Distributed Snapshots


For distributed systems it is useful the know the global state at some point of time for various tasks like deadlock detection. However, in absence of synchronized clocks, it is hard to obtain a snapshot of the current state of the distributed system without stopping it since they might all take a snapshot at a slightly different time, leading to inconsistency. In this paper, snapshot contains the local state of each node and the messages sent between nodes. So a simple inconsistency can be that the sender records the state before a message is sent but the receiver records the state after the message is received, leading to duplicated message passing.

To begin, this paper makes the following assumptions:

  • Messages are never dropped or reordered.
  • The network delay is finite.

Then the snapshot algorithm runs as follows: first, processes periodically decide to initiate a snapshot. After it is done sending messages to other processes, it records its local state and sends a marker along the channels to indicate that the messages are sent before the snapshot. The receiver, upon receiving the marker, will record its local state if it has not yet done so, and record the messages in channel where the marker comes from since the state has been recorded. It will also broadcast the marker if it has not yet done so. The algorithm will terminate once all processes has recorded its local state and each channel has transmitted one marker.

An important property of this algorithm is that the recorded state may have never actually occurred during the execution: it simply records a state consistent with the partial order of events. This is because we can get a consistent snapshot regardless of in which order the concurrent events occur.

M. Chandy and L. Lamport. Distributed Snapshots: Determining Global States of Distributed SystemsLinks to an external site.. ACM Trans. Comput. Syst., 3(1):63-75, 1985.

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