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README.md

socketbox -- single socket, multiple daemons

socketbox is an alternative to the classic "inetd" daemon. Similar to inetd, socketbox allows you to spawn daemons on-demand on every connection made to a server. However, socketbox is much more flexible than traditional inetd in that the accepted sockets are passed on to other daemons using UNIX domain sockets (the SCM_RIGHTS control message).

One advantage of passing the sockets onto another program using a UNIX domain socket is that the other program can be in a completely different environment. More specifically, the other program can be in an LXC or Docker container, or some other environment where the network namespace is different. This allows daemons in other network namespaces to accept connections that would only be available from the host, even if the network namespace is completely isolated.

socketbox consists of two main components:

  • The socketbox server, which accepts TCP connections like any other network daemon, but passes the socket onto a client as described below, using the SCM_RIGHTS control message.
  • Any one of (currently) three socketbox clients, which accept the sockets from the socketbox server.

The available clients are:

  • socketbox-inetd is the safest, but requires that the daemon using it have an "inetd mode" or equivalent (e.g. sshd -i).
  • socketbox-preload is an LD_PRELOAD library that intercepts the "listen" and "accept" system calls, allowing virtually any TCP server daemon to take advantage of socketbox. This is the most compatible, but like all LD_PRELOAD libraries, things can break.
  • socketbox-relay is a native client. A socket relay was chosen because it can be used to proxy to virtually any other server, but can incur slight overhead, especially if the end server is on the same system as the socketbox daemon.

Another remarkable feature of socketbox is the ability to control where the socket is sent just by the server IP address. The intended use case for this is when the AnyIP trick is used, and a set of rules dictate where the socket is sent based on the server IP address. Since 2001:db8::1 and 2001:db8::2 would normally refer to two different hosts, if sockets to 2001:db8::1 go to one daemon and sockets to 2001:db8::2 go to another, then it will just be like they were on different systems, only that socketbox is much more flexible in terms of routing.

Other features include:

  • Single server socket (ip[6]tables TPROXY should be used for multiple ports)
  • Separation of socket acceptor and server logic allows the server daemon to run fully unprivileged
  • Load balancing via the SO_REUSEPORT option (untested)
  • Sends the original socket, not a proxied version of it, so the daemon can achieve full native performance and see the client IP address
  • Adds (potentially transparent) IPv6 support to IPv4-only daemons

socketbox is IPv6-only by design, since the AnyIP trick works best over IPv6 due to its abundance of addresses. It can work with IPv4, as long as you prefix the address with ::ffff:.

Command-line options

  • -f[]: configuration file (default /etc/socketbox.conf)
  • -l[]: listen IPv6 address, usually INADDR6_ANY (::) or a specific address specified by -j TPROXY --on-ip
  • -p[]: Listening socket port number
  • -t: Set IPV6_TRANSPARENT
  • -F: Set IPV6_FREEBIND
  • -R: Clear SO_REUSEADDR
  • -r: Set SO_REUSEPORT
  • -s[]: Inherit socket from specified file descriptor. Useful if called from another program with an inherited file descriptor.
  • -e: Run the specified program instead of socketbox; envvar SKBOX_LISTEN_FD can be used to retrieve the inherited socket.
  • -u[]: Run as user/UID. The options specified by -u, -g, and -G must allow read/write access to any sockets provided in the configuration file.
  • -g[]: Run as group/GID
  • -G[]: List of groups to keep in supplementary group list.
  • -k: Don't change groups
  • -x[]: Chroot directory
  • -S[]: Just send it to the specified Unix domain socket instead of parsing rules
  • -i[]: Send it to the file descriptor instead of parsing rules