Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Designing a universal name service

Chaoying Ma

133 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted October 1992 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Newnham College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-270


Generally speaking, naming in computing systems deals with the creation of object identifiers at all levels of system architecture and the mapping among them. Two of the main purposes of having names in computer systems are (a) to identify objects; (b) to accomplish sharing. Without naming no computer system design can be done.

The rapid development in the technology of personal workstations and computer communication networks has placed a great number of demands on designing large computer naming systems. In this dissertation, issues of naming in large distributed computing systems are addressed. Technical aspects as well as system architecture are examined. A design of a Universal Name Service (UNS) is proposed and its prototype implementation is described. Three major issues on designing a global naming system are studied. Firstly, it is observed that none of the existing name services provides enough flexibility in restructuring name spaces, more research has to be done. Secondly it is observed that although using stale naming data (hints) at the application level is acceptable in most cases as long as it is detectable and recoverable, stronger naming data integrity should be maintained to provide a better guarantee of finding objects, especially when a high degree of availability is required. Finally, configuring the name service is usually done in an ad hoc manner, leading to unexpected interruptions or a great deal of human intervention when the system is reconfigured. It is necessary to make a systematic study of automatic configuration and reconfiguration of name services.

This research is based on a distributed computing model, in which a number of computers work cooperatively to provide the service. The contributions include: (a) the construction of a Globally Unique Directory Identifier (GUDI) name space. Flexible name space restructuring is supported by allowing directories to be added to or removed from the GUDI name space. (b) The definition of a two class name service infrastructure which exploits the semantics of naming. It makes the UNS replication control more robust, reliable as well as highly available. (c) The identification of two aspects in the name service configuration: one is concerned with the replication configuration, and the other is concerned with the server configuration. It is notable that previous work only studied these two aspects individually but not in combination. A distinguishing feature of the UNS is that both issues are considered at the design stage and novel methods are used to allow dynamic service configuration to be done automatically and safely.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Ma, Chaoying},
  title = 	 {{Designing a universal name service}},
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-270},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-270}