• Nowadays, although is it very easy to create an App with internet communication module, it is still difficult to achive fast development of high performance server and clients.
  • Especially when devloping an App with customized network protocol, every time the developer add or delete something from the protocol, they need to rewrite, in the worst case, the whole parsing logic.
  • We decided that we are going to simplify this process by building a pre-processor/pre-compiler called POP (Pre-processor of Parsely) with a library called Parsely working with it. And the pre-processor pushes all the nasty time consuming work to compile/pre-compile time.

What it does

  • Parsely, by it name, must to have something to do with parsing. It deserializes TCP stream in Binary into small packets. UDP will be supported in the future.
  • Parsely is a library which helps user, as a developer, serialize runtime application data into network packets, according to the network protocol defined by the user in a JSON file.

How it works:

  • Step 1: Design and define your protocol in a json file

    • How proto.json is defined (example):
    "version" : [0, 0, 0],
    "protocol" : {
        "header" : 4,
        "flags" : ["HeartBeat", "ConnectionInfo", "TextMessage", "ImageMessage"]

    "fields" : {
        "HeartBeat" : [
            ["string", "uuid"],
            ["string", "usrName"],
            ["string", "publicKey"],
            ["uint32", "timestamp"]

        "ConnectionInfo" : [
            ["string", "uuid"],
            ["string", "peers"]

        "TextMessage" : [
            ["string", "uuid"],
            ["string", "msgId"],
            ["string", "msg"]

        "ImageMessage" : [
            ["string", "uuid"],
            ["string", "msgId"],
            ["string", "msg"]
  • version : POP version.
  • protocol : An overview of the protocol.
  • header : The size of header, which packetize the TCP stream. It is the size of the whole packet except the size of it self.
  • flags : Flags are used for application to determine what type of message the packet is transmitting. Different type of message has different fields, defined in fields.
  • fields : The message fields of flags. Consisted of an order sensitive array of sub fields. So that the binary will be serialized and deserialized sequencially described here. The first element of a subfield, like in ["string", "uuid"], is the type of the subfield data. And the second is the same of the data, which is just a label for your and the pre-processor's reference when debugging.

    • STEP 2: Compile your protocol to ParseEngine:
  • It translates the given protocol description JSON file to C++ code, which is a part of what we called the Parse Engine

  $ python3 ./my_proto_v1.json ./my_proj/src/
  Pre-processor of Parsely v1.0.1 stable 
  pop: Parsing /home/han/my_proto_v1.json ...
  pop: Generating decoder in C++ ...
  pop: Injecting compiled code to ./my_proj/src/parse_engine_decode_pop.cpp
  $ make -j8
  • STEP 3: Encapsulate your own network stack:

    • The user first need to inherit his/her network class from our interface called the NetStack.
    • Note: you need to implement virtual int NetStack::write(char* data, string &ip) so that ParseEngine can automatically call NetStack to send out message
  #include "parsely/net_stack.h"
  using namespace std;

  class ChatServer : public NetStack
    ChatServer(string &ip, const int &port);

    virtual int NetStack::write(char* data, string &ip);
  • STEP 4: Send message with ParseEngine:

    • How ParseEngine is used (example):
  #include "chat_server.h"
  #include "parse_engine.h"

  enum ProtoMsgType {

  void readMessage(Packet* p){
      // Do something...

  int main(int argc, char **argv  ){
      // User code...

      ChatServer  *s = new ChatServer();
      ParseEngine *e = new ParseEngine(s);
      //bind read message callback
      e->onMessage = &readMessage;

      // construct packet according to the protocol
      Packet *p = new Packet{ 
              "{cfceb206-290e-4b60-b596-1a08a2c8d36a}", // UUID
              "731948",                                   // Message ID
              "Hello?"                                // Message Text
      e->message(p, Text}, "");

      // User code...

How we built it

  • Parsing utility (library it self) functions and classes: C++.
  • POP pre-compiler: Python

Challenges we ran into

  • Our wheel Variant class got its data member's memory corrupted several times because of a deep-copy that is not deep enough.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Its is really fast and easy to use!!!!

  • We wrote and used our own wheels!!!!

  • All the wheels are well test-cased and uses modern C++ templates for high runtime performance.

What's next for Parsely

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