takes an ASN.1 specification as input and generates C structures for use by your application. The runtime library is linked with your application to support and complement the code generated by the ASN.1 compiler. These generic components have been designed to be easily configured by you to meet your specific needs.

The OSS ASN.1 compiler treats all unreferenced types in the ASN.1 specification as Protocol Data Unit (PDU) types, i.e. the compiler expects that your application will encode/decode messages of these types, and generates encoder/decoder code for all of these types. However, in your particular application, you can optimize space utilization if you don’t need to encode/decode all of these types. By applying the OSS.NOPDU directive, you can instruct the OSS ASN.1 compiler not to generate the code for those types you don’t need.

In cases where there are many message types which your application is not interested in encoding/decoding, applying the OSS.PDU directives to all of those types may not be very convenient. In such cases, simply apply the OSS.NOPDU directive globally and then apply the OSS.PDU directive only to the types you need to encode/decode. This approach, which reduces the number of directives applied is quite useful in applications which handle only a few selected message types.

After you have tailored the generated code to encode and decode only the types you need, it’s possible that you need to only encode some of these types, and only need to decode some other types. Such customization of the generated code is possible by using another set of directives, OSS.ENCODEONLY and OSS.DECODEONLY. If the OSS.ENCODEONLY directive is applied to a message type, only the encoder code will be generated for that type. The OSS.DECODEONLY directive can be used to generate only decoder code for a particular type.

In several cases message types contain many optional fields. If the values corresponding to those fields will not be present in the messages you are receiving, you can instruct the ASN.1 compiler not to generate encoder/decoder code for those optional fields. The ASN1.Remove directive can be used for this. Note, however, that this directive should be used with utmost care, since an incorrect change may invalidate the ASN.1 specification, resulting in unwanted decoding errors. You may refer to the ASN.1 Remove documentation for details.

There is no need to modify the ASN.1 specification to add these directives. You can write them in a separate configuration file and provide it as an input to the OSS ASN.1 compiler. You may even be able to use the same configuration file when you upgrade to a newer version of the specification.  Note that if there are new message types in the new version that your application needs to encode/decode, you may need to make minor adjustments to the configuration file.

The documentation of the OSS ASN.1 Tools for C can be found here.