10.1 Overview

Netconf is an external client interface (cli and restconf are other external interfaces). Netconf is also used in the internal IPC.


Netconf is defined in RFC 6241 (see Standards section) and implemented by the clixon_netconf client.

Any number of netconf clients can be created, each creating a new session to the backend. The netconf client communicates to the outside world via stdio. Usually one sets up an SSH sub-system to communicate from external nodes.

Note that Netconf supports chunked framing defined in RFC 6241 from Clixon 5.7, but examples may not be updated.

10.1.1 Command-line options

The clixon_netconf client has the following command-line options:


-D <level>

Debug level

-f <file>

Clixon config file

-E <dir>

Extra configuration directory

-l <option>

Log on (s)yslog, std(e)rr, std(o)ut or (f)ile. Syslog is default. If foreground, then syslog and stderr is default.

-C <format>

Dump configuration options on stdout after loading and quit. Format is one of xml|json|text


Quiet mode, server does not send hello message on startup


Set netconf base capability to 0, server does not expect hello, force EOM framing


Set netconf base capability to 1, server does not expect hello, force chunked framing

-a <family>

Internal IPC backend socket family: UNIX|IPv4|IPv6

-u <path|addr>

Internal IPC socket domain path or IP addr (see -a)

-d <dir>

Specify netconf plugin directory

-p <dir>

Add Yang directory path (see CLICON_YANG_DIR)

-y <file>

Load yang spec file (override yang main module)

-U <user>

Over-ride unix user with a pseudo user for NACM.

-t <sec>

Timeout in seconds. Quit after this time.


Do not ignore errors on packet input.

-o <option=value>

Give configuration option overriding config file (see clixon-config.yang)

10.1.2 Configure options

The configuration file options related to NETCONF are the following:


Location of netconf .so plugins loaded alphabetically


If true, an RPC can be processed directly with no preceeding hello message. This is not according to the standard RFC 6241 Sec 8.1.


If true, an RPC can be sent without a message-id. This is not according to the standard RFC 6241 Sec 4.1.

10.2 Starting

The Netconf client (clixon_netconf) can be started on the command line using stdin/stdout:

> clixon_netconf -qf /usr/local/etc/clixon.conf < my.xml

It then reads and parses Netconf commands on stdin, eventually invokes Netconf plugin callbacks, then establishes a connection to the backend and usually sends the Netconf message over IPC to the backend. Some commands (eg hello) are terminated in the client. The reply from the backend is then displayed on stdout.

10.2.1 SSH subsystem

You can expose clixon_netconf as an SSH subsystem according to RFC 6242. Register the subsystem in /etc/sshd_config:

Subsystem netconf /usr/local/bin/clixon_netconf

and then invoke it from a client using:

ssh -s <host> netconf

10.3 NACM

Clixon implements the Network Configuration Access Control Model (NACM / RFC8341). NACM rpc and datanode access validation is supported, not outgoing notifications.

NACM rules apply to all datastores.

10.3.1 Restrictions

Access notification authorization (Sec 3.4.6) is NOT implemented.

Data-node paths, eg <rule>...<path>ex:table/ex:parameter</path></rule> instance-identifiers are restricted to canonical namespace identifiers for both XML and JSON encoding. That is, if a symbol (such as table above) is a symbol in a module with prefix ex, another prefix cannot be used, even though defined with a xmlns rule.

10.3.2 Config options

The following configuration options are related to NACM:


NACM mode is either: disabled, internal, or external. Default: disabled.


If NACM mode is external, this file contains the NACM config.


Verify NACM user credentials with unix socket peer credentials. This means that a NACM user must match a UNIX user accessing CLIXON_SOCK. Credentials are either: none, exact or except. Default: except.


RFC8341 defines a ‘recovery session’ as outside its scope. Clixon defines this user as having special admin rights to exempt from all access control enforcements.


RFC 8341 defines enable-nacm as true by default. Since also write-default is deny by default it leads to that empty configs can not be edited. Default: false.

10.3.3 Mode

NACM rules are either internal or external. If external, rules are loaded from a separate file, specified by the option CLICON_NACM_FILE.

