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Implementing Remote Procedure Calls

ANDREW D. BIRRELL and BRUCE JAY NELSON Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Remote procedure calls (RPC) appear to be a useful paradigm for providing communication across a network between programs written in a high-level language. This paper describes a package providing a remote procedure call facility, the options that face the designer of such a package, and the decisions ~we made. We describe the overall structure of our RPC mechanism, our facilities for binding RPC clients, the transport level communication protocol, and some performance measurements. We include descriptioro~ of some optimizations used to achieve high performance and to minimize the load on server machines that have many clients.

CR Categories and Subject Descriptors: C.2.2 Computer-Communication Networks: Network Protocols--protocol architecture; C.2.4 Computer-Communication Networks: Distributed Sys- tems-distributed applications, network operating systems; D.4.4 Operating Systems: Communi- cations Management--message sending, network communication; D.4.7Operatiug Systems: Or- ganization and Design--distributed systems

General Terms: Design, Experimentation, Performance, Security

Additional Keywords and Phrases: Remote procedure calls, transport layer protocols, distributed naming and binding, inter-process communication, performance of communication protocols.

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The idea of remote procedure calls (hereinafter called RPC) is quite simple. It is based on the observation that procedure calls are a well-known and well- understood mechanism for transfer of control and data within a program running on a single computer. Therefore, it is proposed that this same mechanism be extended to provide for transfer of control and data across a communication network. When a remote procedure is invoked, the calling environment is suspended, the parameters are passed across the network to the environment where the procedure is to execute (which we will refer to as the callee), and the desired procedure is executed there. When the procedure finishes and produces its results, the results are passed backed to the calling environment, where execution resumes as if returning from a simple single-machine call. While the calling environment is suspended, other processes on that machine may (possibly)

Authors' address: Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the ACM copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of the Association for Computing Machinery. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires a fee and/or specific permission. © 1984 ACM 0734-2071/84/0200-0039 $00.75

ACMTransactions on Computer Systems, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 1984,Pages 39-59

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