Parisian Master of Research in Computer Science
Master Parisien de Recherche en Informatique (MPRI)

COURSE 2.8.1

Non-Sequential Theory of Distributed Systems


* Benedikt Bollig (responsible)

* Paul Gastin


The lectures will take place on Wednesday, 13:15-15:45, in Bat. Sophie Germain, room 1004.

The first lecture is on Wednesday, 12th September 2018.


The exam takes place on Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 13:15-15:45, in Bat. Sophie Germain, room 1004.

The lecture notes are allowed during the exam.


The lecture shall cover basic automata-theoretic concepts and logical formalisms for the modeling and verification of concurrent and distributed systems. Many of these concepts naturally extend the classical automata and logics over words, which provide a framework for modeling sequential systems. A distributed system, on the other hand, combines several (finite or recursive) processes, and will therefore be modeled as a collection of (finite or pushdown, respectively) automata. A crucial parameter of a distributed system is the kind of interaction that is allowed between processes. In this lecture, we focus on two standard communication paradigms: message passing and shared memory. In general, communication in a distributed system creates complex dependencies between events, which are hidden when using a sequential, operational semantics.

The approach taken in this lecture is based on a faithful preservation of the dependencies of concurrent events. That is, an execution of a system is modeled as a partial order, or graph, rather than a sequence of events. This has to be reflected in high-level languages for formulating requirements to be met by a distributed system. Actually, specifications for distributed systems are, by nature, non-sequential. They should be interpreted directly on the partial order underlying a system execution, rather than on an (arbitrary) linearization of it. It is worth mentioning that using specifications working on linearizations are often the reason for undecidability, as they may assume synchronization that actually cannot happen. We present classical specification formalisms such as monadic second-order (MSO) logic and temporal logic, interpreted over partial-orders or graphs, as well as (high-level) rational expressions. We compare the expressive power of automata and logic and give translations of specifications into automata (synthesis and realizability). Moreover, we consider the satisfiability (Is a given specification consistent?) and the model-checking problem (Does a given distributed system satisfy its specification?). For both problems, we present elementary techniques (based on tree interpretations and tree automata) that yield decision procedures with optimal complexity.

Outline of the course

1st Lecture 12/09/2018 motivating examples, automata models of concurrent processes with data structures
2nd Lecture 19/09/2018 operational semantics; graph semantics; MSO logic
3rd Lecture 26/09/2018 expressive power of MSO logic
4th Lecture 03/10/2018 underapproximate verification; special tree-width, decomposition game
5th Lecture 10/10/2018 special tree-width and tree interpretation; decision procedures via tree automata
6th Lecture 17/10/2018 propositional dynamic logic (PDL)
7th Lecture 24/10/2018 model-checking of existentially bounded behaviors; synthesis from PDL formulas into CPDS
8th Lecture 31/10/2018 asynchronous automata
9th Lecture 07/11/2018 revision and exercises

Lecture Notes

Lecture Notes (version as of 31st October 2018, up to date until 7th lecture)

Slides of 1st lecture


Basic knowledge in Automata, Logics, Complexity.

While not mandatory, it is useful to know the basics of verification. See for instance the level 1 course 1-22 Basics of verification which can also be taken during M2.


Benedikt Bollig will lecture in English. Paul Gastin will lecture in French, unless some students request English.

Exam will be available in English (also in French upon request) and could be written in either French or English.

Related Courses

  • 2-3 Concurrency
  • 2-8-2 Foundations of real time and hybrid systems
  • 2-9-1 Mathematical foundations of the theory of infinite transition systems
  • 2-9-2 Algorithmic verification of programs
  • 2-16 Finite automata modelling
  • 2-20-1 Game theory techniques in computer science
  • 2-20-2 Mathematical foundations of automata theory


Universités partenaires Université Paris-Diderot
Université Paris-Saclay
ENS Cachan École polytechnique Télécom ParisTech
Établissements associés Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie CNRS INRIA CEA