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Re: UPDATE method and forking

From: Werner Donné <werner.donne@re.be>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 18:34:45 +0100
Message-ID: <4419A1B5.3080306@re.be>
To: Geoffrey M Clemm <geoffrey.clemm@us.ibm.com>
Cc: w3c-dist-auth@w3.org

Geoffrey M Clemm wrote:
> Werner Donné <werner.donne@re.be> wrote on 03/16/2006 08:01:57 AM:
>> Geoffrey M Clemm wrote:
>> >
>> > (1) Why does this scenario have to be in one transaction?  In
> particular,
>> > why isn't it sufficient just to wrap the sequence of operations in
>> > a LOCK/UNLOCK?  
>> Because anything in between can go wrong, leaving the system in an
>> inconsistent state. It can't be the responsibility of the client to
>> keep the state consistent. That is a co-operative and hence unreliable
>> design.
> The only thing that can go wrong is that the client neglects to perform
> an UNLOCK, which is why there are timeout and administrative override
> mechanisms
> in the locking protocol.  But I agree that many clients would rather not
> deal with locks, which is why we introduced the workspace feature.  So lets
> focus on whether or not the workspace feature provides what you need.

Between each step in the sequence the dialogue can be interrupted. Not only
would the lock not be released, but the checked-in version of the VCR could
also be on another version than it was originally. This is an unexpected
global state change for all clients, which is not acceptable in a concurrent

Regarding the lock release the timeout mechanism is not good enough if
locking is used like that, because VCR is blocked too long. This impacts
concurrency severely. When a transaction fails, for example, everything
is rolled back and release immediately.

Again, I'm not discussing what I need. I'm not a user.

>> > (2) I agree that the locking mechanism is not designed to implement
>> > transactional isolation.  That is what workspaces and working resources
>> > are designed for.  If (for unexplained reasons :-) you don't want to
>> > use the versioning features that were designed for transactional
>> > isolation, it should come as no surprise that you have difficulty
>> > achieving transactional isolation.  Some clients don't want/need
>> > transactional isolation (they just want history to be kept, for
> example),
>> > which is why workspaces and working resources are optional features
>> > (we define these two different ways of achieving transactional isolation
>> > because some repositories can only support one, while other repositories
>> > can only support the other, and we could find no way of unifying these
>> > two different ways under a single feature).
>> This is obviously not at all about what I want or don't want to use.
>> I'm reasoning about the WebDAV model. I haven't said I was against
> workspaces.
> Well, to be honest, it is not at all clear to me what you do or do not
> want to do (:-).  The purpose of the WebDAV model is provide a uniform
> protocol for accessing the various authoring features provided by
> a wide variety of repositories.  So the interesting questions are
> "how do I as a client use the protocol to achieve this interesting
> use case for a user" and "how do I as a repository use the protocol
> to expose this particular feature of my repository to a client".
> Without one of those questions in hand, one cannot have a productive
> discussion about the WebDAV model.

I'm assessing the model, because I want to implement it. It is important
that a model is consistent and stable, otherwise its implementation will
be expensive. In my opinion exposing forking is not consistent. It is not
because there is another feature that does the trick, that a particular
feature shouldn't be scrutinised.

Inconsistent parts in a model have a life of their own and can have an
impact on other areas of the model during evolution, just for the sake
of compatibility.

>> > As for the why support forking, it is an (undesireable, but inevitable)
>> > side-effect of parallel development.  So we don't define it as an
>> > independent feature, but we "deal with it" for those features that
>> > support parallel development (i.e., workspaces and working resources).
>> > In particular, it is what tells you that parallel development has
>> > occurred on a particular resource, and that therefore a merge is
>> > required (the need for a merge when forking occurs is why it is
>> > "undesireable").
>> >
>> > So creating forks in a non-parallel development context makes no
> sense ...
>> > you are just making trouble for yourself.  Which is why forking only
>> > occurs as a side effect of parallel development, and not as a
> feature that
>> > you explicitly invoke.
>> Which is what I reckoned and it is an encapsulation flaw. Clearly, forking
>> on its own is useless, but it is exposed through the WebDAV interface with
>> elements such as "checkin-fork", "checkout-fork", "fork-ok". There is no
>> reason for this, nor for the UPDATE method to be allowed to change the
>> checked-in version, which is the source of the problem.
> The way WebDAV (and HTTP) achieves interoperability is by having a client
> use a single uniform protocol against a wide variety of servers.  So the
> client always uses the UPDATE method to "restore" a version from history,
> whether it is working with a server that supports working resources,
> supports
> workspaces, supports both, or supports neither.  Changing the checked-in
> version is important when the server supports either workspaces or
> working resources, so you have clients uniformly use the UPDATE method.
> This means that a client is aware of checkin-fork, checkout-fork, and
> fork-ok behavior, so that in behaves properly when it is applied to a
> server that supports either workspaces or working resources.

It strikes me that workspaces don't expose forking, while working resources
do. Workspaces prove it is perfectly possible to offer branching and merging
without exposing an implementation artifact such as forking. Note that they
also make it possible to work transactionally within the repository without
exposing transaction demarcation.

Workspaces are well designed, while working resources are not. Their difference
should only about configurations, not in the way they offer branching. That
should be exactly the same. The two things are orthogonal.

>> Creating a new
>> VCR in a workspace from a given version obviously requires forking, but
>> that is merely an internal implementation matter.
> No, it's part of the explicit user model, because when you invoke the MERGE
> method, the result of the MERGE method is affected by whether or not
> there has
> been any branching, so the client needs to understand when a branch will
> occur,
> and when it won't.  

Merging and branching go together and you can do it with VCRs only. So there
is no reason to offer another user model for branching than that of workspaces.
Working resources should be made compatible with it.

> Cheers,
> Geoff


Werner Donné  --  Re
Engelbeekstraat 8
B-3300 Tienen
tel: (+32) 486 425803	e-mail: werner.donne@re.be
Received on Thursday, 16 March 2006 17:34:50 UTC

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