A Model of Transactional Programming

MSR-TR-2008-19 |

There has been a lot of recent research on transaction-based concurrent programming, aimed at offering an easier concurrent programming paradigm that enables programmers to better exploit the parallelism of modern multi-processor machines, such as multi-core microprocessors. We introduce Transactional State Machines (TSMs) as an abstract finite-data model of transactional shared-memory concurrent programs. TSMs are a variant of concurrent boolean programs (or concurrent extended recursive state machines) augmented with additional constructs for specifying potentially nested transactions. Namely, some procedures (or code segments) can be marked as transactions and are meant to be executed “atomically”, and there are also explicit commit and abort operations for transactions. The TSM model is non-blocking and allows interleaved executions where multiple processes can simultaneously be executing inside transactions. It also allows nested transactions, transactions which may never terminate, and transactions which may be aborted explicitly, or aborted automatically by the run-time environment due to memory conflicts. We show that concurrent executions of TSMs satisfy a correctness criterion closely related to serializability, which we call stutter-serializability, with respect to shared memory. We initiate a study of model checking problems for TSMs. Model checking arbitrary TSMs is easily seen to be undecidable, but we show it is decidable in the following case: when recursion is exclusively used inside transactions in all (but one) of the processes, we show that model checking such TSMs against all stutter-invariant omega-regular properties of shared memory is decidable.