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CSCE455/855 Distributed Operating Systems. Communication. Dr. Ying Lu Giving credit where credit is due:. CSCE455/855 Distributed Operating Systems. Most of the lecture notes are from the textbook companion website

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giving credit where credit is due
Giving credit where credit is due:

CSCE455/855Distributed Operating Systems

  • Most of the lecture notes are from the textbook companion website
  • Some of the lecture notes are based on slides created by Dr. Krzyzanowski at Rutgers University
  • I have modified them and added new slides
layered protocols i
Layered Protocols (I)

Reference model for networked communication

client server communication
Client-Server Communication
  • Assume that you are developing a client-server application:
    • How to let the two processes (client and server) located on two machines communicate with each other?
      • Socket programming: using functions like connect(sd, (struct sockaddr *)&sin, sizeof(sin)), write(sd, buf, strlen(buf)) etc.
remote procedure calls rpc
Remote Procedure Calls (RPC)
  • Avoid explicit message exchange between processes
  • Basic idea is to allow a process on a machine to call procedures on a remote machine
    • Make a remote procedure possibly look like a local one
  • Original paper on RPC:
    • A. Birrell, B Nelson, “Implementing Remote Procedure Calls”, ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, 1984
conventional procedure call
Conventional Procedure Call
  • How are parameters passed in a local procedure call
    • E.g., #include <sys/types.h>

#include <unistd.h>


char buf[20];





nbytes = sizeof(buf);

bytes_read = read(fd, buf, nbytes);


conventional procedure call8
Conventional Procedure Call

Figure 4-5. (a) Parameter passing in a local procedure call: the stack before the call to read. (b) The stack while the called procedure is active.

remote procedure calls rpc9
Remote Procedure Calls (RPC)
  • How are parameter passed in a remote procedure call, while making it look like a local procedure call?
client and server stubs
Client and Server Stubs

Principle of RPC between a client and server program.

steps of a remote procedure call
Steps of a Remote Procedure Call
  • Client procedure calls client stub in normal way
  • Client stub builds message, calls local OS
  • Client's OS sends message to remote OS
  • Remote OS gives message to server stub
  • Server stub unpacks parameters, calls server
  • Server does work, returns result to the stub
  • Server stub packs it in message, calls local OS
  • Server's OS sends message to client's OS
  • Client's OS gives message to client stub
  • Stub unpacks result, returns to client
passing value parameters 1
Passing Value Parameters (1)


Steps involved in doing remote computation through RPC

passing value parameters 3
Passing Value Parameters (3)
  • Original message on the Pentium (little-endian)
  • The message after receipt on the SPARC (big-endian)

Note: the little numbers in boxes indicate the address of each byte

passing value parameters 315
Passing Value Parameters (3)
  • Original message on the Pentium (little-endian)
  • The message after receipt on the SPARC (big-endian)
  • The message after being inverted (integer 5, string: “LLIJ”)

Note: the little numbers in boxes indicate the address of each byte

passing reference parameters
Passing reference parameters

Machine B

Machine A

Copy value a and contents of loc b

into a’ and loc b’





Return Copy contents of loc b’ into b

Call foo(a, &b’ )

foo(a, &b )

  • What is Call By Value and Call By Refernce?
  • Example: call foo(int, int * ) or read(fd, buf, nbytes)
  • Call by copy/restore
  • The dreaded “pointer problem”
    • Linked list
    • Complex graph

Marshalling transferring data structure used in remote procedure call from one address space to another.

Define a “network format”, for example following XDR (eXternal Data Representation) standard

Values must cross the network

Machine formats differ

  • Integer byte order
    • Little-endian or big-endian
  • Floating point format
    • IEEE 754 or not
rpc the basic mechanism
RPC: The basic mechanism
  • Client calls a local procedure on the client stub
  • The client stub acts as a proxy and marshalls the call and the args.
  • The client stub send this to the remote system (via TCP/UDP)
  • The server stub unmarshalls the call and args from the client
  • The server stub calls the actual procedure on the server
  • The server stub marshalls the reply and sends it back to the client

