Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

DInv is a distributed system data invariant detector

A demo video explaining DInv

Distributed system state is not easily accessible and must be pieced together from the state at the individual hosts. Developers have few tools to help them extract, check, and reason about distributed state.

The DInv project is described in a published paper:

Inferring and Asserting Distributed System Invariants. Stewart Grant, Hendrik Cech, Ivan Beschastnikh. ICSE 2018

  author    = {Grant, Stewart and Cech, Hendrik and Beschastnikh, Ivan},
  title     = {{Inferring and Asserting Distributed System Invariants}},
  year      = {2018},
  url       = {},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE)},
  pages     = {1149–1159},

DInv is a suite of tools that can (1) semi-automatically detect distributed state, and (2) infer data invariants over distributed state.

More concretely, DInv analyzes Go programs and can:

  • Identify variables at processes that influence messaging behaviour or data sent to other processes:
    • The variable containing the number of unsuccessful heartbeats at the client influences whether or not the node sends a messages starting a new leader election round
    • variables indicating the liveliness of other hosts
    • A variable indicating the success/fail of a remote database request
    • The variable indicating quorum in decision making protocols
    • Variables used to track distributed wait for graphs, whose values determine deadlocks, and trigger the pre-emption of resources
    • Variable for a hosts resource priority, determining if a resource is pre-empted or retained.
    • Variable defining hosts to share with in gossip protocols
    • Variable representing the amount of entropy of messages in eventual consistency protocols
  • Identify data relationships between local and remote variables:
    • server.counter >= client.counter (the server's counter is at least the value of the client's counter)
    • host.groupLeader == self (the local host is the group leader)

Table of contents


DInv is written in go lang and requires a working installation of Daikon. The following instructions are for Ubuntu 14.04.

The version of Go available through the apt package manager is out of date. Please download go from the offical website and follow the installation instructions to set up a go workspace. The latest version of Go that DInv is confirmed to work with is 1.6.3.

(Note that DInv cannot be compiled using gccgo. Running DInv with gccgo will cause spurious errors.)

DInv is built to run within a standard go workspace environment. Go workspaces provide a mechanism for importing and running the source code of bitbucket and github repositories. This interface is used throughout the installation, and is necessary for the instrumentation process. For detailed instructions on how to configure a go workspace see how to write go code.

The GOPATH environment variable is a reference to the root of your go workspace. This variable must be set to use both the go get instruction, as well as our example programs.

DInv uses mercurial for source control management. If not already installed, get it with apt-get install mercurial or from the official website.

To clone the repository run the following commands

mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/

cd $GOPATH/src/

hg clone

For a quick start to using DInv check out the tutorial


DInv depends on a number of remote repositories, you can install these by running


To infer invariants on the trace files produced by DInv install Daikon.

Installing DInv

After you install the above dependencies, install DInv by running: go install

The DInv binary will be generated at $GOPATH/bin/dinv.


You must follow 6 steps to use DInv. The first 3 are dedicated to code instrumentation, and last 3 run the instrumented code and mine invariants. The sections below provide a detailed explanation of each step:

  • Instrument system source code
    1. Add state recording annotations
    2. Wrap messages with vector timestamps
    3. Run the instrumenter
  • Run system and analyze its logs
    1. Run instrumented code
    2. Merge logs
    3. Detect invariants

The instrumentation and log merging stages are triggered by running the dinv command line tool. The usage of which can be found below.

Instrument system source code (Part 1)

Variables in go code are not readily available for analysis at runtime. In order to track variables during execution their values must be logged. DInv users must annotate their code with //@dump comments on lines of code near variables they wish to analyze. //@dump statements trigger the injection of code which logs variables in its vicinity.

Concurrency in distributed systems makes ordering events from different hosts difficult. To keep track of time DInv piggybacks on messages and logs when they are sent or received. Users have to instrument their messages with the Pack() and Unpack() instructions to wrap them with logging information.

After source code has be annotated, and communication is captured, the code can be processed by the instrumenter. Instrumentation occurs at the directory level. All source files within the directory will be analyzed for annotations. The result of instrumentation is two directories. If foo was the directory given to the instrumenter, the result would be foo and foo_orig. foo_orig contains the original files, and foo contains instrumented code.

Running instrumented code produces the logs DInv uses to detect invariants. Instrumented directories retain the name of the original, preserving external dependencies. You should be able to run instrumented code, using identical methods for uninstrumented code.

Add state recording annotations (Step 1)

Variable extraction is a semi-automated task. Rather than attempt to analyze the value of each variable on every line of code, the user must specify lines in the source code where they want to detect invariants. To analyse the values of variables at a specific line of code, insert the annotation //@dump to that line. The //@dump annotation is a trigger for the instrumenter to collect variables. The dump statements are then replaced with code that logs the variables, their values and the time.

