Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Global abstraction-safe marshalling with hash types

James J. Leifer, Gilles Peskine, Peter Sewell, Keith Wansbrough

June 2003, 86 pages


Type abstraction is a key feature of ML-like languages for writing large programs. Marshalling is necessary for writing distributed programs, exchanging values via network byte-streams or persistent stores. In this paper we combine the two, developing compile-time and run-time semantics for marshalling, that guarantee abstraction-safety between separately-built programs.

We obtain a namespace for abstract types that is global, ie meaningful between programs, by hashing module declarations. We examine the scenarios in which values of abstract types are communicated from one program to another, and ensure, by constructing hashes appropriately, that the dynamic and static notions of type equality mirror each other. We use singleton kinds to express abstraction in the static semantics; abstraction is tracked in the dynamic semantics by coloured brackets. These allow us to prove preservation, erasure, and coincidence results. We argue that our proposal is a good basis for extensions to existing ML-like languages, pragmatically straightforward for language users and for implementors.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Leifer, James J. and Peskine, Gilles and Sewell, Peter and
          	  Wansbrough, Keith},
  title = 	 {{Global abstraction-safe marshalling with hash types}},
  year = 	 2003,
  month = 	 jun,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-569}