Anonymity in Distributed Read/Write Systems: An Introductory Survey

  • Michel RaynalEmail author
  • Jiannong Cao
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11028)


This paper is an algorithmic introduction to anonymity in asynchronous systems where processes communicate by reading and writing atomic read/write registers. Two types of anonymity are investigated: process-anonymity and memory-anonymity. Process-anonymity is when the processes cannot be distinguished the ones from the others (among other features, they do not have identifiers). Memory-anonymity is when the same memory locations can have different names at different processes (e.g., the location name A used by process \(p_i\) and the location name B used by another process \(p_j\) can correspond to the very same memory location X, and similarly for the names B at \(p_i\) and A at \(p_j\) which correspond to the same memory location \(Y\ne X\)). The paper shows how algorithms can cope with the uncertainty created by these two types of anonymity. To this end, taking examples from the literature, it presents anonymity-tolerant implementations of several concurrent objects, such as snapshot, consensus, and lock, each implementation satisfying a well-defined progress condition (obstruction-freedom, non-blocking, or wait-freedom). This paper must be considered as a short example-driven introductory tutorial on anonymous asynchronous read/write systems.


Agreement problem Anonymity Anonymous processes Anonymous shared memory Consensus Impossibility Linearization point Lower bound Mutual exclusindon Non-blocking Obstruction-freedom Progress condition Snapshot Wait-freedom 



The first author was supported by the Franco-German DFG-ANR Project 14-CE35-0010-02 DISCMAT (devoted to connections between mathematics and distributed computing), the French ANR project 16-CE40-0023-03 DESCARTES (devoted to layered and modular structures in distributed computing), and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The first author wants also to thank G. Taubenfeld for discussions on anonymous systems, and F. Taïani for his encouragement to write this article. A special thanks to the authors of the presented algorithms, without them this article would not exist!


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut Universitaire de France and Univ Rennes, IRISA CNRS INRIARennesFrance
  2. 2.Department of ComputingPolytechnic UniversityHung HomHong Kong

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