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Parameterized Verification and Synthesis for Distributed Agreement-Based Systems

posted on 19.09.2022, 17:05 authored by Nouraldin JaberNouraldin Jaber


Distributed agreement-based systems use common distributed agreement protocols such as leader election and consensus as building blocks for their target functionality—processes in these systems may need to agree on a leader, on the members of a group, on owners of locks, or on updates to replicated data. Such distributed agreement-based systems are common and potentially permit modular, scalable verification approaches that mimic their modular design. Interestingly, while there are many verification efforts that target agreement protocols themselves, little attention has been given to distributed agreement-based systems that build on top of these protocols. 

In this work, we aim to develop a fully-automated, modular, and usable parameterized verification approach for distributed agreement-based systems. To do so, we need to overcome the following challenges. First, the fully automated parameterized verification problem, i.e, the problem of algorithmically checking if the system is correct for any number of processes, is a well-known undecidable problem. Second, to enable modular verification that leverages the inherently-modular nature of these agreement-based systems, we need to be able to support abstractions of agreement protocols. Such abstractions can replace the agreement protocols’ implementations when verifying the overall system; enabling modular reasoning. Finally, even when the verification is fully automated, a system designer still needs assistance in modeling their distributed agreement-based systems. 

We systematically tackle these challenges through the following contributions. 

First, we support efficient, decidable verification of distributed agreement-based systems by developing a computational model—the GSP model—for reasoning about distributed (agreement-based) systems that admits decidability and cutoff results. Cutoff results enable practical verification by reducing the parameterized verification problem to the verification problem of a system with a fixed, finite number of processes. The GSP model supports generalized communication primitives and global guards, both of which are essential to enable abstractions of agreement protocols. 

Then, we address the usability and modularity aspects by developing a framework, QuickSilver, tailored for modeling and modular parameterized verification of distributed agreement-based systems. QuickSilver provides an intuitive domain-specific language, called Mercury, that is equipped with two agreement primitives capable of abstracting away agreement protocols when modeling agreement-based systems; enabling modular verification. QuickSilver extends the decidability and cutoff results of the GSP model to provide fully automated, efficient parameterized verification for a large class of systems modeled in Mercury. 

Finally, we leverage synthesis techniques to further enhance the usability of our approach and propose Cinnabar, a tool that supports synthesis of distributed agreement-based systems with efficiently-decidable parameterized verification. Cinnabar allows a system de- signer to provide a sketch of their Mercury model and uses a counterexample-guided synthesis procedure to search for model completions that both belong to the efficiently-decidable fragment of Mercury and are correct. 

We evaluate our contributions on various interesting distributed agreement-based systems adapted from real-world applications, such as a data store, a lock service, a surveillance system, a pathfinding algorithm for mobile robots, and more. 






Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Milind Kulkarni

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Roopsha Samanta

Additional Committee Member 2

Swen Jacobs

Additional Committee Member 3

Suresh Jagannathan

Additional Committee Member 4

Xiaokang Qiu