Книга: Distributed operating systems

3.2.1. A Centralized Algorithm

3.2.1. A Centralized Algorithm

The most straightforward way to achieve mutual exclusion in a distributed system is to simulate how it is done in a one-processor system. One process is elected as the coordinator (e.g., the one running on the machine with the highest network address). Whenever a process wants to enter a critical region, it sends a request message to the coordinator stating which critical region it wants to enter and asking for permission. If no other process is currently in that critical region, the coordinator sends back a reply granting permission, as shown in Fig. 3-8(a). When the reply arrives, the requesting process enters the critical region.


Fig. 3-8. (a) Process 1 asks the coordinator for permission to enter a critical region. Permission is granted. (b) Process 2 then asks permission to enter the same critical region. The coordinator does not reply. (c) When process 1 exits the critical region, it tells the coordinator, which then replies to 2.

Now suppose that another process, 2 in Fig. 3-8(b), asks for permission to enter the same critical region. The coordinator knows that a different process is already in the critical region, so it cannot grant permission. The exact method used to deny permission is system dependent. In Fig. 3-8(b), the coordinator just refrains from replying, thus blocking process 2, which is waiting for a reply. Alternatively, it could send a reply saying "permission denied." Either way, it queues the request from 2 for the time being.

When process 1 exits the critical region, it sends a message to the coordinator releasing its exclusive access, as shown in Fig. 3-8(c). The coordinator takes the first item off the queue of deferred requests and sends that process a grant message. If the process was still blocked (i.e., this is the first message to it), it unblocks and enters the critical region. If an explicit message has already been sent denying permission, the process will have to poll for incoming traffic, or block later. Either way, when it sees the grant, it can enter the critical region.

It is easy to see that the algorithm guarantees mutual exclusion: the coordinator only lets one process at a time into each critical region. It is also fair, since requests are granted in the order in which they are received. No process ever waits forever (no starvation). The scheme is easy to implement, too, and requires only three messages per use of a critical region (request, grant, release). It can also be used for more general resource allocation rather than just managing critical regions.

The centralized approach also has shortcomings. The coordinator is a single point of failure, so if it crashes, the entire system may go down. If processes normally block after making a request, they cannot distinguish a dead coordinator from "permission denied" since in both cases no message comes back. In addition, in a large system, a single coordinator can become a performance bottleneck.

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