Designing a commutative replicated data type

Marc Shapiro, Nuno Preguiça

Commuting operations greatly simplify consistency in distributed systems. This paper focuses on designing for commutativity, a topic neglected previously. We show that the replicas of \emph{any} data type for which concurrent operations commute converges to a correct value, under some simple and standard assumptions. We also show that such a data type supports transactions with very low cost. We identify a number of approaches and techniques to ensure commutativity. We re-use some existing ideas (non-destructive updates coupled with invariant identification), but propose a much more efficient implementation. Furthermore, we propose a new technique, background consensus. We illustrate these ideas with a shared edit buffer data type.

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