Server process

Client process







Client stub



















Source: R. Stevens, Unix Network Programming (IPC) Vol 2, 1998

example1 a time server interface
Example1: A Time Server Interface

struct time {

int seconds;

int minutes;

int hours;

int day;

int month;

int year;

char timezone[4];


int gettime(t); struct time *t;

int settime(t); struct time *t;

example1 client stub for settime
Example1: Client Stub for Settime

int settime(t); struct time *t; {

char *p, message[32];

int stat;

p = message;

p = put_int(p, SETTIME);

p = put_int(p, t->seconds);

p = put_int(p, t->minutes);

p = put_int(p, t->hours);

p = put_int(p, t->day);

p = put_int(p, t->month);

p = put_int(p, t->year);

p = put_string(p, t->timezone, 4);

stat = do_operation(“time_server”, message, 32);

if(stat == SUCCESS) get_int(message, &stat);



example1 server stub 1
Example1: Server Stub (1)
  • p = get_int(p, &t.minutes);
  • p = get_int(p, &t.hours);
  • p = get_int(p, &;
  • p = get_int(p, &t.month);
  • p = get_int(p, &t.year);
  • p = get_string(p, &t.timezone, 4);
  • len = settime(&t);
  • put_int(message, len);
  • len = 4;
  • break;


/* code for unmarshalling and calling gettime */


send_reply(message, len);



void main_loop() {

char *p, message[32];

int len, op_code;

struct time t;

for(;;) {

len = receive_request(message, 32);

if(len < 4) {

/* error handling code */


p = message;

p = get_int(p, op_code);

switch(op_code) {


if (len < 32) {

/* error handling code */


p = get_int(p, &t.seconds);

writing a client and a server
Writing a Client and a Server

Figure 4-12. The steps in writing a client and a server in DCE RPC

DCE: Distributed Computing Environment

binding a client to a server 1
Binding a Client to a Server (1)
  • Registration of a server makes it possible for a client to locate the server and bind to it.
  • Server location is done in two steps:
    • Locate the server’s machine.
    • Locate the server on that machine.
binding a client to a server 2
Binding a Client to a Server (2)

Figure 4-13. Client-to-server binding in DCE.

asynchronous rpc 1
Asynchronous RPC (1)


  • The interconnection between client and server in a traditional RPC
  • The interaction using asynchronous RPC
asynchronous rpc 2
Asynchronous RPC (2)


A client and server interacting through two asynchronous RPCs

lpc v s rpc
LPC v.s. RPC
  • Global variables
  • Client and server fail independently
    • RPC: requires code to deal with server crashes
when things go wrong
When Things Go Wrong
  • Semantics of remote procedure calls
    • Local procedure call: exactly once
  • How many times a remote procedure call may be called?
  • A remote procedure call may be called:
    • 0 time: server crashed or server process died before executing server code
    • 1 time: everything worked well
    • 1 or more: due to excess latency or lost reply from server, client retransmitted
  • Exactly once may be difficult to achieve with RPC
rpc semantics
RPC Semantics
  • Most RPC systems will offer either:
    • at least once semantics
    • or at most once semantics
  • Understand application:
    • Illustrate some applications that “at least once” is suitable?
      • Idempotent functions: may be run any number of times without harm
    • Illustrate some applications that “at most once” is suitable?
useful links for rpc
Useful Links for RPC
  • RFC 1831: RPC Specification
  • RFC 1832: XDR Specification
in class exercises i
In-Class Exercises (I)
  • C has a construction called a union, in which a field of a record (called a struct in C) can hold any one of several alternatives. At run time, there is no sure-fire way to tell which one is in there. Does this feature of C have any implications for remote procedure call? Explain your answer.
  • If the runtime system cannot tell what type value is in the field, it cannot marshal it correctly. Thus unions cannot be tolerated in an RPC system unless there is a tag field that unambiguously tells what the variant field holds.
in class exercises ii
In-Class Exercises (II)

2. One way to handle parameter conversion in RPC systems is to have each machine send parameters in its native representation, with the other one doing the translation, if need be. The native system could be indicated by a code in the first byte. However, since locating the first byte in the first word is precisely the problem, can this actually work?

First of all, when one computer sends byte 0, it always arrives in byte 0.Thus the destination computer can simply access byte 0 (using a byte instruction) and the code will be in it. An alternative scheme is to put the code in all the bytes of the first word. Then no matter which byte is examined, the code will be there.

example writing a client and a server 1
Example: Writing a client and a server (1)

/* interface.x */

/* Example Interface Definition */

struct square_in {

long arg;


struct square_out {

long result;


program SQUARE_PROG {

version SQUARE_VERS {

square_out SQUAREPROC( square_in ) = 1; /* Procedure number = 1 */

} = 1; /* Version number = 1 */

} = 0x31230000; /* program number */

Source: R. Stevens, Unix Network Programming (IPC) Vol 2, 1998

example writing a client and a server 2
Example: Writing a client and a server (2)




Client Main


(client stub)



(Server stub)


Runtime lib



Source: R. Stevens, Unix Network Programming (IPC) Vol 2, 1998

unix network programming
Unix Network Programming

UNIX Network Programming, Volume 2, Second Edition: Interprocess Communications, Prentice Hall, 1999, ISBN 0-13-081081-9