Mutual exclusion in distributed system

Mutual exclusion is a concurrency control property which is introduced to prevent race conditions. It is the requirement that a process can not enter its critical section while another concurrent process is currently present or executing in its critical section i.e only one process is allowed to execute the critical section at any given instance of time.

Mutual exclusion in single computer system Vs. distributed system:
In single computer system, memory and other resources are shared between different processes. The status of shared resources and the status of users is easily available in the shared memory so with the help of shared variable (For example: Semaphores) mutual exclusion problem can be easily solved.

In Distributed systems, we neither have shared memory nor a common physical clock and there for we can not solve mutual exclusion problem using shared variables. To eliminate the mutual exclusion problem in distributed system approach based on message passing is used.

A site in distributed system do not have complete information of state of the system due to lack of shared memory and a common physical clock.

Requirements of Mutual exclusion Algorithm:

  • No Deadlock:
    Two or more site should not endlessly wait for any message that will never arrive.
  • No Starvation:
    Every site who wants to execute critical section should get an opportunity to execute it in finite time. Any site should not wait indefinitely to execute critical section while other site are repeatedly executing critical section
  • Fairness:
    Each site should get a fair chance to execute critical section. Any request to execute critical section must be executed in the order they are made i.e Critical section execution requests should be executed in the order of their arrival in the system.
  • Fault Tolerance:
    In case of failure, it should be able to recognize it by itself in order to continue functioning without any disruption.

Solution to distributed mutual exclusion:
As we know shared variables or a local kernel can not be used to implement mutual exclusion in distributed systems. Message passing is a way to implement mutual exclusion. Below are the three approaches based on message passing to implement mutual exclusion in distributed systems:

  1. Token Based Algorithm:
    • A unique token is shared among all the sites.
    • If a site possesses the unique token, it is allowed to enter its critical section
    • This approach uses sequence number to order requests for the critical section.
    • Each requests for critical section contains a sequence number. This sequence number is used to distinguish old and current requests.
    • This approach insures Mutual exclusion as the token is unique
    • Example: 
      Suzuki-Kasami’s Broadcast Algorithm
  2. Non-token based approach:
    • A site communicates with other sites in order to determine which sites should execute critical section next. This requires exchange of two or more successive round of messages among sites.
    • This approach use timestamps instead of sequence number to order requests for the critical section.
    • When ever a site make request for critical section, it gets a timestamp. Timestamp is also used to resolve any conflict between critical section requests.
    • All algorithm which follows non-token based approach maintains a logical clock. Logical clocks get updated according to Lamport’s scheme
    • Example: 
      Lamport's algorithm, Ricart–Agrawala algorithm
  3. Quorum based approach:
    • Instead of requesting permission to execute the critical section from all other sites, Each site requests only a subset of sites which is called a quorum.
    • Any two subsets of sites or Quorum contains a common site.
    • This common site is responsible to ensure mutual exclusion
    • Example: 
      Maekawa’s Algorithm

My Personal Notes arrow_drop_up

self motivated and passionate programmer

If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using or mail your article to See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

Please Improve this article if you find anything incorrect by clicking on the "Improve Article" button below.