If the NACM mode is internal, the NACM configuration is a part of the regular candidate/running datastore. NACM rules are read from the running datastore, ie they need to be committed.

Since NACM rules are part of the config itself it means that there may be bootstrapping issues. In particular, NACM default is enabled with read/exec permit, and write deny. Loading an empty config therefore leads to a “deadlock” where no user can edit the datastore.

Work-arounds include restarting the backend with a NACM config in the startup db, or using a recovery user.

10.3.4 Access control

NACM is implemented in the Clixon backend at:

  • Incoming RPC (module-name/protocol-operation)

  • Before modifying the data store (data create/delete/update)

  • After retrieving data (data read)

User credentials

Access control relies on a user and groups. When an internal Clixon client communicates with the backend, it piggybacks the name of the user in the request, See Internal netconf username:

<rpc username="myuser"><get-config><source><running/></source></get-config></rpc>

The authentication of the username needs to be done in the client by either SSL certs (such as in RESTCONF auth callback) or by SSH (as in NETCONF/CLI over SSH).

The Clixon backend can check credentials of the client if it uses a UNIX socket (not IP socket) for internal communication between clients and backend. In this way, a username claimed by a client can be verified against the UNIX user credentials.

The allowed values of CLICON_NACM_CREDENTIALS is:

  • none: Do not match NACM user to any user credentials. Any user can pose as any other user. Set this for IP sockets, or do not use NACM.

  • exact: Exact match between NACM user and unix socket peer user.

  • except: Exact match between NACM user and unix socket peer user, except for root and wwwuser. This is default.

10.3.5 Recovery user

RFC 8341 defines a NACM emergency recovery session mechanism. Clixon implements a recovery user set by option CLICON_NACM_RECOVERY_USER. If a client accesses the backend as that user, all NACM rules will be bypassed. By default there is no such user.

Moreover, this mechanism is controlled by user credentials which means you can control who can act as the recovery user.

For example, by setting CLICON_NACM_CREDENTIALS to except the RESTCONF daemon can make backend calls posing as the recovery user, even though it runs as wwwuser.

Alternatively, CLICON_NACM_CREDENTIALS can be set to exact and the recovery user as root, in which case only a netconf or cli session running as root can make recovery operations.

10.4 Confirm-commit

Confirm as defined in RFC 6241 Sec 8.4 is enabled by:


Confirmed-commit adds the <cancel-commit> operation and more parameters to <commit>.

The “rollback” datastore is added and is used as a temporary revert datastore.

10.5 Callhome

With Clixon, you can make a solution following RFC 8071: NETCONF Call Home and RESTCONF Call Home over SSH as a utility using openssh.

The solution is built “around” Clixon meaning that Clixon itself is used as-is. This may be referred to as “external” callhome since it is done using external tools, not clixon itself. In contrast, rstconf call-home is “internal”, see callhome section in Restconf section.

Other solutions are possible as well, especially on the client side, and a full system integration requires a callhome framework to determine when and how callhomes are made as well as addressing the security implications addressed by RFC 8071.

Overview of a callhome architecture with a device (where clixon resides) and a client:

   device/server                             client
+-----------------+  2b) tcp connect   +---------------------+
| 2a) callhome    | ---------------->  | 1c) callhome-client |
+-----------------+                    +---------------------+
        | 3)                                   ^  |
        v                                   1b)|  v
+-----------------+   4) ssh session   +---------------------+   5) stdio
|     sshd -i     | <----------------> | 1a)   ssh           |  <------  <rpc>...</rpc>"
+-----------------+                    |---------------------+
        | stdio
| clixon_netconf  |
| clixon_backend  |

The steps to make a Netconf callhome is as follows:

  1. Start the ssh client using -o ProxyUseFdpass=yes -o ProxyCommand="callhome-client". Callhome-client listens on port 4334 for incoming TCP connections.

  2. Start the callhome program on the server making tcp connect to client on port 4334 establishing a tcp stream with the client

  3. The callhome program starts sshd -i using the established stream socket

  4. The callhome-client returns with an open stream socket to the ssh client establishing an SSH stream to the server

  5. Netconf messages are sent on stdin to the ssh client in turn using the established SSH stream and the Netconf subsystem to clixon, which returns a reply.