Collected Variables

The variables logged by dump code are only those which are in scope, and have their values affected by IPC. Data flow analysis is preformed by the instrument to determine which variables have their values affected by either sending or receiving functions.


    0 func work( foo string ){
    1    buf := recvMsg()
    2    msg := Unpack(buf)
    3    var response string
    4    //@dump
    5    if msg == foo {
    6        response = "Houston"
    7    } else {
    8        response = "We have a problem"
    9    }
    10   sendMsg(Pack(response))

In this example the variables collected by the dump annotation include {buf,msg,response}. The variable foo is not collected because its value is not affected by the sending function, and its value does not directly affect the value of response. For more information check out the dump wiki entry.

Wrap messages with vector timestamps (Step 2)

To use DInv, the library must be aware of network messages in your system. Two methods Pack( buffer ) and Unpack( buffer ) must be used prior to transmitting/receiving data. The Pack() function must be used on buffer prior to sending. It adds tracking information to the buffer and logs the sending event. Unpack() must be used on all received data. It removes the tracking information added by Pack() and logs the received message.


Add a reference to the dinv/instrumenter repository in your source code

import ""

Function documentation

func Pack(outgoingMessage []byte) []byte

The Pack() function prepares a network message for transit by appending logging information to the message. Pack() also logs a local event when it is called.

  • arguments: outgoingMessage ([]bytes) a message prior to sending

  • return value: an array of bytes containing the original message, and logging information

  • postConditions: a local event has been logged, and the logical time on the calling host has been incremented.

func Unpack(incommingMessage []byte) []byte

The Unpack() function removes the logging information appended by the pack function, and logs the event locally. The return value is the message passed to Pack()

  • arguments: incommingMessage ([]bytes) an inbound message passed over a network

  • return value: The byte array passed to Pack()

  • preconditions: The buffer passed to Unpack() must have been packed prior to sending. If no logging information is present in the message, an error will be thrown.

  • postConditions: a local event has been logged, and the logical time on the calling host has been incremented.



       0 message := "Hello World!"
       1 connection.Write( instrumenter.Pack( message )


       0 connection.Read( buffer )
       1 message := instrumenter.Unpack ( buffer )

For more information on the runtime api, check out /instrumenter/api

Run the instrumenter (Step 3)

After source code has be annotated, and communication has been instrumented to produce logs your project will be ready for instrumentation. Instrumentation runs at the directory level. Running dinv -i foo produces:

  • foo_orig a copy of the original directory foo, prior to instrumentation
  • foo directory with instrumented source code

Run system and analyze its logs ( Part 2 )

DInv mines invariants by analyzing the logs generated by instrumented code. Instrumented code retains external dependences and can be run like the original code. The product of running instrumented code is a set of log files for each host in the system. The logs contain vector clocks maintained over the course of the execution, along with variables, and their values at the //@dump annotations. The vector clocks are used to model the history of the execution. By examining the execution, total orderings between host communication can be determined. Program points logged in these total orderings are merged together. The merged points are grouped together by both host and line number the points were collected on. Variable values from these groups are transcribed into Daikon readable trace files. The last step of the execution is to run Daikon on the generated trace files to infer invariants on their values.

Run instrumented code ( Step 4 )

Instrumented code retains external dependences, and can be run the same as un-instrumented code. The difference is insturmented code generates logs. The logs are written to the directory of the instrumented source code. The instrumented code produces three kinds of logs:

  • GoVector Logs - Generated by Pack() & Unpack(). They contain a history of vector timestamps.
  • Encoded Program Point Logs - Generated by //@dump annotations. These contain encoded variables, and vector timestamps
  • Human-readable Program Point Logs - Readable version of the encoded program point logs.

####GoVector logs

GoVector logs are generated with the format packagename_timestampId_log.Log.txt and the logs contain a ShiViz log generated on the host with a corresponding timestamp. These entries in these logs are generated by calls to the Pack() and Unpack() methods. Log entries are of the form

SelfHostID { "hostID:time", ..., "hostID:time" }
Event Message - filename:lineOfCode SelfHostID

####Program point variable value Logs

Program point variable value logs are generated by //@dump annotations. They contain the variable names and their values, the location in the program they were extracted from, and the time the variables had those values.

Two logs are generated for each host of the form

  • PackageName-HostID-Encoded.txt
  • PackageName-HostID-Readable.txt

The readable log is a debugging tool and is not used again by DInv. The log entries have the format

{"hostid":clockvalue, ... }
{variablename : value , ...}

The encoded log used by the log merger in the next step. Conceptually the encoded logs are structured the same as the readable ones.

Merge logs ( Step 5 )

Post-execution independent logging files have been written by each instrumented host. In order to detect data invariants on the logged variables, all the logs must be analysed together. The log merging process tracks vector clocks logged along with variables. The vector clocks are used to build a unified history of the execution. The flow of variables between hosts is detected, and points of consistency are determined based on communication patterns. These constant distributed points have their variables aggregated together for invariant detection. The output of the logmerger is a set of trace files uniquely identified by the consistent distributed point they represent.

