W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-ws-arch@w3.org > December 2002

RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads

From: Burdett, David <david.burdett@commerceone.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 10:38:29 -0800
Message-ID: <C1E0143CD365A445A4417083BF6F42CC053D1538@C1plenaexm07.commerceone.com>
To: "'Assaf Arkin'" <arkin@intalio.com>, www-ws-arch@w3.org
>>>This brings us back to the fact that while the protocol assures no
message loss it does not guarantee that a message will be processed<<<
This is why in LEVEL 1  - Simple Reliable Messaging I said ...
>>>The minimum semantic of the acknowledgement message is that the original
message has been received and persisted and therefore, barring catastrophes,
it should not be lost and therefore will be processed.<<<
TCP/IP does not give you this.

-----Original Message-----
From: Assaf Arkin [mailto:arkin@intalio.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 14, 2002 5:22 PM
To: Ricky Ho; www-ws-arch@w3.org
Subject: RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads

Although TCP does not care about the message, it still works very well at
the message level for two reasons:
1. You specify the message size, that way you know exactly how many bytes
(or packets) you expect to receive and you don't finish until you receive
all of them.
2. The TCP stack will tell you if the connection goes down even if it just
managed to deliver the last packet. In the application you will unknowingly
block until the TCP stack can determine the delivery status of the last
In some cases you cannot tell what the message size is (this happens a lot
for HTML pages). In this case the Web server tells you the message has ended
by closing the connection, but it can detect when the client gets
disconnected before receiving the entire message. So the server does not
experience message loss.
Of course, this does not mean the the client got the message. The connection
could be terminate before the server finishes sending it, or the client
could just die after receiving the last packet, having received the entire
message and losing it by crashing.
This brings us back to the fact that while the protocol assures no message
loss it does not guarantee that a message will be processed. Message loss
means that the sender cannot tell whether the message was received or not,
if the message is received and then lost or the client cannot receive the
entire message that is a different problem.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ricky Ho [mailto:riho@cisco.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 14, 2002 5:09 PM
To: Assaf Arkin; www-ws-arch@w3.org
Subject: RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads

What you say is correct !  But only at the TCP packet level, not the message

To some degree, I feel our previous RM handshaking discussion is
re-implementing the TCP handshaking at the message level

Rgds, Ricky

At 11:58 AM 12/14/2002 -0800, Assaf Arkin wrote:

TCP takes care of that.
IP is a basic packet routing protocol that sends individual packets from one
machine to another. IP has message loss. A message may not arrive at its
destination. At the IP level the sender does not know whether the message
has arrived, and the received doesn't know a message was sent, so there's no
corrective action that will be taken.
TCP is an elaborate protocol on top of IP that provides, connection-based
messaging. TCP uses IP which means packets sent from A to B may be lost, may
be received out of order, and may be received multiple times. TCP does the
ordering of the packets, retransmission, acks, etc.
So it goes something along these lines (not exactly, but it's been a while
since I read the TCP spec):
Node A opens connection to Node B.
Node A starts sending a message to Node B.
Node A identifies each packet by its order in the message.
Node A identifiers the last packet.
If Node B does not receive a packet it asks for retransmission.
If Node B does receive the packet it lets Node A know (this is only critical
for the last packet)
Keep in mind that Node A and Node B keep communicating with each other all
the time, sending "is alive" messages back and forth to determine if the
connection is still open. So even if there's no application traffic between
A and B, there's a lot of chatter going over the wire. If A doesn't hear
from B after a while, then A assumes the connection is down (and vice
The TCP/IP stack can use the negative acks (retransmit request) in
combination with the is-alive chatter (positive acks) to tell the
application whether the message has been received or not.

Arkin, can you elaborate your point that "using a sync transport protocol,
there will be no possibility of message loss" ??  here is an example.

Node A sends a message to node B using a sync transport protocol HTTP POST

A open a TCP connection to B successfully. 

A send a stream of request data (in the HTTP format) to B. 

Suddenly, the TCP connection drops.

How does A know if B has received the request message or not ?

Best regards, 


At 08:03 PM 12/13/2002 -0800, Assaf Arkin wrote: 

The two army problem is concerned with the possibility of message loss.
Message loss could occur when you are using an asynchronous transport
protocol, though in most literature the term would be medium, where protocol
is a more generic term that would even cover a choreography. 

Although you can have an asynchronous API for performing an operation, that
API is between you and a messaging engine and typically you would use
in-process calls or some synchronous transport, so there's no possibility of
message loss. You can tell without a doubt whether the messaging engine is
going to send the message or not. 

Even if the operation you are doing is asynchronous, you can use a
synchronous protocol such as HTTP POST to deliver the message in which case
there is no possibility for message loss. But you can also use an
asynchronous protocol such as SMTP or UDP, in which case the message could
be lost on the way to its definition. Lost has a loose definition, a message
that gets garbled, delayed or routed to the wrong place is considered lost. 

Addressing message loss is therefore a problem of the protocol you use and
not the operation you perform. So in my opinion that is outside the scope of
WSDL abstract operation definition, but in the scope of specific protocol
bindings, an it would definitely help if the protocol layer (XMLP) could
address that relieving us of the need to define ack operations. 


-----Original Message----- 

From: www-ws-arch-request@w3.org [ mailto:www-ws-arch-request@w3.org]On
<mailto:www-ws-arch-request@w3.org%5DOn>  Behalf Of Cutler, Roger

Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 1:28 PM 

To: Assaf Arkin; www-ws-arch@w3.org 

Subject: RE: Reliable Messaging - Summary of Threads

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 <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

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 mediums. 

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 Monday, 16 December 2002 13:38:16 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:41:01 UTC