The Vanadium naming system enables discovery of devices, regardless of their physical locations - with or without an internet connection.

Object names

Vanadium names, usually abbreviated to "names" refer to objects.

Objects implement RPC methods. In other words, methods are invoked on object names. The basic primitive is thus:

name.method(args) -> results

For example, if the name /host:8080/a/y/foo.jpg represents a JPEG file, then /host:8080/a/y/foo.jpg.Get() will return the contents of that file.

Object names are hierarchical consisting of components separated by slashes (/). Glob patterns, as on Unix, are restricted to matching name components.

Object names are resolved to obtain an object address. The underlying RPC protocol uses object addresses to establish communication with the process containing the named object prior to invoking methods on the object. The service that implements name resolution consists of servers, called mount tables, and a client library called the namespace library.

Mount tables and namespaces

Mount tables are similar to DNS servers and the namespace library to the DNS resolver. Similar to DNS and the Unix filesystem, mount tables may be arranged in layered hierarchies. The resolution process implemented by the namespace library may iteratively communicate with multiple mount tables to resolve a single name. This is illustrated in the diagram below, which shows 6 mount tables. is the root and mount table a, mount table b and mount table c are mounted in it as a, b, c. Similarly, mount table y and mount table z are mounted in mount table a as y and z. To resolve the name a/y, the mount tables on and mount table a must be consulted. To resolve the name a/y/foo/bar, mount table a/y must also be consulted, since it serves mounts made below y.

Example namespace

The first element of a name that begins with / points to the mount table at which to begin the resolution. For example, the name / starts resolution with the mount table These names are called rooted because they need no additional state to perform the resolution, they stand by themselves.

Names that don't begin with a / begin the resolution at a default (or current) mount table set in the process' namespace library. We call those names relative because they need the state of the namespace library to determine how they are resolved.

This is illustrated below, where process Client 1 has a namespace that is relative to, its root, and hence can resolve a, b, c, a/y, and a/z.

The view from Client 1

In contrast, process Client 2 with as its root can resolve only y and z.

The view from Client 2

The advantage of using a relative namespace is that it can define a context. For example, for debugging or testing one would set up the namespace to contain the emulated environment. It is similarly possible to provide context of nearby devices, or one local to a single machine.

Rooted names can be used to specify an arbitrary server where name resolution will begin, thus overriding the root of the namespace asked to perform the resolution. This would allow Client 2 to refer to a as / The element immediately after the leading slash must be an address, either in dnsname:port, ipv6:port, or ipv4:port format, or in the Vanadium endpoint format that encodes more detailed information about the server supporting the object (such as protocol versions or a globally unique id). In all cases they provide a starting point in the forest of namespaces. The object addressed by that element can be another mount table or the terminal server.

In essence, both rooted and relative names are the same. They represent a walk through a namespace that consists of a directed cyclic graph of mount tables ending in a server of the object we're trying to get at. The only difference with relative names is that we're assuming a "current directory" to start from as opposed to providing it in the name.

The leaves are servers, or empty tables

User-supplied server code that implements RPCs also appears as names in mount tables. In the diagram above Server 1 and Server 2 provide a server called srv that can be accessed as /, which will resolve to the server hosted by Server 1 and /, which will resolve to the server hosted by Server 2. The mount table at contains the entry for Server 1 (as srv) and the mount table at mount table a contains the entry for Server 2 (also called srv). Invoking / will result in Server 1 serving that method, whereas / will be served by Server 2.

The name resolution process is iterative. For Client 1 to resolve a/y/bar, it will first ask to resolve a/y/bar, root will reply with mount table a's address and y/bar as the "unresolved" portion of the name. Client 1 will then ask mount table a to resolve y/bar, and so on.

If the resolution reaches a leaf server (i.e. one that isn't a mount table such as Serve 1 or Server 2) and there are still remaining components to the name, those "unresolved" components will be passed to the leaf server along with the operation. Thus the call / will result in Server 1 receiving the RPC foo/bar.Get().

It is possible to create cycles by creating mount tables that mount themselves through other mount tables. Cycles are handled by limiting the number of iterations the resolution algorithm will execute. That is, regardless of whether cycles are present, the resolution algorithm will bound the number of iterations it executes.

Mount entries

Our examples above have shown mount tables pointing to other mount tables or to leaf servers but we haven't said what those pointers are. They are a set of equivalent rooted names. They either specify different addresses for the same server reachable via different networks (for example IP, IPv6, and Bluetooth), or they specify addresses for servers that are themselves equivalent either because they are stateless or because they transparently synchronize their state. Thus, we can send an RPC to whichever one is available and that we can reach.

Normally these rooted names point to the root of the server's namespace and that is what we have shown in our examples. However, you can also mount objects further inside the server's namespace. In the example above, we could have mounted Server 1s /foo/bar onto the name / In that case both / and / would resolve to the same object. You can use this to create aliases or nicknames for objects, or to create namespaces that represent some context (like all left handed green eyed poker players) without creating a specific server to provice such a grouping.