Message Passing and its features

Posted By on March 23, 2016

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Protocols for Distributed systems
IPC Buffering

Message passing is the paradigm of communication where messages are sent from a sender to one or more recipients. Forms of messages include (remote) method invocation, signals, and data packets. When designing a message passing system several choices are made:

  • Whether messages are transferred reliably
  • Whether messages are guaranteed to be delivered in order
  • Whether messages are passed one-to-one, one-to-many (multi-casting or broadcasting), or many-to-one (client–server)
  • Whether communication is synchronous or asynchronous.

Prominent theoretical foundations of concurrent computation, such as the Actor model and the process calculi are based on message passing. Implementations of concurrent systems that use message passing can either have message passing as an integral part of the language, or as a series of library calls from the language. Examples of the former include many distributed object systems. Examples of the latter include Micro kernel operating systems pass messages between one kernel and one or more server blocks, and the Message Passing Interface used in high-performance computing.

Message passing systems and models

Distributed object and remote method invocation systems like ONC RPC, Corba, Java RMI, DCOM, SOAP, .NET Remoting, CTOS, QNX Neutrino RTOS, OpenBinder, D-Bus and similar are message passing systems.

Message passing systems have been called “shared nothing” systems because the message passing abstraction hides underlying state changes that may be used in the implementation of sending messages.

Message passing model based programming languages typically define messaging as the (usually asynchronous) sending (usually by copy) of a data item to a communication endpoint (Actor, process, thread, socket, etc.).

Such messaging is used in Web Services by SOAP. This concept is the higher-level version of a data-gram except that messages can be larger than a packet and can optionally be made reliable, durable, secure, and/or transacted.

Messages are also commonly used in the same sense as a means of inter-process communication; the other common technique being streams or pipes, in which data are sent as a sequence of elementary data items instead (the higher-level version of a virtual circuit).

Synchronous versus Asynchronous message passing

Synchronous message passing systems require the sender and receiver to wait for each other to transfer the message. That is, the sender will not continue until the receiver has received the message.

Synchronous communication has two advantages. The first advantage is that reasoning about the program can be simplified in that there is a synchronization point between sender and receiver on message transfer. The second advantage is that no buffering is required. The message can always be stored on the receiving side, because the sender will not continue until the receiver is ready.

Asynchronous message passing systems deliver a message from sender to receiver, without waiting for the receiver to be ready. The advantage of asynchronous communication is that the sender and receiver can overlap their computation because they do not wait for each other

Synchronous communication can be built on top of asynchronous communication by ensuring that the sender always wait for an acknowledgement message from the receiver before continuing.

The buffer required in asynchronous communication can cause problems when it is full. A decision has to be made whether to block the sender or whether to discard future messages. If the sender is blocked, it may lead to an unexpected deadlock. If messages are dropped, then communication is no longer reliable.

Protocols for Distributed systems
IPC Buffering

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