Ensuring liveness properties of distributed systems: Open problems

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Often fairness assumptions need to be made in order to establish liveness properties of distributed systems, but in many situations they lead to false conclusions. This document presents a research agenda aiming at laying the foundations of a theory of concurrency that is equipped to ensure liveness properties of distributed systems without making fairness assumptions. This theory will encompass process algebra, temporal logic and semantic models. The agenda also includes the development of a methodology and tools that allow successful application of this theory to the specification, analysis and verification of realistic distributed systems. Contemporary process algebras and temporal logics fail to make distinctions between systems of which one has a crucial liveness property and the other does not, at least when assuming justness, a strong progress property, but not assuming fairness. Setting up an alternative framework involves giving up on identifying strongly bisimilar systems, inventing new induction principles, developing new axiomatic bases for process algebras and new congruence formats for operational semantics, and creating matching treatments of time and probability. Even simple systems like fair schedulers or mutual exclusion protocols cannot be accurately specified in standard process algebras (or Petri nets) in the absence of fairness assumptions. Hence the work involves the study of adequate language or model extensions, and their expressive power.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100480
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Logical and Algebraic Methods in Programming
Early online date31 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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