A new approach to reversible computing with applications to speculative parallel simulation

Davide Cingolani

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In this thesis, we propose an innovative approach to reversible computing that shifts the focus from the operations to the memory outcome of a generic program. This choice allows us to overcome some typical challenges of “plain” reversible computing. Our methodology is to instrument a generic application with the help of an instrumentation tool, namely Hijacker, which we have redesigned and developed for the purpose. Through compile-time instrumentation, we enhance the program’s code to keep track of the memory trace it produces until the end. Regardless of the complexity behind the generation of each computational step of the program, we can build inverse machine instructions just by inspecting the instruction that is attempting to write some value to memory. Therefore from this information, we craft an ad-hoc instruction that conveys this old value and the knowledge of where to replace it. This instruction will become part of a more comprehensive structure, namely the reverse window. Through this structure, we have sufficient information to cancel all the updates done by the generic program during its execution.

In this writing, we will discuss the structure of the reverse window, as the building block for the whole reversing framework we designed and finally realized. Albeit we settle our solution in the specific context of the parallel discrete event simulation (PDES) adopting the Time Warp synchronization protocol, this framework paves the way for further general-purpose development and employment. We also present two additional innovative contributions coming from our innovative reversibility approach, both of them still embrace traditional state savingbased rollback strategy. The first contribution aims to harness the advantages of both the possible approaches. We implement the rollback operation combining state saving together with our reversible support through a mathematical model. This model enables the system to choose in autonomicity the best rollback strategy, by the mutable runtime dynamics of programs. The second contribution explores an orthogonal direction, still related to reversible computing aspects. In particular, we will address the problem of reversing shared libraries. Indeed, leading from their nature, shared objects are visible to the whole system and so does every possible external modification of their code. As a consequence, it is not possible to instrument them without affecting other unaware applications. We propose a different method to deal with the instrumentation of shared objects.

All our innovative proposals have been assessed using the last generation of the open source ROOT-Sim PDES platform, where we integrated our solutions. ROOTSim is a C-based package implementing a general purpose simulation environment based on the Time Warp synchronization protocol.

BibTeX Entry:

author = {Cingolani, Davide},
school = {Sapienza, University of Rome},
title = {A new approach to reversible computing with applications to speculative parallel simulation},
year = {2019},
type = {phdthesis},
comment = {Supervisor: F. Quaglia - Co-Supervisor: A. Pellegrini}