University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar > Seeing is Believing: A state-based formalization of database isolation

Seeing is Believing: A state-based formalization of database isolation

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This talk asks: is it possible to formalize isolation definitions in a state-based fashion, and if so, why does it matter? Our approach is premised on a simple observation: applications view storage systems as black-boxes that transition through a series of states, a subset of which are observed by applications. Defining isolation guarantees in terms of these states frees definitions from implementation-specific assumptions. It makes immediately clear what anomalies, if any, applications can expect to observe, thus bridging the gap that exists today between how isolation guarantees are defined and how they are perceived.

Using this formalization, we find that several well-known guarantees, previously thought to be distinct, are in fact equivalent, and that many previously incomparable flavors of snapshot isolation can be organized in a clean hierarchy. Moreover, we observe that adopting a state-based view of isolation opens up new opportunities for implementations of popular isolation levels, making them resilient to slowdown cascade, a common phenomenon in datacenters that has inhibited the adoption of stronger isolation and consistency levels at scale.

This talk is based on work that appeared at NSDI ’17 and PODC ’17.

Bio: Natacha is a final year PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University, advised by Lorenzo Alvisi. She is interested in large-scale distributed systems and databases, with a focus on consistency in the context of geo-distributed systems. In the past, she has interned at INRIA Paris, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems and the database group at Microsoft Research Redmond. Natacha holds her undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded the Redgate prize for the Best Final Year student, and the Gloucester Research Prize for the Best Final Year Dissertation. She is the recipient of a UT Austin Harrington Fellowship, a Google Fellowship in Distributed Computing, and a Microsoft Research Women’s Fellowship, which now support her research.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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