Middleware Configuration

micro-ROS targets microcontroller, devices with low memory resources. With that in mind, micro-ROS try to address the memory management issue prioritizing the use of static memory instead of dynamic memory and optimizing the memory footprint of the applications. This, of course, has a cost that the users must agree to pay, a precompile tunning.

This tutorial explains which are the memory resources managed by micro-ROS and how to tune them for a particular application. It also addresses the RMW run-time configuration API where the user can configure the micro-ROS Agent endpoints or the Micro XRCE-DDS session client_key.

Memory resources optimization

micro-ROS deals with two different memory resources related with the Micro XRCE-DDS library and its RMW implementation named rmw-microxrcedds.


Micro XRCE-DDS messages flow between Client and Agent through streams. A stream represents an independently ordered flow of information, so it is a sort of messaging queue. There are two kinds of streams, best-effort and reliable. Both best-effort and reliable streams have a raw buffer (uint8_t array) associated with them, but the layout is different.

On the one hand, best-effort streams could be interpreted as a single message queue. Therefore, the raw buffer is a single data buffer where only one message is popped/pushed.

On the other hand, reliable streams contain multiple messages which are popped/pushed according to the reliable communication protocol described in the DDS-XRCE specification. It is achieved by splitting the raw buffer into chunks, each of which contains a single message.

The size of the best-effort and reliable stream can be configured by two sets of CMake flags.

  • UCLIENT_UDP_TRANSPORT_MTU, UCLIENT_TCP_TRANSPORT_MTU and UCLIENT_SERIAL_TRANSPORT_MTU (depending on the transport selected): these flags control the size of the best-effort stream buffer which matches with the size of each chunk of the reliable stream.
  • RMW_UXRCE_MAX_HISTORY: sets the number of slots for the reliable streams.

The size of the stream sets indirectly the maximum message size (MMS) of the micro-ROS application. This MMS is (UCLIENT_<XXX>_TRANSPORT_MTU - 12 B) for best-effort messages and (UCLIENT_<XXX>_TRANSPORT_MTU * (RMW_UXRCE_MAX_HISTORY - 12 B)) in the case of reliable messages.

The use of best-effort or reliable stream is handled by the rmw_qos_reliability_policy_t set in the rmw_qos_profile_t for a particular publisher or subscription. In the case of RMW_QOS_POLICY_RELIABILITY_BEST_EFFORT best-effort streams are used and for RMW_QOS_POLICY_RELIABILITY_RELIABLE reliable streams are used instead.


rmw-microxrcedds uses static memory for allocating the resources associated with the rcl and rclc entities. This static memory is managed thanks to independent memory pools for each kind of entity. The size of these memory pools could be set through CMake flags, for example, the RMW_UXRCE_MAX_PUBLISHERS sets the size of the rcl_publisher_t’s pool memory. It should be noted that the size of these memory pools restricts the maximum number of entities that a micro-ROS application could use.

The figure below summarizes the relation between the rcl entities and the CMake flags, which set the size of the memory pool associated with such entities.

Another important memory resource managed by the rmw-microxrcedds is the message history. The rmw-microxrcedds uses a static-memory message queue where to to keep the subscription messages before the user reads them. The size of this message queue could be set by the RMW_UXRCE_MAX_HISTORY.

It is worth noting that all the aforementioned CMake flags shall be set in a .meta for each platform supported in micro_ros_setup. For example, in the ping-pong application the host configuration file can be optimized with the following modifications:

  "name": {
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_NODES=1",          // 3 --> 1
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_PUBLISHERS=2",     // 5 --> 2
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_SUBSCRIPTIONS=2",  // 5 --> 2
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_SERVICES=0",       // 5 --> 0
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_CLIENTS=0",        // 5 --> 0
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_STREAM_HISTORY=5",     // 20 --> 5
        "-DRMW_UXRCE_MAX_HISTORY=5",        // 20 --> 5

Run-time configuration

There are some build time parameters related to Client-to-Agent connection (such as CONFIG_RMW_DEFAULT_UDP_PORT, CONFIG_RMW_DEFAULT_UDP_IP and CONFIG_RMW_DEFAULT_SERIAL_DEVICE) that can be configured either at build time or at run-time. This means that you can set them in the configuration file mentioned above and that micro-ROS provides a user configuration API for setting some RMW and middleware parameters at run-time.

The following example code shows the API calls needed to set the agent’s IP address, port or serial device:

#include <rmw_uros/options.h>

// Init RCL options and context
rcl_init_options_t init_options = rcl_get_zero_initialized_init_options();
rcl_context_t context = rcl_get_zero_initialized_context();
rcl_init_options_init(&init_options, rcl_get_default_allocator());

// Take RMW options from RCL options
rmw_init_options_t* rmw_options = rcl_init_options_get_rmw_init_options(&init_options);

// TCP/UDP case: Set RMW IP parameters
rmw_uros_options_set_udp_address("", "8888", rmw_options);

// Serial case: Set RMW serial device parameters
mw_uros_options_set_serial_device("/dev/ttyAMA0", rmw_options)

// Set RMW client key
rmw_uros_options_set_client_key(0xBA5EBA11, rmw_options);

// Init RCL
rcl_init(0, NULL, &init_options, &context);

// ... micro-ROS code ...

Notice that it is also possible to set the Micro XRCE-DDS client_key, which would otherwise be set randomly. This feature is useful for reusing DDS entities already created on the agent side. Further information can be found here and here.