Inter Process Communication - Overview


Inter Process Communication (IPC) is a mechanism that involves communication of one process with another process. This usually occurs only in one system.

Communication can be of two types −

  • Between related processes initiating from only one process, such as parent and child processes.

  • Between unrelated processes, or two or more different processes.

Following are some important terms that we need to know before proceeding further on this topic.

Pipes − Communication between two related processes. The mechanism is half duplex meaning the first process communicates with the second process. To achieve a full duplex i.e., for the second process to communicate with the first process another pipe is required.

FIFO − Communication between two unrelated processes. FIFO is a full duplex, meaning the first process can communicate with the second process and vice versa at the same time.

Message Queues − Communication between two or more processes with full duplex capacity. The processes will communicate with each other by posting a message and retrieving it out of the queue. Once retrieved, the message is no longer available in the queue.

Shared Memory − Communication between two or more processes is achieved through a shared piece of memory among all processes. The shared memory needs to be protected from each other by synchronizing access to all the processes.

Semaphores − Semaphores are meant for synchronizing access to multiple processes. When one process wants to access the memory (for reading or writing), it needs to be locked (or protected) and released when the access is removed. This needs to be repeated by all the processes to secure data.

Signals − Signal is a mechanism to communication between multiple processes by way of signaling. This means a source process will send a signal (recognized by number) and the destination process will handle it accordingly.

Note − Almost all the programs in this tutorial are based on system calls under Linux Operating System (executed in Ubuntu).