Книга: Distributed operating systems

10.1.3. DCE Components

10.1.3. DCE Components

The programming model underlying all of DCE is the client/server model. User processes act as clients to access remote services provided by server processes. Some of these services are part of DCE itself, but others belong to the applications and are written by the applications programmers. In this section we will give a quick introduction to those distributed services that are provided by the DCE package itself, mainly the time, directory, security, and file system services.

In most DCE applications, client programs are more-or-less normal C programs that have been linked with a special library. The client binary programs then contain a small number of library procedures that provide the interfaces to the services, hiding the details from the programmers. Servers, in contrast, are normally large daemon programs. They run all the time, waiting for requests for work to arrive. When requests come in, they are processed and replies are sent back.

In addition to offering distributed services, DCE also furnishes two facilities for distributed programming that are not organized as services: threads and RPC (Remote Procedure Call). The threads facility allows multiple threads of control to exist in the same process at the same time. Some versions of UNIX provide threads themselves, but using DCE provides a standard thread interface across systems. Where possible, DCE can use the native threads to implement DCE threads, but where there are no native threads, DCE provides a threads package from scratch.

The other DCE facility is RPC, which is the basis for all communication in DCE. To access a service, the client process does an RPC to a remote server process. The server carries out the request and (optionally) sends back a reply.

DCE handles the complete mechanism, including locating the server, binding to it, and performing the call.

Figure 10-1 gives an approximate idea of how the various parts of DCE fit together. At the lowest level is the computer hardware, on top of which the native operating system (with DCE additions) runs. To support a full-blown DCE server, the operating system must either be UNIX or be another system with essentially the functionality of UNIX, including multiprogramming, local interprocess communication, memory management, timers, and security. To support only a DCE client, less functionality is required, and even MS-DOS is sufficient.


Fig. 10-1. Rough sketch of how the parts of DCE fit together.

On top of the operating system is the DCE threads package. If the operating system has a suitable threads package itself, the DCE threads library just serves to convert the interface to the DCE standard. If there is no native threads package, DCE supplies a threads package that runs almost entirely in user space, except for a few hundred lines of assembly code in the kernel for managing thread stacks. Next comes the RPC package, which, like the threads code is a collection of library procedures. A portion of the security is logically also in this layer, since it is required for performing authenticated RPC.

On top of the RPC layer come the various DCE services. Not every service runs on every machine. The system administrator determines which service to run where. The standard services are the time, directory, and security, with the distributed file service on top of them, as shown. In a typical configuration, these services run only on "system server" machines and not on client workstations. A short introduction to each of these follows.

The general function of the threads and RPC packages should be clear, but a short explanation of the services may be helpful now. Detailed discussions of all the facilities and services will be presented later. The distributed time service is needed because each machine in the system normally has its own clock, so the concept of what time it is is more complicated than in a single system. For example, the UNIX make program examines the creation times of the source and binary files of a large program to determine which sources have changed since the binary was last made. Only these sources need to be recompiled. Consider, however, what happens if the sources and binaries are stored on different machines, and the clocks are not synchronized. The fact that the creation time for a binary file is later than the creation time for the corresponding source file does not mean than recompilation can be skipped. The difference might be a consequence of the two clocks being different. The DCE time service attempts to solve this problem by keeping the clocks synchronized in order to provide a global notion of time.

The directory service is used to keep track of the location of all resources in the system. These resources include machines, printers, servers, data, and much more, and they may be distributed geographically over the entire world. The directory service allows a process to ask for a resource and not have to be concerned about where it is, unless the process cares.

The security service allows resources of all kinds to be protected, so access can be restricted to authorized persons. For example, in a hospital information system, it might be the policy that a doctor could see all the medical information about her own patients, but not about other doctors' patients. People working in the billing department might be allowed to see all patients' records, but only the financial aspects. If a blood test is performed, the doctor can see what the medical results are and the bookkeeper can see how much it cost (but not the medical results). The security service provides tools that aid the construction of applications like this.

Finally, the distributed file service is a worldwide file system that provides a transparent way of accessing any file in the system in the same way. It can either be built on top of the hosts' native file systems or be used instead of them.

At the top of the DCE food chain are the distributed applications. These can use (or bypass) any of the DCE facilities and services. Simple applications may implicitly use RPC (via the library, and without realizing it) and little else, whereas more complex applications may make many explicit calls to all the services.

The picture given in Fig. 10-1 is not completely accurate, but it is hard to depict the dependencies between the parts because they are recursive. For example, the directory service uses RPC for internal communication among its various servers, but the RPC package uses the directory service to locate the destination. Thus it is not strictly true that the directory service layer is on top of RPC, as shown. As a second example, illustrating horizontal dependencies, the time service uses the security service to see who may set the clock, but the security service uses the time service to issue permission tickets with short lifetimes. Nevertheless, to a first approximation, Fig. 10-1 gives an indication of the gross structure, so we will use it as our model henceforth.

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