A4 Local and Distributed Computing in Java

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A4 Local and Distributed Computing
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Section: Appendix A A Note on Distributed Computing
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A5 Partial Failure and Concurrency
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While unlikely, it is at least logically possible that the differences in latency and memory access between local computing and distributed computing could be masked It is not clear that such a masking could be done in such a way that the local computing paradigm could be used to produce distributed applications, but it might still be possible to allow some new programming technique to be used for both activities Such a masking does not even seem to be logically possible, however, in the case of partial failure and concurrency These aspects appear to be different in kind in the case of distributed [2] and local computing
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In fact, authors such as Schroeder[12] and Hadzilacos and Toueg[13] take partial failure and concurrency to be the defining problems of distributed computing
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Partial failure is a central reality of distributed computing Both the local and the distributed world contain components that are subject to periodic failure In the case of local computing, such failures are either total, affecting all of the entities that are working together in an application, or detectable by some central resource allocator (such as the operating system on the local machine) This is not the case in distributed computing, where one component (machine, network link) can fail while the others continue Not only is the failure of the distributed components independent, but there is no common agent that is able to determine what component has failed and inform the other components of that failure, no global state that can be examined that allows determination of exactly what error has occurred In a distributed system, the failure of a network link is indistinguishable from the failure of a processor on the other side of that link These sorts of failures are not the same as mere exception raising or the inability to complete a task, which can occur in the case of local computing This type of failure is caused when a machine crashes during the execution of an object invocation or a network link goes down, occurrences that cause the target object to simply disappear rather than return control to the caller A central problem in distributed computing is insuring that the state of the whole system is consistent after such a failure; this is a problem that simply does not occur in local computing The reality of partial failure has a profound effect on how one designs interfaces and on the semantics of the operations in an interface Partial failure requires that programs deal with indeterminacy When a local component fails, it is possible to know the state of the system that caused the failure and the state of the system after the failure No such determination can be made in the case of a distributed system Instead, the interfaces that are used for the communication must be designed in such a way that it is possible for the objects to react in a consistent way to possible partial failures Being robust in the face of partial failure requires some expression at the interface level Merely improving the implementation of one component is not sufficient The interfaces that connect the components must be able to state whenever possible the cause of failure, and there must be interfaces that allow reconstruction of a reasonable state when failure occurs and the cause cannot be determined If an object is co resident in an address space with its caller, partial failure is not possible A function may not complete normally, but it always completes There is no indeterminism about how much of the computation completed Partial completion can occur only as a result of circumstances that will cause the other components to fail The addition of partial failure as a possibility in the case of distributed computing does not mean that a single object model cannot be used for both distributed computing and local computing The question is not "can you make remote method invocation look like local method invocation " but rather "what is the price of making remote method invocation identical to local method invocation " One of two paths A5 Partial Failure and Concurrency 349
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O'Reilly Network Safari Bookshelf Jini Specifications, The, Second Edition must be chosen if one is going to have a unified model The first path is to treat all objects as if they were local and design all interfaces as if the objects calling them, and being called by them, were local The result of choosing this path is that the resulting model, when used to produce distributed systems, is essentially indeterministic in the face of partial failure and consequently fragile and non robust This path essentially requires ignoring the extra failure modes of distributed computing Since one can't get rid of those failures, the price of adopting the model is to require that such failures are unhandled and catastrophic The other path is to design all interfaces as if they were remote That is, the semantics and operations are all designed to be deterministic in the face of failure, both total and partial However, this introduces unnecessary guarantees and semantics for objects that are never intended to be used remotely Like the approach to memory access that attempts to require that all access is through system defined references instead of pointers, this approach must also either rely on the discipline of the programmers using the system or change the implementation language so that all of the forms of distributed indeterminacy are forced to be dealt with on all object invocations This approach would also defeat the overall purpose of unifying the object models The real reason for attempting such a unification is to make distributed computing more like local computing and thus make distributed computing easier This second approach to unifying the models makes local computing as complex as distributed computing Rather than encouraging the production of distributed applications, such a model will discourage its own adoption by making all object based computing more difficult Similar arguments hold for concurrency Distributed objects by their nature must handle concurrent method invocations The same dichotomy applies if one insists on a unified programming model Either all objects must bear the weight of concurrency semantics, or all objects must ignore the problem and hope for the best when distributed Again, this is an interface issue and not solely an implementation issue, since dealing with concurrency can take place only by passing information from one object to another through the agency of the interface So either the overall programming model must ignore significant modes of failure, resulting in a fragile system; or the overall programming model must assume a worst case complexity model for all objects within a program, making the production of any program, distributed or not, more difficult One might argue that a multi threaded application needs to deal with these same issues However, there is a subtle difference In a multi threaded application, there is no real source of indeterminacy of invocations of operations The application programmer has complete control over invocation order when desired A distributed system by its nature introduces truly asynchronous operation invocations Further, a non distributed system, even when multi threaded, is layered on top of a single operating system that can aid the communication between objects and can be used to determine and aid in synchronization and in the recovery of failure A distributed system, on the other hand, has no single point of resource allocation, synchronization, or failure recovery, and thus is conceptually very different
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