Skip to main content


On synchronous and asynchronous interaction in distributed systems


Rob van Glabbeek, Ursula Goltz and Jens-Wolfhard Schicke



TU Braunschweig


When considering distributed systems, it is a central issue how to deal with interactions between components. In this paper, we investigate the paradigms of synchronous and asynchronous interaction in the context of distributed systems. We investigate to what extent or under which conditions synchronous interaction is a valid concept for specification and implementation of such systems. We choose Petri nets a our system model and consider different notions of distribution by associating locations to elements of nets. First, we investigate the concept of simultaneity which is inherent in the semantics of Petri nets when transitions have multiple input places. We assume that tokens may only be taken instantaneously by transitions on the same location. We exhibit a hierarchy of `asynchronous' Petri net classes by different assumptions on possible distributions. Alternatively, we assume that the synchronisations specified in a Petri net are crucial system properties. Hence transitions and their preplaces may no longer placed on separate locations. We then answer the question which systems may be implemented in a distributed way without restricting concurrency, assuming that locations are inherently sequential. It turns out that in both settings we find semi-structural properties of Petri nets describing exactly the problematic situations for interactions in distributed systems.

BibTeX Entry

    publisher        = {Springer},
    author           = {van Glabbeek, Robert and Goltz, Ursula and Schicke, Jens-Wolfhard},
    issn             = {0302-9743},
    month            = {aug},
    editor           = {{Edward OchmaƄski \& Jerzy Tyszkiewicz}},
    year             = {2008},
    keywords         = {concurrency, petri nets, distributed systems, reactive systems, asynchronous interaction, semantic
    title            = {On Synchronous and Asynchronous Interaction in Distributed Systems},
    booktitle        = {33nd International Symposium on Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science (MFCS 2008)},
    pages            = {16-35},
    address          = {Torun, Poland}