Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

A new approach to implementing atomic data types

Zhixue Wu

May 1994, 170 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted October 1993 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Trinity College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-338


Many researchers have suggested the atomic data type approach to maintaining data consistency in a system. In this approach atomicity is ensured by the data objects that are shared by concurrent activities. By using the semantics of the operations of the shared objects, greater concurrency among activities can be permitted. In addition, by encapsulating synchronisation and recovery in the implementation of the shared objects, modularity can be enhanced. Existing systems support user-defined atomic data types in an explicit approach. They either permit limited semantics to be presented thus providing less concurrency, or permit a high level of semantics to be presented but in an encapsulated way, thus resulting in a complicated implementation. This research was done to make the implementation of user-defined atomic data types simple, efficient, while still permitting great concurrency.

The research aims to lessen the programmer’s burden by supporting an implicit approach for implementing atomic data types. It permits a high level of semantics to be specified in a declarative way, which makes the implementation of user defined atomic data types as simple as in a sequential environment. A special concurrency control mechanism is implemented by the system. By using type inheritance, user-defined atomic data types can use the mechanism directly to provide local atomicity for their objects. A language has been developed for specifying the conflicts between object operations. Since the concurrency control mechanism can take operation semantics into account, the approach permits great concurrency.

To support the implicit approach, an appropriate concurrency control protocol must be proposed which can take advantage of operation semantics to increase concurrency and which can be implemented independently from user-defined atomic data types. Such a protocol, called the dual-level validation method, is presented and verified in this thesis. The method can make use of the parameters and results of object operations to achieve great concurrency. In addition, it also provides great internal concurrency by permitting operations to take place on an object concurrently.

The prototyping of the implicit approach in a persistent programming language called PC++ is described. The feasibility of the approach is shown by an application, namely a naming database for an active badge system. Some related issues are also addressed in the thesis such as remote object invocation, distributed transaction commitment and data persistence.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Wu, Zhixue},
  title = 	 {{A new approach to implementing atomic data types}},
  year = 	 1994,
  month = 	 may,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-338},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-338}