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Efficient Causality-Tracking Timestamping
September/October 2003 (vol. 15 no. 5)
pp. 1239-1250

Abstract—Vector clocks are the appropriate mechanism used to track causality among the events produced by a distributed computation. Traditional implementations of vector clocks require application messages to piggyback a vector of n integers (where n is the number of processes). This paper investigates the tracking of the causality relation on a subset of events (namely, the events that are defined as "relevant" from the application point of view) in a context where communication channels are not required to be FIFO, and where there is no a priori information on the connectivity of the communication graph or the communication pattern. More specifically, the paper proposes a suite of simple and efficient implementations of vector clocks that address the reduction of the size of message timestamps, i.e., they do their best to have message timestamps whose size is less than n. The relevance of such a suite of protocols is twofold. From a practical side, it constitutes the core of an adaptive timestamping software layer that can used by underlying applications. From a theoretical side, it provides a comprehensive view that helps better understand distributed causality-tracking mechanisms.

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Index Terms:
Asynchronous distributed computation, causality, message-passing, timestamp, vector clock.
Citation:
Jean-Michel H?lary, Michel Raynal, Giovanna Melideo, Roberto Baldoni, "Efficient Causality-Tracking Timestamping," IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 1239-1250, Sept.-Oct. 2003, doi:10.1109/TKDE.2003.1232275
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