Dwarf Mail Server 1.1.3
SMTP Server Architecture
This document explains the SMTP server internal architecture and covers also
some related configuration options.
SMTP server consist of two independent parts. The first one receives mail messages
from the network clients and puts them into the mail queue. The second one picks
up messages from the queue, process them and delivers to final recipients. Since
both parts are in fact multi-threaded servers (SMTPServer
the message handling is fast, robust and well configurable. In addition, the
physical representation of the mail queue is abstracted via the MailQueue
interface, which adds another level of flexibility to the engine.
Mail processing phases
The mail processing loop consists of the following phases:
- mail message is received via SMTP connection by SMTPServer
and immediatelly put into the mail queue. The message content is not parsed
at all at this point - it is taken as a pure byte stream, therefore this step
is very fast and the message is put to the queue without any unnecessary delays.
If the message is submitted by a local application code, it is put to the
queue directly, bypassing the network connection and SMTP protocol overhead.
Once in the queue, message waits there for a further processing.
- enqueued message is picked up by QueueManager
in the time when queue is scanned for any unfinished messages. If the message
is newly arrived, it is passed first to the mail agents for preprocessing
with the complete set of its recipients (see the Preprocessing
interface). After message is preprocessed it is scheduled for delivery to
all recipients which have not been finished by mail agents.
- if an already preprocessed message is picked up from the queue, the server
attempts to deliver it to a subset of its unfinished recipients. In the case
of a local recipient it is delivered immediatelly to a local mailbox. If the
recipient is not local, the server tries to deliver the message to the remote
SMTP host, which may be either a final destination, or an intermediate SMTP
- if the delivery process succeeds or permanently fails for the particular
subset of recipients, they are marked as finished and the message is passed
to the mail agents for postprocessing with the set of finished recipients
(see the Postprocessing
interface). If the remote delivery fails for a temporary reason, the recipients
are marked as deferred and the message is scheduled again for delivery. Such
message will be picked up next time the queue is scanned for an unfinished
- mail queue is scanned in regular intervals for finished messages and these
messages are removed permanently from the queue. (A message is finished if
all its recipients have been finished.)
(*In fact, the interval of attempting to deliver a deferred message is not
constant - it grows in time, up to the delivery timeout limit, when the recipients
are finally considered unreachable and marked as failed.)
Mail queue is organized in so-called nodes and message processing is
always scheduled for the particular node and time. A node may
represent either the preprocessing phase, or the delivery phase. Preprocessing
node is identified by the "#process" string and is used just
once, when the message arrives to the mail queue and is going to be preprocessed
by mail agents. Delivery node represents the domain part of each unfinished
recipient's address. If a message is sent to "firstname.lastname@example.org",
for example, it will be scheduled for node identified by the "public.com"
string and some time in the near future.
In addition to the mentioned preprocessing and delivery nodes there are some
useful macros available, too: "#all" represents both preprocessing
phase and delivery to all domains, "#local" represents delivery
only to local domains and "#remote" only to remote ones.
The queue processing may be affected in the following ways:
- By setting a specific SMTP server parameter (see the SMTPParameters
- etrnNodes - list of nodes which may be run remotely via the
ETRN extension to SMTP protocol
- autoRunNodes - list of nodes which will be run automatically
when a message is scheduled for delivery. The queue manager will not wait
for the next queue scan, but it will invoke the queue processing for the
listed nodes immediatelly after a new message arrives to the queue. Typically,
you will probably want server to deliver to local mailboxes as soon as
possible by including the "#process, #local" macros
to this list.
- deferredNodes - list of nodes which will never be run on a
regular basis. The queue manager will never initiate processing of the
listed nodes on a regular queue scan. Instead, the nodes may be run either
manually via the special console command, or remotelly via the ETRN protocol
extension. Typical use is in servers which are behind a dial-up connection
to the outside world. They will collect the mail but never try to deliver
it remotely until the connection is established and the queue is run explicitly.
In this case, the "#remote" macro should be included
to this list.
- By issuing a special console command (see the QueueCmd
class) with these arguments:
- run node - the queue will be run immediatelly for the specified
node. The unfinished messages will be processed regardles of
the time they were originally scheduled for.
- run noforce node - the same as above except that the scheduling
time will be taken into the account.
SMTP server performance may be tuned in several ways.
- By setting the number and timeout of handlers in SMTPServer
you affect how quickly the server will be able to receive messages via the
client SMTP connections. More handlers with longer timeout means more simultaneous
connections from clients to the server.
- By specifying the number and timeout of handlers in QueueManager
you affect how many messages may be simultaneously processed by mail agents
as well as delivered to the recipients. The queue manager may contain also
a caching service, which will be used automatically for caching the client
SMTP connections from server to the remote SMTP hosts. Setting the interval
attribute of queue manager specifies how often the queue will be scanned for
unfinished messages. This may also affect a delay of the first delivery attempt
for new messages.
- By setting the previously mentioned SMTP parameters related to nodes
you may control selectively processing of the particular nodes. Basically,
it may affect how quickly the server will deliver to the particular domains,
either local or remote.
- Finally, the checkpoint attribute of FileMailQueue
specifies how often the mail queue will be scanned for finished messages to
remove them premanently from the queue. In busy servers you may consider to
lessen this interval to free the queue from no more needed finished messages.
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