Merging logs is hands-off when compared with instrumenting. In order to merge the logs accurately, all of the encoded program point logs and GoVector logs generated during the execution of the instrumented code must be given to the logmerger.

The logmerger expects as a argument the list of all GoVec logs and encoded point logs written during execution. The order of the arguments does not matter; however, the inclusion of each file is necessary. In the case of a missing log an error will be thrown and the merging process terminated.

As an example consider the merging of logs collected from two host client and server

dinv -logmerger client-clientidEncoded.txt server-serveridEncoded.txt clientid.log-Log.txt serverid.log-Log.txt

This example is verbose, for the sake of explanation.

The simplest way to execute the logmerger is to move all generated logs to a single directory and run

dinv -l *Encoded.txt *Log.txt

Detect invariants ( Step 6 )

The output of the logmerger is a set of dtrace files. The dtrace files have names corresponding to the program points from where the values they track have been extracted. An individual point has a name of the form

point = _hostid_packageName_FileName_lineNumber

These points identify //@dump statements along with the host id. Trace files are named after sets of points across multiple hosts which data has flowed through. Trace files have the naming convention


daikon detects data invariants on the variables written into trace files. To detect and print out the invariants on a trace file points.dtrace run the following.

java daikon.Daikon points.dtrace

this produces a .inv.gz file which can be printed by running

java daikon.PrintInvariants points.inv.gz

The following bash script prints the invariant for all trace files in a directory.

    for file in ./*.dtrace; do
            java daikon.Daikon $file
    for trace in ./*.gz; do
        java daikon.PrintInvariants $trace >> output.txt


The examples directory contains a number of small distributed systems that have been instrumented with DInv's interface. Using DInv is a multi-step procedure. Each of the example programs is paired with a script The script oversees the execution of each stage, and pipes each steps output into its successor. The scripts have a standard interface

* `./` : Standard execution, results printed to standard out,
  all generated files removed after execution.

+ Options :
    * -d : dirty run, the generated files at each stage are
  not remove after execution
    * -c : clean up generated files

Hello DInv

Hello DInv is our introductory example program, in which a client sends "Hello" to a server, and the server responds with the time. The execution of each stage of DInv has been bash scripted in DInvDirectory/examples/helloDinv/ to run the example

  • `cd DinvDirectory/examples/helloDinv/1
  • ./ The inferred data invariant of this execution are the message strings passed between client and server.


Sum is located in the examples/sum directory. A script mannges every stage of execution. In order to run the script, use the following command.


Sum is a client server system. The client randomly generates values for two variables term1 and term2 over a constant range. The terms are sent to the server which adds them, and sends back the results as the variable sum. Inferred invariant for this example include

  • server-sum = client-term1 + client-term2
  • server-sum >= client-term2
  • server-sum >= client-term1


The linear example program is located in examples/linear. The execution of the program is scripted in In order to run the script, use the following command.


Linear is a three host-system. The hosts are client, coeff, and linn. The hosts only pass messages with their neighbours, i.e. client <--> coeff <--> linn.

Similar to the sum system, the client randomly generates two terms, packages them, and sends them to its neighbour coeff. coeff generates a coefficient for the first term, then packages it along with the first two terms and sends to linn. linn calculates the linear equation linn = coeff * term1 + term2. The variables sum is propagated back through coeff to the client host.

Detected invariants include

linn > coeff
linn > term1
linn > term2

#Command Line Usage

Dinv has a set of command line arguments that can be broken into 3 categories

  • instrumenter arguments
  • logmerger arguments
  • arguments for both

Instrumenter dinv - i

The -i argument specifies the instrumenter; valid proceding arguments are as follows

  • -file specifies a file for insturmentation dinv -i -file=example.go
  • -dir specifies a directory for instrumentation dinv -i -dir=exampleDir
  • -local causes dump annotations to be logged as local events at runtume
  • -df toggles dataflow analysis at dump statements

LogMerger dinv -l

The -l argument specifies the log merger; the following arguments should be followed with a complete list of shiviz, and encoded log files from an execution.

  • -plan speficies the plan to use while merging logs (default is totally ordered cuts) dinv -l -plan="TOLN" files
  • -sample the sample rate of consistat cuts to be analyzed (default 100%) dinv -l -sample=50 files
  • -toc only analyze cuts that can be totally ordered with one another (default off) dinv -l -toc files
  • -shiviz produce a shiviz log of the execution
  • -name renames 9 digit host identifier to more readable format fruits/colors/philosophers (default colors) -dinv -l -name=fruits files

General arguments

  • -verbose print output to console
  • -debug adds extensive and pedantic output


Distributed invariant mining tool






No releases published


No packages published