Networking and messaging

Corda uses AMQP/1.0 over TLS between nodes which is currently implemented using Apache Artemis, an embeddable message queue broker. Building on established MQ protocols gives us features like persistence to disk, automatic delivery retries with backoff and dead-letter routing, security, large message streaming and so on.

Artemis is hidden behind a thin interface that also has an in-memory only implementation suitable for use in unit tests and visualisation tools.

Note

A future version of Corda will allow the MQ broker to be split out of the main node and run as a separate server. We may also support non-Artemis implementations via JMS, allowing the broker to be swapped out for alternative implementations.

There are multiple ways of interacting with the network. When writing an application you typically won’t use the messaging subsystem directly. Instead you will build on top of the flow framework, which adds a layer on top of raw messaging to manage multi-step flows and let you think in terms of identities rather than specific network endpoints.

Network Map Service

Supporting the messaging layer is a network map service, which is responsible for tracking public nodes on the network.

Nodes have an internal component, the network map cache, which contains a copy of the network map (which is backed up in the database to persist that information across the restarts in case the network map server is down). When a node starts up its cache fetches a copy of the full network map (from the server or from filesystem for development mode). After that it polls on regular time interval for network map and applies any related changes locally. Nodes do not automatically deregister themselves, so (for example) nodes going offline briefly for maintenance are retained in the network map, and messages for them will be queued, minimising disruption.

Additionally, on every restart and on daily basis nodes submit signed NodeInfo s to the map service. When network map gets signed, these changes are distributed as new network data. NodeInfo republishing is treated as a heartbeat from the node, based on that network map service is able to figure out which nodes can be considered as stale and removed from the network map document after eventHorizon time.

Message queues

The node makes use of various queues for its operation. The more important ones are described below. Others are used for maintenance and other minor purposes.

p2p.inbound.$identity:
 The node listens for messages sent from other peer nodes on this queue. Only clients who are authenticated to be nodes on the same network are given permission to send. Messages which are routed internally are also sent to this queue (e.g. two flows on the same node communicating with each other).
internal.peers.$identity:
 These are a set of private queues only available to the node which it uses to route messages destined to other peers. The queue name ends in the base 58 encoding of the peer’s identity key. There is at most one queue per peer. The broker creates a bridge from this queue to the peer’s p2p.inbound.$identity queue, using the network map service to lookup the peer’s network address.
internal.services.$identity:
 These are private queues the node may use to route messages to services. The queue name ends in the base 58 encoding of the service’s owning identity key. There is at most one queue per service identity (but note that any one service may have several identities). The broker creates bridges to all nodes in the network advertising the service in question. When a session is initiated with a service counterparty the handshake is pushed onto this queue, and a corresponding bridge is used to forward the message to an advertising peer’s p2p queue. Once a peer is picked the session continues on as normal.
rpc.server:RPC clients send their requests here, and it’s only open for sending by clients authenticated as RPC users.
rpc.client.$user.$random:
 RPC clients are given permission to create a temporary queue incorporating their username ($user) and sole permission to receive messages from it. RPC requests are required to include a random number ($random) from which the node is able to construct the queue the user is listening on and send the response to that. This mechanism prevents other users from being able listen in on the responses.

Security

Clients attempting to connect to the node’s broker fall in one of four groups:

  1. Anyone connecting with the username SystemUsers/Node or SystemUsers/NodeRPC is treated as the node hosting the brokers, or a logical component of the node. The TLS certificate they provide must match the one broker has for the node. If that’s the case they are given full access to all valid queues, otherwise they are rejected.
  2. Anyone connecting with the username SystemUsers/Peer is treated as a peer on the same Corda network as the node. Their TLS root CA must be the same as the node’s root CA – the root CA is the doorman of the network and having the same root CA implies we’ve been let in by the same doorman. If they are part of the same network then they are only given permission to send to our p2p.inbound.$identity queue, otherwise they are rejected.
  3. Every other username is treated as a RPC user and authenticated against the node’s list of valid RPC users. If that is successful then they are only given sufficient permission to perform RPC, otherwise they are rejected.
  4. Clients connecting without a username and password are rejected.

Artemis provides a feature of annotating each received message with the validated user. This allows the node’s messaging service to provide authenticated messages to the rest of the system. For the first two client types described above the validated user is the X.500 subject of the client TLS certificate. This allows the flow framework to authentically determine the Party initiating a new flow. For RPC clients the validated user is the username itself and the RPC framework uses this to determine what permissions the user has.

The broker also does host verification when connecting to another peer. It checks that the TLS certificate subject matches with the advertised X.500 legal name from the network map service.

Implementation details

The components of the system that need to communicate and authenticate each other are:
  • The Artemis P2P broker (currently runs inside the node’s JVM process, but in the future it will be able to run as a separate server):
    • Opens Acceptor configured with the doorman’s certificate in the trustStore and the node’s SSL certificate in the keyStore.
  • The Artemis RPC broker (currently runs inside the node’s JVM process, but in the future it will be able to run as a separate server):
    • Opens “Admin” Acceptor configured with the doorman’s certificate in the trustStore and the node’s SSL certificate in the keyStore.
    • Opens “Client” Acceptor with the SSL settings configurable. This acceptor does not require SSL client-auth.
  • The current node hosting the brokers:
    • Connects to the P2P broker using the SystemUsers/Node user and the node’s keyStore and trustStore.
    • Connects to the “Admin” Acceptor of the RPC broker using the SystemUsers/NodeRPC user and the node’s keyStore and trustStore.
  • RPC clients (third party applications that need to communicate with the node):
    • Connect to the “Client” Acceptor of the RPC broker using the username/password provided by the node’s admin. The client verifies the node’s certificate using a trustStore provided by the node’s admin.
  • Peer nodes (other nodes on the network):
    • Connect to the P2P broker using the SystemUsers/Peer user and a doorman signed certificate. The authentication is performed based on the root CA.