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RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads

From: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler) <RogerCutler@ChevronTexaco.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 15:27:45 -0600
Message-ID: <7FCB5A9F010AAE419A79A54B44F3718E0162485D@bocnte2k3.boc.chevrontexaco.net>
To: "Assaf Arkin" <arkin@intalio.com>, www-ws-arch@w3.org
Thanks for the support.
One thing this note reminded me of -- I have seen a number of different
definitions of "synchronous" floating around this group.  In fact, if my
memory serves, there are three major ones.  One concentrates on the idea
that a call "blocks" if it is synchronous, another has a complicated
logic that I cannot recall and the third (contained in one of the
references on the two army problem) concentrates on the length of time
it takes for a message to arrive.  The formality of all of these
definitions indicates to me that all have had considerable thought put
into them and that all are, in their context, "correct".  They are,
however, also different.
-----Original Message-----
From: Assaf Arkin [mailto:arkin@intalio.com] 
Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 2:27 PM
To: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler); www-ws-arch@w3.org
Subject: RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads


	3 - There is concern about the "two army" problem, which
essentially says that it is not possible, given certain assumptions
about the types of interactions, for all parties in the communication to
reliably reach consensus about what has happened.  I have been trying to
encourage the objective of documenting the scenarios that can come up in
and their relative importance and possibly mitigating factors or
strategies.  I haven't seen people violently disagreeing but I wouldn't
call this a consensus point of view.  I consider the ebXML spec as weak
in discussing the two-army problem.

	The two army problem assumes you are using a non-reliable medium
for all your communication and proves that it is impossible for the
sender to reach confidence that the message has arrived and is processed
in 100% of cases.
	You can increase your level of confidence by using message + ack
and being able to resend a message and receive a duplicate ack. That
get's you close to a 100% but not quite there, but it means that in most
cases the efficient solution (using asynchronous messaging) would work,
and so presents a viable option.
	In my opinion it is sufficient for a low level protocol to give
you that level of reliability. And that capability is generic enough
that we would want to address it at the protocol level in a consistent
manner, so we reduce at least one level of complexity for the service
developer. It is also supported by a variety of transport protocols and
	This still doesn't mean you can get two distributed services to
propertly communicate with each other in all cases. A problem arises if
either the message was not received (and is not processed), a message
was received but no ack recevied (and is processed) or a message was
received and an ack was received but the message is still not processed.
	That problem is not unique to asynchronous messaging, in fact it
also presents itself when synchronous messaging is used. With
synchronous messaging you have 100% confidence that a message was
received, but no confidence that it will be processed. Furthermore, you
may fail before you are able to persist that information, in which case
your confidence is lost.
	If you do not depend on the result of the message being
processed than you would simply regard each message that is sent as
being potentially processed. You use the ack/resend mechanism as a way
to increase the probability that the message indeed reaches its
destination, so a majority of your messages will be received and.
	I argue that using ack/resend you could reach the same level of
confidence that the message will be processed as if you were using a
synchronous protocol, but could do so more efficiently.
	If you do depend on the message being processes, then you are in
a different class of problem, and simply having a reliable protocol is
not sufficient since it does not address the possibility that the
message was received, acked but not processed. It in fact presents the
same problem that would arise when synchronous protocols are used.
	This is best solved at a higher layer. There are two possible
solutions, both of which are based on the need to reach a concensus
between two systems. One solution is based on a two-phase commit
protocol, which could be extended to use asynchronous patterns. A more
efficient solution in terms of message passing would be to use state
transitions that coordinate through the exchange of well defined
messages. This could be modeled using a choreography language.
	Since this is outside the scope of this discussion I will not go
into details, but if anyone is interested I would recommend looking at
protocols for handling failures in distributed systems (in particular
Paxos). In my understanding these protocols are applicable for modeling
at the choreography language and are more efficient than using
transactional protocols and two-phase commit.
	My only point here was to highlight that a solution involving
ack/resend is sufficient to give you the same level of confidence that a
message would be processed as if you were using a synchronous operation,
and that solutions for achieving 100% confidence are required whether
you are using asynchronous or synchronous messaging. 
	This is in support of Roger's recommendation for adding ack
support to XMLP. 
Received on Friday, 13 December 2002 16:27:55 UTC

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