Mesa Agent

The Mesa Agent is a VOLTTRON agent that handles MESA-ESS DNP3 outstation communications. It subclasses and extends the functionality of VOLTTRON’s DNP3 Agent. Like the DNP3 Agent, the Mesa Agent models a DNP3 outstation, communicating with a DNP3 master.

For a description of DNP3 and the VOLTTRON DNP3 agent, please refer to the DNP3 Agent documentation.

VOLTTRON’s Mesa Agent and DNP3 Agent are implementations of a DNP3 Outstation as specified in IEEE Std 1815-2012. They engage in bidirectional network communications with a DNP3 Master, which might be located at a power utility.

MESA-ESS is an extension and enhancement to DNP3. It builds on the basic DNP3 communications protocol, adding support for more complex structures, including functions, arrays, curves and schedules. The draft specification for MESA-ESS, as well as a spreadsheet of point definitions, can be found at

VOLTTRON’s DNP3 Agent and Mesa Agent implementations of an Outstation are built on pydnp3, an open-source library from Kisensum containing Python language bindings for Automatak’s C++ opendnp3 library, the de-facto reference implementation of DNP3.

MesaAgent exposes DNP3 application-layer functionality, creating an extensible base from which specific custom behavior can be designed and supported, including support for MESA functions, arrays and selector blocks. By default, the Mesa Agent acts as a simple transfer agent, publishing data received from the Master on the VOLTTRON Message Bus, and responding to RPCs from other VOLTTRON agents by sending data to the Master. Properties of the point and function definitions also enable the use of more complex controls for point data capture and publication.

The Mesa Agent was developed by Kisensum for use by 8minutenergy, which provided generous financial support for the open-source contribution to the VOLTTRON platform, along with valuable feedback based on experience with the agent in a production context.

RPC Calls

The Mesa Agent exposes the following VOLTTRON RPC calls:

def get_point(self, point_name):
        Look up the most-recently-received value for a given output point.

    @param point_name: The point name of a DNP3 PointDefinition.
    @return: The (unwrapped) value of a received point.

def get_point_by_index(self, data_type, index):
        Look up the most-recently-received value for a given point.

    @param data_type: The data_type of a DNP3 point.
    @param index: The index of a DNP3 point.
    @return: The (unwrapped) value of a received point.

def get_points(self):
        Look up the most-recently-received value of each configured output point.

    @return: A dictionary of point values, indexed by their point names.

def get_configured_points(self):
        Look up the most-recently-received value of each configured point.

    @return: A dictionary of point values, indexed by their point names.

def set_point(self, point_name, value):
        Set the value of a given input point.

    @param point_name: The point name of a DNP3 PointDefinition.
    @param value: The value to set. The value's data type must match the one in the DNP3 PointDefinition.

def set_points(self, point_dict):
        Set point values for a dictionary of points.

    @param point_dict: A dictionary of {point_name: value} for a list of DNP3 points to set.

def config_points(self, point_map):
        For each of the agent's points, map its VOLTTRON point name to its DNP3 group and index.

    @param point_map: A dictionary that maps a point's VOLTTRON point name to its DNP3 group and index.

def get_point_definitions(self, point_name_list):
        For each DNP3 point name in point_name_list, return a dictionary with each of the point definitions.

        The returned dictionary looks like this:

            "point_name1": {
                "property1": "property1_value",
                "property2": "property2_value",
            "point_name2": {
                "property1": "property1_value",
                "property2": "property2_value",

        If a definition cannot be found for a point name, it is omitted from the returned dictionary.

    :param point_name_list: A list of point names.
    :return: A dictionary of point definitions.

def get_selector_block(self, point_name, edit_selector):
        Return a dictionary of point values for a given selector block.

    :param point_name: Name of the first point in the selector block.
    :param edit_selector: The index (edit selector) of the block.
    :return: A dictionary of point values.

def reset(self):
        Reset the agent's internal state, emptying point value caches. Used during iterative testing.

