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Review of Paxos Made Simple and the Chubby Lock Service

Review of Paxos Made Simple and the Chubby Lock Service

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Published by: newtonapple on May 27, 2010
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Review of Paxos Made Simple and The Chubby LockService for Loosely-Coupled Distributed Systems
Review by: Andy Stone
Paxos is a an algorithm to solve the distributed consensus problem. It is able to work onan asynchronous network with non byzantine assumptions. In other words it can handlereplicated messages, message delays, and messaging dropping, but assumes that allrecieved messages are non-corrupted. Chubby is a lock service and simple file systemdeveloped by Google for distributed systems. Chubby leverages the paxos algorithm.In the Paxos algorithm machines play the role of one (or more) of three agents: proposers,acceptors, and learners. The roles that machines play are known prior to algorithmexecution. This execution works in two phases. In the first phase these previouslyknown proposer agents send prepare requests to acceptor agents. A proposal consists of aproposed value and a unique natural number that identifies and orders it. When anacceptor agent recieves a proposal through a prepare request it agrees not to accept anyproposal numbered less than the one recieved. If the acceptor has previously agreed toonly accept higher valued proposals it notifies the proposer about this. If a proposersuccesfully recieves promises from a majority of acceptors it will send those acceptors anaccept request. At this point the acceptors will accept the proposal assuming accepting itwill not violate any previous made promise. The chosen value is, by definition, the onethat accepted by a majority of agents. Learner agents are notified whenever an acceptoraccepts a value, enabeling them to keep track of the state of the system and know if avalue is chosen. Lamport proves that this algorithm meets certain criteria to ensure safety(that only one value is chosen and that the chosen value was a proposed one).There are several limitations the Paxos algorithm -- notably its non byzantineassumptions and that it is not gauranteed to converge on an answer. In fact it isimpossible to prove that any algorithm can solve the distributed consensus problem onasynchronous networks because such networks can by definition fail. However, I imaginethat an an analysis could show the probability of convergence given certain assumptionson network reliabilty. Other issues that may prevent convergence include 1) a failure of amajority of acceptor agents and 2) having two proposers issue alternate with succesivelyhigher numbers proposals so that no value is ever chosen.The Paxos algorithm is applicable in situations where a decision in a distributed network must be made. The aim of Paxos is not to consider the merits of one proposal over

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