Sunday, December 12, 2004

Seven deadly sins of distributed systems

A paper by Steve Muir at the Usenix Workshop on Real, Large Distributed Systems (WORLDS'04) caught my eye: The Seven Deadly Sins of Distributed Systems catalogues a number of real problems that arose during the development of PlanetLab. PlanetLab is a very large distributed computing environment (I think we're supposed to call them Grids these days), allowed large scale distribution and virtualisation of apps. Muir's paper describes some very practical problems they encountered, and describes what they did about them. For example:

There’s No Such Thing as “One-in-a-Million”
In a distributed system with hundreds of nodes running 24/7, even the most improbable events start to occur on a not-too-infrequent basis. It’s no longer acceptable to ignore corner cases that probably never occur—those corner cases will occur and will break your application.

Very salient stuff. I'm currently adding web-services capability to Nuin. I have some facilities for handling errors, but it's nowhere near as robust or complete as I would like. After reading Muir's paper, I think that I ought to worry about this more than I already do. Much more!

WORLDS'04 workshop proceedings via Hack the planet

1 comment:

Tommy said...


I've come across your blog many a time, mainly by doing a search for bloggers in 'Somerset : United Kingdom', it was your blog which first introduced me to the concept of The Semantic Web. Ever since then I've been passionately reading alot about it. I do love giving my brain something to chew on.

Your Nuin project is going over my head a little at the moment... But I'll be reading the documentation with great interest!

I read Steve Muir's paper with a fair amount of interest also, but he postulates that 'DNS does not make for a good naming system', doesn't this impact fairly heavily on the interconnected idea of The Semantic Web? For isn't it URIs which make a particular object unique from other objects which could otherwise be identical?

Its a truely fascinating subject, one I'll be reading up on for sure... but enough work dodging for now, laters!