The callhome and callhome-client referred to above are implemented by the utility functions: util/clixon_netconf_ssh_callhome and util/clixon_netconf_ssh_callhome_client.


# Start ssh on client: bind to sending an rpc on stdin
client> echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><hello xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0"><capabilities><capability>urn:ietf:params:netconf:base:1.1</capability></capabilities></hello>]]>]]><rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0"><get-config><source><candidate/></source></get-config></rpc>]]>]]>' > msg
client> ssh -s -v -o ProxyUseFdpass=yes -o ProxyCommand="clixon_netconf_ssh_callhome_client -a" . netconf < msg

# Start callhome on server: connect to
server> sudo clixon_netconf_ssh_callhome -a

# Reply on client stdout: (skipping hello):
<rpc-reply xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0"><data/></rpc-reply>]]>]]>

The example is implemented as a regression test in test/test_netconf_ssh_callhome.sh

The RFC lists several security issues that need to be addressed in a solution, including “pinning” of host keys etc.


Warning: there are security implications of using this example as noted in RFC 8071: NETCONF Call Home and RESTCONF Call Home

10.6 Internal NETCONF

Clixon uses NETCONF in the internal IPC protocol between its clients (cli/netconf/restconf) and the backend. This internal Netconf (IPC) is slightly different from regular Netconf:

  • A different framing

  • Netconf extentions


The IPC is an internal interface, do not use externally

10.6.1 Framing

A fixed header using session id and message length before the netconf message:

struct clicon_msg {
   uint32_t    op_len;     /* length of whole message: body+header, network byte order. */
   uint32_t    op_id;      /* session-id. network byte order. */
   char        op_body[0]; /* rest of message, actual data */

The session-id is a number determined by the server. In the first hello, the client can assign zero, and assign the correct session-id in subsequent messages. The server hello contains the assigned session-id.

10.6.2 Extensions

The internal IPC protocol have a couple of attributes that are extensions to the Netconf protocol. These attributes are all in the clixon-lib namespace (http://clicon.org/lib)

  • content - for get command with values “config”, “nonconfig” or “all”, to indicate which parts of state and config are requested. This option is taken from RESTCONF. Example:

    <rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <get cl:content="nonconfig" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib"/>
  • depth - for get and get-config how deep a tree is requested. Also from RESTCONF. Example:

    <rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <get cl:depth="2" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib"/>
  • username - for top-level rpc command. Indicates which user the client represents (“pseudo-user”). This is either the actual user logged in as the client (eg “peer-user”) or can represent another user. The credentials mode determines the trust-level of the pseudo-username. Example:

    <rpc username="root" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib" xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
  • autocommit - for edit-config. If true, perform a commit operation immediately after an edit. If this fails, make a discard operation. Example:

    <rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <edit-config cl:autocommit="true" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib">
  • copystartup - for edit-config combined with autocommit. If true, copy the running db to the startup db after a commit. The combination with autocommit is the default for RESTCONF operations. Example:

    <rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <edit-config cl:autocommit="true" cl:copystartup="true" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib">
  • transport - for hello from RFC 6022. Example:

    <hello cl:transport="netconf" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib" xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0" >
  • source-host - for hello from RFC 6022. Example:

    <hello cl:source-host="" xmlns:cl="http://clicon.org/lib" xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0" >
  • objectcreate and objectexisted - in the data field of edit-config XML data tree. In the request set objectcreate to false/true whether an object should be created if it does not exist or not. If such a request exists, then the ok reply should contain “objectexists” to indicate whether the object existed or not (eg prior to the operation). The reason for this protocol is to implement some RESTCONF PATCH and PUT functionalities. Example:

    <rpc xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <edit-config objectcreate="false"><target><candidate/></target>
             <protocol objectcreate="true">tcp</protocol>
    <rpc-reply xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
       <ok objectexisted="true"/>
The reason for introducing the objectcreate/objectexisted attributes are as follows:
  • RFC 8040 4.5 PUT: if the PUT request creates a new resource, a “201 Created” status-line is returned. If an existing resource is modified, a “204 No Content” status-line is returned.

  • RFC 8040 4.6 PATCH: If the target resource instance does not exist, the server MUST NOT create it.