Google "Protocol buffers" over D-bus?

Thiago Macieira thiago at
Sun Sep 20 00:22:12 PDT 2009

Em Sábado 19. Setembro 2009, às 21.30.08, Ville M. Vainio escreveu:
> Google "protocol buffers", in case you haven't heard of them, are
> basically a way to encode struct-like data in binary form, coupled
> with an IDL-ish description language & code generators.
> Now, I'm thinking of the performance implications of passing
> protobuf-encoded byte blocks as (complex) arguments for (and return
> values to) dbus methods. This may, or may not, lead to bandwidth
> improvements over just using the usual dbus stuff
> (dbus_message_iter_append_basic, ...), while still retaining the
> convenient dbus semantics (service discovery/naming, activation,
> method call semantics...) - but with simpler transition to, say, using
> local/internet sockets if it appears necessary.
> So I'm asking - has someone already benchmarked this? Can you squeeze
> more data in one dbus invocation using protobufs without hitting
> buffer limit? How about serialization speed/size for complex objects?
> Code complexity implications?

I've just taken a quick look at the protobuf documentation (which doesn't seem 
to have any relation to Google, btw, except for being hosted on

It's just a marshalling format. It doesn't do anything else. It matches D-Bus 
marshalling, with a different format. From what I can see, anything you can 
encode in a protobuf you can encode in D-Bus too, but not the other way 
around. I don't see any way in protobuf to send variable-sized arrays, 
dictionaries, structures. I could even say I don't see a way of transferring 
Unicode strings -- there's only a byte-array type (which they call "string"), 
which you can use to transport those strings, as long as you agree on the 
encoding out-of-band.

Now, the protobuf encoding is shorter than D-Bus for the same payload. D-Bus 
is much more verbose, with each integer type occupying the same width, 
regardless of type. That also means strings are prefixed with a full 4 bytes of 

D-Bus was designed for localhost communications, where bandwidth is not a 
problem. It was designed for parsing efficiency -- indeed, many items are 8-byte 
aligned inside the wire message so that they can be easily read on any 

I'd say that, if you can, use D-Bus marshalling when using D-Bus. It'll be 
more efficient and also more compatible with existing implementations.
Thiago Macieira - thiago (AT) - thiago (AT)
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