Static Guarantees for Coordinated Components: a Statically Typed Composition Model for Stream-Processing Networks
Does your program do what it is supposed to be doing? Without running the program providing an answer to this question is much harder if the language does not support static type checking. Of course, even if compile-time checks are in place only certain errors will be detected: compilers can only second-guess the programmer’s intention. But, type based techniques go a long way in assisting programmers to detect errors in their computations earlier on. The question if a program behaves correctly is even harder to answer if the program consists of several parts that execute concurrently and need to communicate with each other. Compilers of standard programming languages are typically unable to infer information about how the parts of a concurrent program interact with each other, especially where explicit threading or message passing techniques are used. Hence, correctness guarantees are often conspicuously absent. Concurrency management in an application is a complex problem. However, it is largely orthogonal to the actual computational functionality that a program realises. Because of this orthogonality, the problem can be considered in isolation. The largest possible separation between concurrency and functionality is achieved if a dedicated language is used for concurrency management, i.e. an additional program manages the concurrent execution and interaction of the computational tasks of the original program. Such an approach does not only help programmers to focus on the core functionality and on the exploitation of concurrency independently, it also allows for a specialised analysis mechanism geared towards concurrency-related properties. This dissertation shows how an approach that completely decouples coordination from computation is a very supportive substrate for inferring static guarantees of the correctness of concurrent programs. Programs are described as streaming networks connecting independent components that implement the computations of the program, where the network describes the dependencies and interactions between components. A coordination program only requires an abstract notion of computation inside the components and may therefore be used as a generic and reusable design pattern for coordination. A type-based inference and checking mechanism analyses such streaming networks and provides comprehensive guarantees of the consistency and behaviour of coordination programs. Concrete implementations of components are deliberately left out of the scope of coordination programs: Components may be implemented in an external language, for example C, to provide the desired computational functionality. Based on this separation, a concise semantic framework allows for step-wise interpretation of coordination programs without requiring concrete implementations of their components. The framework also provides clear guidance for the implementation of the language. One such implementation is presented and hands-on examples demonstrate how the language is used in practice.
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