An XDR to Go compiler

For Buildbarn Remote Execution we have implemented a userspace NFSv4 server. NFS makes use of XDR (External Data Representation) to describe its wire format. The XDR description for NFSv4 can be found in RFC 7531.

This repository provides a compiler that is capable of converting the XDR description of NFSv4, and other protocols, to Go code. For each data type in the XDR description, a Go language equivalent is created. Each data type in Go implements the io.ReaderFrom and io.WriterTo interfaces, allowing instances of the data type to be deserialized and serialized, respectively.

Furthermore, the XDR to Go compiler is capable of emitting interfaces for ONC RPCv2 (“Sun RPC”) program definitions, as described in RFC 5531. A simple RPC server implementation is also provided.

Grammar accepted by the XDR to Go compiler

The grammar supported by the XDR to Go compiler should match with what’s described in RFCs 4506 and 5531. Minor extensions have been made:

  • Every XDR description file should start with a package statement, containing the full name of the resulting Go package.
  • After the package statement, there may be import statements. These can be used to express dependencies between XDR description files, similar to Protobuf schema files can also depend on each other.
  • As XDR’s string type only permits ASCII characters, an utf8string type has been added for UTF-8.

Please refer to the pkg/compiler/tests and pkg/protocols directories for examples.

Bundled protocols

The pkg/protocols directory includes pregenerated copies of commonly used XDR descriptions, such as ONC RPCv2 and NFSv4. Also included is a copy of the NFS mount arguments protocol used by macOS.

Why not use…

There are already a couple of other XDR libraries for Go. Examples include:

All of these were considered, but turned out to be unsuitable for Buildbarn’s use case for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They depend on runtime reflection,
  • They don’t include an XDR description compiler, requiring definitions to be translated to Go code manually,
  • They don’t support ONC RPCv2 program definitions,
  • They can’t compile XDR descriptions that depend on definitions coming from other protocols (e.g., NFSv4’s dependency on ONC RPCv2).


The XDR to Go compiler is Apache v2 licensed, just like other Buildbarn components. Protocols that are bundled under pkg/protocols are subject to their original license terms.


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