libssh  0.7.0
Chapter 5: The SFTP subsystem

The SFTP subsystem

SFTP stands for "Secure File Transfer Protocol". It enables you to safely transfer files between the local and the remote computer. It reminds a lot of the old FTP protocol.

SFTP is a rich protocol. It lets you do over the network almost everything that you can do with local files:

The current implemented version of the SFTP protocol is version 3. All functions aren't implemented yet, but the most important are.

Opening and closing a SFTP session

Unlike with remote shells and remote commands, when you use the SFTP subsystem, you don't handle directly the SSH channels. Instead, you open a "SFTP session".

The function sftp_new() creates a new SFTP session. The function sftp_init() initializes it. The function sftp_free() deletes it.

As you see, all the SFTP-related functions start with the "sftp_" prefix instead of the usual "ssh_" prefix.

The example below shows how to use these functions:

#include <libssh/sftp.h>
int sftp_helloworld(ssh_session session)
{
sftp_session sftp;
int rc;
sftp = sftp_new(session);
if (sftp == NULL)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Error allocating SFTP session: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
rc = sftp_init(sftp);
if (rc != SSH_OK)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Error initializing SFTP session: %s.\n",
sftp_free(sftp);
return rc;
}
...
sftp_free(sftp);
return SSH_OK;
}

Analyzing SFTP errors

In case of a problem, the function sftp_get_error() returns a SFTP-specific error number, in addition to the regular SSH error number returned by ssh_get_error_number().

Possible errors are:

Creating a directory

The function sftp_mkdir() tahes the "SFTP session" we juste created as its first argument. It also needs the name of the file to create, and the desired permissions. The permissions are the same as for the usual mkdir() function. To get a comprehensive list of the available permissions, use the "man 2 stat" command. The desired permissions are combined with the remote user's mask to determine the effective permissions.

The code below creates a directory named "helloworld" in the current directory that can be read and written only by its owner:

#include <libssh/sftp.h>
#include <sys/stat.h>
int sftp_helloworld(ssh_session session, sftp_session sftp)
{
int rc;
rc = sftp_mkdir(sftp, "helloworld", S_IRWXU);
if (rc != SSH_OK)
{
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't create directory: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return rc;
}
}
...
return SSH_OK;
}

Unlike its equivalent in the SCP subsystem, this function does NOT change the current directory to the newly created subdirectory.

Copying a file to the remote computer

You handle the contents of a remote file just like you would do with a local file: you open the file in a given mode, move the file pointer in it, read or write data, and close the file.

The sftp_open() function is very similar to the regular open() function, excepted that it returns a file handle of type sftp_file. This file handle is then used by the other file manipulation functions and remains valid until you close the remote file with sftp_close().

The example below creates a new file named "helloworld.txt" in the newly created "helloworld" directory. If the file already exists, it will be truncated. It then writes the famous "Hello, World!" sentence to the file, followed by a new line character. Finally, the file is closed:

#include <libssh/sftp.h>
#include <sys/stat.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
int sftp_helloworld(ssh_session session, sftp_session sftp)
{
int access_type = O_WRONLY | O_CREAT | O_TRUNC;
sftp_file file;
const char *helloworld = "Hello, World!\n";
int length = strlen(helloworld);
int rc, nwritten;
...
file = sftp_open(sftp, "helloworld/helloworld.txt",
access_type, S_IRWXU);
if (file == NULL)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't open file for writing: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
nwritten = sftp_write(file, helloworld, length);
if (nwritten != length)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't write data to file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
sftp_close(file);
return SSH_ERROR;
}
rc = sftp_close(file);
if (rc != SSH_OK)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't close the written file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return rc;
}
return SSH_OK;
}

Reading a file from the remote computer

The nice thing with reading a file over the network through SFTP is that it can be done both in a synchronous way or an asynchronous way. If you read the file asynchronously, your program can do something else while it waits for the results to come.

Synchronous read is done with sftp_read().

