Achieving determinism on real software systems remains difficult. Even a batch-processing job, whose task is to map input bits to output bits, risks nondeterminism from thread scheduling, system calls, CPU instructions, and leakage of environmental information such as date or CPU model. In this work, we present DetFlow, a system for achieving low-overhead deterministic execution of batch-processing programs that read and write the file system—turning them into pure functions on files.
DetFlow allows a statically-typed coordinator process to use shared-memory parallelism, as well as invoking process-trees of sandboxed legacy binaries. DetFlow currently implements the coordinator as a Haskell program with a restricted I/O type for its main function: a new monad we call DetIO. Legacy binaries launched by the coordinator run concurrently, but internally each process schedules threads sequentially, allowing dynamic determinism-enforcement with predictably low overhead.
We evaluate DetFlow by applying it to bioinformatics data pipelines and software build systems. DetFlow enables determinizing these data-processing workflows by porting a small amount of code to become a statically-typed coordinator. This hybrid approach of static and dynamic determinism enforcement permits freedom where possible but restrictions where necessary.