Showing posts from January, 2015

Dijkstra's stabilizing token ring algorithm

One of the classical algorithms I teach in my distributed systems class is Dijkstra's stabilizing token ring algorithm. This algorithm has started the self-stabilization field as a subfield of fault-tolerance. And, it still receives interest even after 40 years. There has been probably hundreds of self-stabilization papers that revisits Dijkstra's stabilizing token ring algorithm as part of a solution or as part of a case study. This algorithm never gets old for me as well. I still enjoy talking about this algorithm in class and thinking about it once in a while. I guess this is because it is a very elegant algorithm.

Linked is Dijkstra's original paper introducing the algorithm. This paper also includes two variants of the stabilizing token ring algorithm, 3-state and 4-state token ring algorithms. Dijkstra would later do a followup writeup, titled, "A belated proof of self-stabilization", where he gave a proof of stabilization for 3-state token ring program.

As …

My Distributed Systems Seminar reading list for Spring 2015

My experience with using TLA+ in distributed systems class

I used TLA+ in my distributed system class in Fall 2014. (To learn the backstory on this, read my pre-semester TLA+ post.)

In short, I loved the experience and I am hooked. Integrating TLA+ to the class gave students a way to get a hands-on experience in algorithms design and correctness verification. Even for a sophisticated algorithm, such as Paxos, I can refer the students to TLA+ to practice and play with the algorithm, so they can internalize what is going on. Throughout the semester as I had more chance to work with TLA+, I started growing a library of TLA+ modeling of distributed algorithms. Next time I teach the class, I hope to provide the students with a TLA+ model of each algorithm I cover in the class.

The student feedback was also positive. The students liked TLA+ since it gave them a way to experiment and supported them in reasoning about the algorithms. Several students complained of the learning curve. They wanted me to cover TLA+ in more detail in the class. (The TLA+…

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