Using Abstraction to Improve Fault Tolerance

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“Using Abstraction to Improve Fault Tolerance” by Miguel Castro, Rodrigo Rodrigues, and Barbara Liskov. In 8th Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems (HotOS-VIII), (Elmau/Oberbayern, Germany), May 2001.


Software errors are a major cause of outages and they are increasingly exploited in malicious attacks. Byzantine fault tolerance allows replicated systems to mask some software errors but it is expensive to deploy. This paper describes a replication technique, BFTA, which uses abstraction to reduce the cost of Byzantine fault tolerance and to improve its ability to mask software errors. BFTA reduces cost because it enables reuse of off-the-shelf service implementations. It improves availability because each replica can be repaired periodically using an abstract view of the state stored by correct replicas, and because each replica can run distinct or non-deterministic service implementations, which reduces the probability of common mode failures. We built an NFS service that allows each replica to run a different operating system. This example suggests that BFTA can be used in practice: the replicated file system required only a modest amount of new code, and preliminary performance results indicate that it performs comparably to the off-the-shelf implementations that it wraps.

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BibTeX entry:

   author = {Miguel Castro and Rodrigo Rodrigues and Barbara Liskov},
   title = {Using Abstraction to Improve Fault Tolerance},
   booktitle = {8th Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems (HotOS-VIII)},
   address = {Elmau/Oberbayern, Germany},
   month = may,
   year = {2001}

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