Pub/Sub Calls

MesaAgent uses three topics when publishing data to the VOLTTRON message bus:

  • Point Values (default topic: dnp3/point): As the Mesa Agent communicates with the Master, it publishes received point values on the VOLTTRON message bus.

  • Functions (default topic: mesa/function): When the Mesa Agent receives a function step with a “publish” action value, it publishes the current state of the function (all steps received to date) on the VOLTTRON message bus.

  • Outstation status (default topic: mesa/status): If the status of the Mesa Agent outstation changes, for example if it is restarted, it publishes its new status on the VOLTTRON message bus.

Data Dictionaries of Point and Function Definitions

The Mesa Agent loads and uses data dictionaries of point and function definitions, which are maintained by agreement between the (Mesa Agent) Outstation and the DNP3 Master. The data dictionaries are stored in the agent’s registry.

Current Point Values

The Mesa Agent tracks the most-recently-received value for each point definition in its data dictionary, regardless of whether the point value’s source is a VOLTTRON RPC call or a message from the DNP3 Master.

Agent Configuration

The Mesa Agent configuration specifies the following fields:

  • local_ip: (string) Outstation’s host address (DNS resolved). Default:

  • port: (integer) Outstation’s port number - the port that the remote endpoint (Master) is listening on. Default: 20000.

  • point_topic: (string) VOLTTRON message bus topic to use when publishing DNP3 point values. Default: dnp3/point.

  • function_topic: (string) Message bus topic to use when publishing MESA-ESS functions. Default: mesa/function.

  • outstation_status_topic: (string) Message bus topic to use when publishing outstation status. Default: mesa/outstation_status.

  • all_functions_supported_by_default: (boolean) When deciding whether to reject points for unsupported functions, ignore the values of their ‘supported’ points: simply treat all functions as supported. Used primarily during testing. Default: False.

  • function_validation: (boolean) When deciding whether to support sending single points to the Mesa Agent. If function_validation is True, the Mesa Agent will raise an exception when receiving any invalid point in current function. If function_validation is False, Mesa Agent will reset current function to None instead of raising the exception. Default: False.

  • outstation_config: (dictionary) Outstation configuration parameters. All are optional. Parameters include:

    • database_sizes: (integer) Size of each outstation database buffer. Default: 10.

    • event_buffers: (integer) Size of the database event buffers. Default: 10.

    • allow_unsolicited: (boolean) Whether to allow unsolicited requests. Default: True.

    • link_local_addr: (integer) Link layer local address. Default: 10.

    • link_remote_addr: (integer) Link layer remote address. Default: 1.

    • log_levels: (list) List of bit field names (OR’d together) that filter what gets logged by DNP3. Default: [NORMAL]. Possible values: ALL, ALL_APP_COMMS, ALL_COMMS, NORMAL, NOTHING.

    • threads_to_allocate: (integer) Threads to allocate in the manager’s thread pool. Default: 1.

A sample Mesa Agent configuration file is available in services/core/DNP3Agent/mesaagent.config.

Installing the Mesa Agent

To install the Mesa Agent, please consult the installation advice in services/core/DNP3Agent/, which includes advice on installing pydnp3, a library upon which the DNP3 Agent depends.

After installing libraries as described in the Mesa Agent file, the agent can be installed from a command-line shell as follows:

$ export VOLTTRON_ROOT=<volttron github install directory>
$ source services/core/DNP3Agent/ specifies a default agent configuration, which can be overridden as needed.

Here are some things to note when installing the Mesa Agent:

  • The Mesa Agent source code resides in, and is installed from, a DNP3 subdirectory, thus allowing it to be implemented as a subclass of the base DNP3 agent class. When installing the Mesa Agent, inform the install script that it should build from the mesa subdirectory by exporting the following environment variable:

$ export AGENT_MODULE=dnp3.mesa.agent
  • The agent’s point and function definitions must be loaded into the agent’s config store. See the script for an example of how to load them.