ACMES team

Samovar lab

Universal context propagation for distributed system instrumentation

Reading group: Henrique Medeiros presented "Universal context propagation for distributed system instrumentation" (EuroSys'18) at 1A312 the 10/11/2023 at 10h50.


Many tools for analyzing distributed systems propagate contexts along the execution paths of requests, tasks, and jobs, in order to correlate events across process, component and machine boundaries. There is a wide range of existing and proposed uses for these tools, which we call cross-cutting tools, such as tracing, debugging, taint propagation, provenance, auditing, and resource management, but few of them get deployed pervasively in large systems. When they do, they are brittle, hard to evolve, and cannot coexist with each other. While they use very different context metadata, the way they propagate the information alongside execution is the same. Nevertheless, in existing tools, these aspects are deeply intertwined, causing most of these problems.

In this paper, we propose a layered architecture for crosscutting tools that separates concerns of system developers and tool developers, enabling independent instrumentation of systems, and the deployment and evolution of multiple such tools. At the heart of this layering is a general underlying format, baggage contexts, that enables the complete decoupling of system instrumentation for context propagation from tool logic. Baggage contexts make propagation opaque and general, while still maintaining correctness of the metadata under arbitrary concurrency and different data types. We demonstrate the practicality of the architecture with implementations in Java and Go, porting of several existing cross-cutting tools, and instrumenting existing distributed systems with all of them.