Combinatorial Constructions for Effective Testing

  • Large-scale distributed systems consist of a number of components, take a number of parameter values as input, and behave differently based on a number of non-deterministic events. All these features—components, parameter values, and events—interact in complicated ways, and unanticipated interactions may lead to bugs. Empirically, many bugs in these systems are caused by interactions of only a small number of features. In certain cases, it may be possible to test all interactions of \(k\) features for a small constant \(k\) by executing a family of tests that is exponentially or even doubly-exponentially smaller than the family of all tests. Thus, in such cases we can effectively uncover all bugs that require up to \(k\)-wise interactions of features. In this thesis we study two occurrences of this phenomenon. First, many bugs in distributed systems are caused by network partition faults. In most cases these bugs occur due to two or three key nodes, such as leaders or replicas, not being able to communicate, or because the leading node finds itself in a block of the partition without quorum. Second, bugs may occur due to unexpected schedules (interleavings) of concurrent events—concurrent exchange of messages and concurrent access to shared resources. Again, many bugs depend only on the relative ordering of a small number of events. We call the smallest number of events whose ordering causes a bug the depth of the bug. We show that in both testing scenarios we can effectively uncover bugs involving small number of nodes or bugs of small depth by executing small families of tests. We phrase both testing scenarios in terms of an abstract framework of tests, testing goals, and goal coverage. Sets of tests that cover all testing goals are called covering families. We give a general construction that shows that whenever a random test covers a fixed goal with sufficiently high probability, a small randomly chosen set of tests is a covering family with high probability. We then introduce concrete coverage notions relating to network partition faults and bugs of small depth. In case of network partition faults, we show that for the introduced coverage notions we can find a lower bound on the probability that a random test covers a given goal. Our general construction then yields a randomized testing procedure that achieves full coverage—and hence, find bugs—quickly. In case of coverage notions related to bugs of small depth, if the events in the program form a non-trivial partial order, our general construction may give a suboptimal bound. Thus, we study other ways of constructing covering families. We show that if the events in a concurrent program are partially ordered as a tree, we can explicitly construct a covering family of small size: for balanced trees, our construction is polylogarithmic in the number of events. For the case when the partial order of events does not have a "nice" structure, and the events and their relation to previous events are revealed while the program is running, we give an online construction of covering families. Based on the construction, we develop a randomized scheduler called PCTCP that uniformly samples schedules from a covering family and has a rigorous guarantee of finding bugs of small depth. We experiment with an implementation of PCTCP on two real-world distributed systems—Zookeeper and Cassandra—and show that it can effectively find bugs.

Download full text files

Export metadata

Author:Filip Niksic
Advisor:Rupak Majumdar
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language of publication:English
Publication Date:2019/05/06
Date of Publication:2019/05/06
Publishing Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Granting Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2019/05/03
Date of the Publication (Server):2019/05/06
Tag:Distributed system; Hitting families; Online chain partitioning; Partially ordered sets; Random testing
Number of page:X, 115
Faculties / Organisational entities:Kaiserslautern - Fachbereich Informatik
CCS-Classification (computer science):D. Software / D.2 SOFTWARE ENGINEERING (K.6.3) / D.2.5 Testing and Debugging
G. Mathematics of Computing / G.2 DISCRETE MATHEMATICS / G.2.1 Combinatorics (F.2.2)
DDC-Cassification:0 Allgemeines, Informatik, Informationswissenschaft / 004 Informatik
Licence (German):Creative Commons 4.0 - Namensnennung (CC BY 4.0)