Within data communication protocols, optional information may be encoded as a type-length-value or TLV element inside a protocol. TLV is also known as tag-length-value.

The type and length are fixed in size (typically 1-4 bytes), and the value field is of variable size. These fields are used as follows:

A binary code, often simply alphanumeric, which indicates the kind of field that this part of the message represents;
The size of the value field (typically in bytes);
Variable-sized series of bytes which contains data for this part of the message.

Some advantages of using a TLV representation data system solution are:


Imagine a message to make a telephone call. In a first version of a system this might use two message elements, a "command" and a "phoneNumberToCall":


Here command_c, makeCall_c and phoneNumberToCall_c are integer constants and 4 and 8 are the lengths of the "value" fields, respectively.

Later (in version 2) a new field containing the calling number could be added:


A version 1 system which received a message from a version 2 system would first read the command_c element and then read an element of type callingNumber_c. The version 1 system does not understand ;callingNumber_c

so the length field is read (i.e. 14) and the system skips forward 14 bytes to read


which it understands, and message parsing carries on.

An example of usage is the Link Layer Discovery Protocol which allows for the sending of organizational-specific information as a TLV element within LLDP packets. Another example is the RR protocol used in GSM cell phones, defined in 3GPP 04.18.

In the RR protocol, each message is defined as a sequence of information elements.

Many other protocols use TLVs, such as COPS, IS-IS, and RADIUS.

Other ways of representing data

Core TCP/IP protocols (particularly IP, TCP, and UDP) use predefined, static fields.

Common TCP/IP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POP3, and SIP use text-based "Field: Value" pairs formatted according to RFC 2822.

ASN.1 specifies several TLV-based encoding rules (BER, DER), as well as non-TLV based ones (PER, XER).

CSN.1 describes encoding rules using non-TLV semantics.

More recently, XML has been used to implement messaging between different nodes in a network. These messages are typically prefixed with line-based text commands, such as with BEEP.

See also


    External links

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