Developing distributed applications with distributed heterogenous databases

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Virginia Tech

This report identifies how Tuxedo fits into the scheme of distributed database processing. Tuxedo is an On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP) system. Tuxedo was studied because it is the oldest and most widely used transaction processing system on UNIX. That means that it is established, extensively tested, and has the most tools available to extend its capabilities. The disadvantage of Tuxedo is that newer UNIX OLTP systems are often based on more advanced technology. For this reason, other OLTPs were examined to compare their additional capabilities with those offered by Tuxedo.

As discussed in Sections I and II, Tuxedo is modeled according to the X/Open's Distributed Transaction Processing (DTP) model. The DTP model includes three pieces: Application Programs (APs), Transaction Monitors (TMs), and Resource Managers (RMs). Tuxedo provides a TM in the model and uses the XA specification to communicate with RMs (e.g. Informix). Tuxedo's TX specification, which defines communications between the APs and TMs is also being considered by X/Open as the standard interface between APs and TMs. There is currently no standard interface between those two pieces. Tuxedo conforms to all X/Open's current standards related to the model.

Like the other major OLTPs for UNIX, Tuxedo is based on the client/server model. Tuxedo expands that support to include both synchronous and asynchronous service calls. Tuxedo calls that extension the enhanced client/server model. Tuxedo also expands their OLTP support to allow distributed transactions to include databases on IBM compatible Personal Computers (PCs) and proprietary mainframe (Host) systems. Tuxedo calls this extension Enterprise Transaction Processing (ETP). The name enterprise comes from the fact that since Tuxedo supports database transactions supporting UNIX, PCs. and Host computers, transactions can span the computer systems of entire businesses, or enterprises.

Tuxedo is not as robust as the distributed database system model presented by Date. Tuxedo requires programmer participation in providing the capabilities that Date says the distributed database manager should provide. The coordinating process is the process which is coordinating a global transaction. According to Date's model, agents exist on remote sites participating in the transaction in order to handle the calls to the local resource manager. In Tuxedo, the programmer must provide that agent code in the form of services.

Tuxedo does provide location transparency, but not in the form Date describes. Date describes location transparency as controlled by a global catalog. In Tuxedo, location transparency is provided by the location of servers as specified in the Tuxedo configuration file. Tuxedo also does not provide replication transparency as specified by Date. In Tuxedo, the programmer must write services which maintain replicated records.

Date also describes five problems faced by distributed database managers. The first problem is query processing. Tuxedo provides capabilities to fetch records from databases, but does not provide the capabilities to do joins across distributed databases. The second problem is update propagation. Tuxedo does not provide for replication transparency. Tuxedo does provide enough capabilities for programmers to reliably maintain replicated records. The third problem is concurrency control, which is supported by Tuxedo. The fourth problem is the commit protocol. Tuxedo's commit protocol is the two-phase commit protocol. The fifth problem is the global catalog. Tuxedo does not have a global catalog.

The other comparison presented in the paper was between Tuxedo and the other major UNIX OL TPs: Transarc's Encina, Top End, and CICS. Tuxedo is the oldest and has the largest market share. This gives 38 Tuxedo the advantage of being the most thoroughly tested and the most stable. Tuxedo also has the most tools available to extend its capabilities. The disadvantage Tuxedo has is that since it is the oldest, it is based on the oldest technology.

Transarc's Encina is the most advanced UNIX OLTP. Encina is based on DCB and supports multithreading. However, Encina has been slow to market and has had stability problems because of its advanced features. Also, since Encina is based on DCB, its success is tied to the success of DCB. Top End is less advanced than Encina, but more advanced than Tuxedo. It is also much more stable than Encina. However. Top End is only now being ported from the NCR machines on which it was originally built. CICS is not yet commercially available. CICS is good for companies with CICS code to port to UNIX and CICS programmers who are already experts. The disadvantage to CICS is that companies which work with UNIX already and do not use CICS will find the interface less natural than Tuxedo, which originated under UNIX.