Proving Linearizability Using Forward Simulations

Published in International Conference on Computer Aided Verification (CAV), 2017

Recommended citation: Ahmed Bouajjani, Constantin Enea and Suha Mutluergil. "Proving Linearizability Using Forward Simulations." In Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computer Aided Verification (CAV), 2017.

This paper is about how to perform refinement proofs for concurrent objects by finding forward simulation relations.

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Abstract. Linearizability is the standard correctness criterion concurrent data structures such as stacks and queues. It allows to establish observational refinement between a concurrent implementation and an atomic reference implementation. Proving linearizability requires identifying linearization points for each method invocation along all possible computations, leading to valid sequential executions, or alternatively, establishing forward and backward simulations. In both cases, carrying out proofs is hard and complex in general. In particular, backward reasoning is difficult in the context of programs with data structures, and strategies for identifying statically linearization points cannot be defined for all existing implementations. In this paper, we show that, contrary to common belief, many such complex implementations, including, e.g., the Herlihy & Wing Queue and the Time-Stamped Stack, can be proved correct using only forward simulation arguments. This leads to simple and natural correctness proofs for these implementations that are amenable to automation.