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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

PetraVM and DMP

January 22, 2009

The goal of PetraVM, a startup launched by University of Washington computer science professors Mark Oskin and Luis Ceze, is to develop technology for writing more reliable multi-threaded code for multi-core architectures.

Key to the PetraVM approach is what's known as "deterministic shared memory multiprocessing" (DMP). According to the paper DMP: Deterministic Shared Memory Multiprocessing, co-written by Ceze, Oskin, Joseph Devietti, and Brandon Lucia, the behavior of an arbitrary multithreaded program on DMP systems is only a function of its inputs. Therefore, the core idea is to make inter-thread communication fully deterministic. The authors claim that previous approaches to coping with nondeterminism in multithreaded programs have focused on the replay debugging. In contrast, while DMP systems are directly useful for debugging by offering repeatability by default, they believe that parallel programs should execute deterministically in the field as well. This has the potential to make testing more assuring and increase the reliability of deployed multithreaded software. With this in mind, they propose a range of approaches to enforcing determinism and, in their paper, discuss implementation trade-offs.

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