Книга: Distributed operating systems

6.4.4. Achieving Sequential Consistency

6.4.4. Achieving Sequential Consistency

If pages are not replicated, achieving consistency is not an issue. There is exactly one copy of each page, and it is moved back and forth dynamically as needed. With only one copy of each page, there is no danger that different copies will have different values.

If read-only pages are replicated, there is also no problem. The read-only pages are never changed, so all the copies are always identical. Only a single copy is kept of each read-write page, so inconsistencies are impossible here, too.

The interesting case is that of replicated read-write pages. In many DSM systems, when a process tries to read a remote page, a local copy is made because the system does not know what is on the page or whether it is writable. Both the local copy (in fact, all copies) and the original page are set up in their respective MMUs as read only. As long as all references are reads, everything is fine.

However, if any process attempts to write on a replicated page, a potential consistency problem arises because changing one copy and leaving the others alone is unacceptable. This situation is analogous to what happens in a multiprocessor when one processor attempts to modify a word that is present in multiple caches, so let us review what multiprocessors do under these circumstances.

In general, multiprocessors take one of two approaches: update or invalidation. With update, the write is allowed to take place locally, but the address of the modified word and its new value are broadcast on the bus simultaneously to all the other caches. Each of the caches holding the word being updated sees that an address it is caching is being modified, so it copies the new value from the bus to its cache, overwriting the old value. The final result is that all caches that held the word before the update also hold it afterward, and all acquire the new value.

The other approach multiprocessors can take is invalidation. When this strategy is used, the address of the word being updated is broadcast on the bus, but the new value is not. When a cache sees that one of its words is being updated, it invalidates the cache block containing the word, effectively removing it from the cache. The final result with invalidation is that only one cache now holds the modified word, so consistency problems are avoided. If one of the processors that now holds an invalid copy of the cache block tries to use it, it will get a cache miss and fetch the block from the one processor holding a valid copy.

Whereas these two strategies are approximately equally easy to implement in a multiprocessor, they differ radically in a DSM system. Unlike in a multiprocessor, where the MMU knows which word is to be written and what the new value is, in a DSM system the software does not know which word is to be written or what the new value will be. To find out, it could make a secret copy of the page about to be changed (the page number is known), make the page writable, set the hardware trap bit, which forces a trap after every instruction, and restart the faulting process. One instruction later, it catches the trap and compares the current page with the secret copy it just made, to see which word has been changed. It could then broadcast a short packet giving the address and new value on the network. The processors receiving this packet could then check to see if they have the page in question, and if so, update it.

The amount of work here is enormous, but worse yet, the scheme is not foolproof. If several updates, originating on different processors, take place simultaneously, different processors may see them in a different order, so the memory will not be sequentially consistent. In a multiprocessor this problem does not occur because broadcasts on the bus are totally reliable (no lost messages), and the order is unambiguous.

Another issue is that a process may make thousands of consecutive writes to the same page because many programs exhibit locality of reference. Having to catch all these updates and pass them to remote machines is horrendously expensive in the absence of multiprocessor-type snooping.

For these reasons, page-based DSM systems typically use an invalidation protocol instead of an update protocol. Various protocols are possible. Below we will describe a typical example, in which all pages are potentially writable (i.e., the DSM software does not know what is on which page).

In this protocol, at any instant of time, each page is either in R (readable) or W (readable and writable) state. The state a page is in may change as execution progresses. Each page has an owner, namely the process that most recently wrote on the page. When a page is in W state, only one copy exists, mapped into the owner's address space in read-write mode. When a page is in R state, the owner has a copy (mapped read only), but other processes may have copies, too.

Six cases can be distinguished, as shown in Fig. 6-27. In all the examples in the figure, process P on processor 1 wants to read or write a page. The cases differ in terms of whether P is the owner, whether P has a copy, whether other processes have copies, and what the state of the page is, as shown.

Let us now consider the actions taken in each of the cases. In the first four cases of Fig. 6-27(a), P just does the read. In all four cases the page is mapped into its address space, so the read is done in hardware. No trap occurs. In the fifth and sixth cases, the page is not mapped in, so a page fault occurs and the DSM software gets control. It sends a message to the owner asking for a copy. When the copy comes back, the page is mapped in and the faulting instruction is restarted. If the owner had the page in W state, it must degrade to R state, but may keep the page. In this protocol, the other process keeps ownership, but in a slightly different protocol that could be transferred as well.

Writes are handled differently, as depicted in Fig. 6-27(b). In the first case, the write just happens, without a trap, since the page is mapped in read-write mode. In the second case (no other copies), the page is changed to W state and written. In the third case there are other copies, so they must first be invalidated before the write can take place.

In the next three cases, some other process is the owner at the time P does the write. In all three cases, P must ask the current owner to invalidate any existing copies, pass ownership to P, and send a copy of the page unless P already has a copy. Only then may the write take place. In all three cases, P ends up with the only copy of the page, which is in W state.

In all six cases, before a write is performed the protocol guarantees that only one copy of the page exists, namely in the address space of the process about to do the write. In this way, consistency is maintained.

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