Proving Sequential Consistency by Model Checking

Tim Braun, Anne Condon, Alan J. Hu, Kai S. Juse, Marius Laza, Michael Leslie and Rita Sharma
Publishing date
May 17, 2001
23 pages
Sequential consistency is a multiprocessor memory model of both practical and theoretical importance. The general problem of deciding whether a finite-state protocol implements sequential consistency is undecidable. In this paper, however, we show that for the protocols that arise in practice, proving sequential consistency can be done automatically in theory and can be reduced to regular language inclusion via a small amount of manual effort. In particular, we introduce an approach to construct finite-state "observers" that guarantee that a protocol is sequentially consistent. We have developed possible observers for several cache coherence protocols and present our experimental model checking results on a substantial directory-based cache coherence protocol. From a theoretical perspective, our work characterizes a class of protocols, which we believe encompasses all real protocols, for which sequential consistency can be decided. From a practical perspective, we are presenting a methodology for designing memory protocols such that sequential consistency may be proven automatically via model checking.