Pragmatic approach to the development of robust real-time protocols

  • Darrell J. Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research is concerned with the development of distributed real-time systems, in which software is used for the control of concurrent physical processes. These distributed control systems are required to periodically coordinate the operation of several autonomous physical processes, with the property of an atomic action. The implementation of this coordination must be fault-tolerant if the integrity of the system is to be maintained in the presence of
processor or communication failures.
Commit protocols have been widely used to provide this type of atomicity and ensure consistency in distributed computer systems. The objective of this research is the development of a class of robust commit protocols, applicable to the coordination of distributed real-time control systems. Extended forms of the standard two phase commit protocol, that provides fault-tolerant and real-time behaviour, were developed.
Petri nets are used for the design of the distributed controllers, and to embed the commit protocol models within these controller designs. This composition of controller and protocol model allows the analysis of the complete system in a unified manner. A common problem for Petri net based techniques is that of state space explosion, a modular approach to both the design and analysis would help cope with this problem. Although extensions to Petri nets that allow module construction exist, generally the modularisation is restricted to the
specification, and analysis must be performed on the (flat) detailed net.
The Petri net designs for the type of distributed systems considered in this research are both large and complex. The top down, bottom up and hybrid synthesis techniques that are used to model large systems in Petri nets are considered. A hybrid approach to Petri net design for a restricted class of communicating processes is developed. Designs produced using this hybrid approach are modular and allow re-use of verified modules.
In order to use this form of modular analysis, it is necessary to project an equivalent but reduced behaviour on the modules used. These projections conceal events local to modules that are not essential for the purpose of analysis. To generate the external behaviour, each firing sequence of the subnet is replaced by an atomic transition internal to the module, and the firing of these transitions transforms the input and output markings of the module. Thus local events are concealed through the projection of the external behaviour of modules.
This hybrid design approach preserves properties of interest, such as boundedness and liveness, while the systematic concealment of local events allows the management of state space. The approach presented in this research is particularly suited to distributed systems, as the underlying communication model is used as the basis for the interconnection of modules in the design procedure.
This hybrid approach is applied to Petri net based design and analysis of distributed controllers for two industrial applications that incorporate the robust, real-time commit protocols developed. Temporal Petri nets, which combine Petri nets and temporal logic, are used to capture and verify causal and temporal aspects of the designs in a unified manner.
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid J Holding (Supervisor)


  • real-time control systems
  • petri nets
  • atomic commit protocols
  • temporal petri nets

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