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  • A.D. Birrell and B. J. Nelson

and in an order which tends to locate the closest (most responsive) running exporter. This allows an importer to become bound to the closest running instance of a replicated service, where the importer does not care which instance. Of course, an importer is free to enumerate the instances himself, by enumerating the members of the group named by the type.

The instance may be a network address constant instead of a Grapevine name. This would allow the importer to bind to the exporter without any interaction with Grapevine, at the cost of including an explicit address in the application programs.

2.3 Discussion

There are some important effects of this scheme. Notice that importing an interface has no effect on the data structures in the exporting machine; this is advantageous when building servers that may have hundreds of users, and avoids problems regarding what the server should do about this information in relation to subsequent importer crashes. Also, use of the unique identifier scheme means that bindings are implicitly broken if the exporter crashes and restarts (since the currency of the identifier is checked on each call). We believe that this implicit unbinding is the correct semantics: otherwise a user will not be notified of a crash happening between calls. Finally, note that this scheme allows calls to be made only on procedures that have been explicitly exported through the RPC mechanism. An alternate, slightly more efficient scheme would be to issue importers with the exporter's internal representation of the server-stub dis- patcher procedure; this we considered undesirable since it would allow unchecked access to almost any procedure in the server machine and, therefore, would make it impossible to enforce any protection or security schemes.

The access controls that restrict updates to the Grapevine database have the effect of restricting the set of users who will be able to export particular interface names. These are the desired semantics: it should not be possible, for example, for a random user to claim that his workstation is a mail server and to thereby be able to intercept my message traffic. In the case of a replicated service, this access control effect is critical. A client of a replicated service may not know a priori the names of the instances of the service. If the client wishes to use two- way authentication to get the assurance that the service is genuine, and if we wish to avoid using a single password for identifying every instance of the service, then the client must be able to securely obtain the list of names of the instances of the service. We can achieve this security by employing a secure protocol when the client interacts with Grapevine as the interface is being imported. Thus Grapevine's access controls provide the client's assurance that an instance of the service is genuine (authorized).

We have allowed several choices for binding time. The most flexible is where the importer specifies only the type of the interface and not its instance: here the decision about the interface instance is made dynamically. Next (and most common) is where the interface instance is an RName, delaying the choice of a particular exporting machine. Most restrictive is the facility to specify a network address as an instance, thus binding it to a particular machine at compile time. We also provide facilities allowing an importer to dynamically instantiate inter- faces and to import them. A detailed description of how this is done would be

ACM Transactions on Computer Systems, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 1984

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