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Fault Tolerance in Critical Information Systems

Elder, Matthew C
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Elder, Matthew C
Knight, John
Critical infrastructure applications provide services upon which society depends heavily; such applications require constant, dependable operation in the face of various failures, natural disasters, and other disruptive events that might cause a loss of service. These applications are themselves dependent on distributed information systems for all aspects of their operation, so survivability of these critical information systems is an important issue. Survivability is the ability of a system to continue to provide service, though possibly alternate or degraded, in the face of various types of failure and disruption. A fundamental mechanism by which survivability can be achieved in critical information systems is fault tolerance. Much of the literature on fault-tolerant distributed systems focuses on tolerance of local faults by detecting and masking the effects of those faults. I describe a direction for fault tolerance in the face of non-local faults—faults whose effects have significant non-local impact, sometimes widespread and sometimes catastrophic—where often the effects of these faults cannot be masked using available resources. The goal is to recognize these non-local faults through detection and analysis, then to provide continued service (possibly alternate or degraded) by reconfiguring the system in response to these faults. A specification-based approach to fault tolerance, called RAPTOR, is presented that enables systematic structuring of formal specifications for error detection and recovery, utilizes a translator to synthesize portions of the implementation from the formal specifications, and provides an implementation architecture supporting fault-tolerance activities. The RAPTOR approach consists of three specifications describing the fault-tolerant system, the errors to be detected, and the actions to take to recover from those errors. The RAPTOR System includes a synthesizer, the Fault Tolerance Translator, to generate implementation of code components from the specifications to perform error detection and recovery activities. In addition, a novel implementation architecture incorporates the generated code as part of an infrastructure supporting fault tolerance at both the node and system levels. Finally, the solution approach is explored and evaluated through the use of case studies and experiments in two critical infrastructure application domains.
University of Virginia, Department of Computer Science, PhD, 2001
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