Files are normally transferred in chunks. A good chunk size is 16 KB. The following example transfers the remote file "/etc/profile" in 16 KB chunks. For each chunk we request, sftp_read blocks till the data has been received:

// Good chunk size
#define MAX_XFER_BUF_SIZE 16384
int sftp_read_sync(ssh_session session, sftp_session sftp)
{
int access_type;
sftp_file file;
char buffer[MAX_XFER_BUF_SIZE];
int nbytes, nwritten, rc;
int fd;
access_type = O_RDONLY;
file = sftp_open(sftp, "/etc/profile",
access_type, 0);
if (file == NULL) {
fprintf(stderr, "Can't open file for reading: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
fd = open("/path/to/profile", O_CREAT);
if (fd < 0) {
fprintf(stderr, "Can't open file for writing: %s\n",
strerror(errno));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
for (;;) {
nbytes = sftp_read(file, buffer, sizeof(buffer));
if (nbytes == 0) {
break; // EOF
} else if (nbytes < 0) {
fprintf(stderr, "Error while reading file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
sftp_close(file);
return SSH_ERROR;
}
nwritten = write(fd, buffer, nbytes);
if (nwritten != nbytes) {
fprintf(stderr, "Error writing: %s\n",
strerror(errno));
sftp_close(file);
return SSH_ERROR;
}
}
rc = sftp_close(file);
if (rc != SSH_OK) {
fprintf(stderr, "Can't close the read file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return rc;
}
return SSH_OK;
}

Asynchronous read is done in two steps, first sftp_async_read_begin(), which returns a "request handle", and then sftp_async_read(), which uses that request handle. If the file has been opened in nonblocking mode, then sftp_async_read() might return SSH_AGAIN, which means that the request hasn't completed yet and that the function should be called again later on. Otherwise, sftp_async_read() waits for the data to come. To open a file in nonblocking mode, call sftp_file_set_nonblocking() right after you opened it. Default is blocking mode.

The example below reads a very big file in asynchronous, nonblocking, mode. Each time the data is not ready yet, a counter is incremented.

// Good chunk size
#define MAX_XFER_BUF_SIZE 16384
int sftp_read_async(ssh_session session, sftp_session sftp)
{
int access_type;
sftp_file file;
char buffer[MAX_XFER_BUF_SIZE];
int async_request;
int nbytes;
long counter;
int rc;
access_type = O_RDONLY;
file = sftp_open(sftp, "some_very_big_file",
access_type, 0);
if (file == NULL) {
fprintf(stderr, "Can't open file for reading: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
async_request = sftp_async_read_begin(file, sizeof(buffer));
counter = 0L;
usleep(10000);
if (async_request >= 0) {
nbytes = sftp_async_read(file, buffer, sizeof(buffer),
async_request);
} else {
nbytes = -1;
}
while (nbytes > 0 || nbytes == SSH_AGAIN) {
if (nbytes > 0) {
write(1, buffer, nbytes);
async_request = sftp_async_read_begin(file, sizeof(buffer));
} else {
counter++;
}
usleep(10000);
if (async_request >= 0) {
nbytes = sftp_async_read(file, buffer, sizeof(buffer),
async_request);
} else {
nbytes = -1;
}
}
if (nbytes < 0) {
fprintf(stderr, "Error while reading file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
sftp_close(file);
return SSH_ERROR;
}
printf("The counter has reached value: %ld\n", counter);
rc = sftp_close(file);
if (rc != SSH_OK) {
fprintf(stderr, "Can't close the read file: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return rc;
}
return SSH_OK;
}

Listing the contents of a directory

The functions sftp_opendir(), sftp_readdir(), sftp_dir_eof(), and sftp_closedir() enable to list the contents of a directory. They use a new handle_type, "sftp_dir", which gives access to the directory being read.

In addition, sftp_readdir() returns a "sftp_attributes" which is a pointer to a structure with informations about a directory entry:

sftp_readdir() might return NULL under two conditions:

To tell the difference, call sftp_dir_eof().

The attributes must be freed with sftp_attributes_free() when no longer needed.

The following example reads the contents of some remote directory:

int sftp_list_dir(ssh_session session, sftp_session sftp)
{
sftp_dir dir;
sftp_attributes attributes;
int rc;
dir = sftp_opendir(sftp, "/var/log");
if (!dir)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Directory not opened: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
printf("Name Size Perms Owner\tGroup\n");
while ((attributes = sftp_readdir(sftp, dir)) != NULL)
{
printf("%-20s %10llu %.8o %s(%d)\t%s(%d)\n",
attributes->name,
(long long unsigned int) attributes->size,
attributes->permissions,
attributes->owner,
attributes->uid,
attributes->group,
attributes->gid);
sftp_attributes_free(attributes);
}
if (!sftp_dir_eof(dir))
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't list directory: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return SSH_ERROR;
}
rc = sftp_closedir(dir);
if (rc != SSH_OK)
{
fprintf(stderr, "Can't close directory: %s\n",
ssh_get_error(session));
return rc;
}
}