Trace Aware Random Testing for Distributed Systems

Published in Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages (PACMPL), volume 3, number OOPSLA, 2019

Recommended citation: Burcu Kulahcioglu Ozkan, Rupak Majumdar, Simin Oraee. "Trace Aware Random Testing for Distributed Systems." Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages (PACMPL), volume 3, number OOPSLA, October 2019.

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Abstract. Distributed and concurrent applications often have subtle bugs that only get exposed under specific schedules. While these schedules may be found by systematic model checking techniques, in practice, model checkers do not scale to large systems. On the other hand, naive random exploration techniques often require a very large number of runs to find the specific interactions needed to expose a bug. In recent years, several random testing algorithms have been proposed that, on the one hand, exploit state-space reduction strategies from model checking and, on the other, provide guarantees on the probability of hitting bugs of certain kinds. These existing techniques exploit two orthogonal strategies to reduce the state space: partial-order reduction and bug depth. Testing algorithms based on partial order techniques, such as RAPOS or POS, ensure nonredundant exploration of independent interleavings among system events by imposing an equivalence relation on schedules and ideally exploring only one schedule from each equivalence class. Techniques based on bug depth, such as PCT, exploit the empirical observation that many bugs are exposed by the clever scheduling of a small number of key events. They bias the sample space of schedules to only cover all executions of small depth, rather than the much larger space of all schedules. At this point, there is no random testing algorithm that combines the power of both approaches.

In this paper, we provide such an algorithm. Our algorithm, trace-aware PCT (taPCT), extends and unifies several different algorithms in the random testing literature. It samples the space of low-depth executions by constructing a schedule online, while taking dependencies among events into account. Moreover, the algorithm comes with a theoretical guarantee on the probability of sampling a trace of low depthÐthe probability grows exponentially with the depth but only polynomially with the number of racy events explored. We further show that the guarantee is optimal among a large class of techniques.

We empirically compare our algorithm with several state-of-the-art random testing approaches for concurrent software on two large-scale distributed systems, Zookeeper and Cassandra, and show that our approach is effective in uncovering subtle bugs and usually outperforms related random testing algorithms.