IPC Problems Caused by Message Passing in a Distributed System


In today's digital world, distributed systems play an essential role in facilitating efficient communication between various processes. One crucial component that lies at the heart of these systems is Interprocess Communication (IPC) by message passing.

This article will provide you with valuable insights into common issues associated with IPC by message passing in distributed systems and offer strategies to address these challenges effectively. So, whether you are a novice or simply curious about this fascinating aspect of computing, we invite you to join us as we delve deeper into the intricacies of IPC and its implications on modern technology.

Understanding IPC in Distributed Systems

IPC, or Interprocess Communication, is a critical component of distributed systems that involves the exchange of information between different processes or subsystems in an operating system using message passing.

Definition and Basics of IPC

Interprocess Communication, commonly referred to as IPC, is a fundamental concept in distributed computing systems. In simple terms, IPC refers to the exchange of data or messages between multiple processes running concurrently within a system. These processes might be running on different devices, but they need to communicate and coordinate with one another for the entire system to function effectively.

In distributed systems, message passing plays a crucial role in facilitating this communication among various processes. Message passing is an approach where information is transmitted from one process to another using structures known as messages. The sending process formulates these messages and then forwards them through an underlying communication subsystem such as a network layer or inter-process channels. This helps maintain seamless interaction amid numerous components that make up the entire distributed infrastructure even if they are spread across geographically diverse locations. For instance, consider online shopping sites - each component involved (user interface, product database server, payment gateway) needs to interact efficiently with others in real-time; hence efficient IPC via message passing becomes critical for smooth functioning and user experience.

Message Passing in Distributed Systems

In a distributed system, message passing is a commonly used subsystem for communication between processes. It involves the sending process creating and enqueuing a message to be delivered to the receiving process. The receiving process then dequeues and handles the message accordingly. This method provides an asynchronous way of communicating between different components of a distributed operating system.

However, there are various issues that can arise with IPC by message passing in distributed systems. One such issue is synchronization, which refers to how multiple processes ensure they are working together towards a common goal. In blocking primitive methods, synchronous communication is used to achieve this synchronization where each party waits for feedback before proceeding with an action.

Another important aspect of IPC by message passing in distributed systems is failure handling. Since these systems involve multiple interconnected components, it becomes crucial that failures in one component do not affect others negatively or cause cascading failures throughout the entire system.

In conclusion, implementing IPC by message passing in distributed computing architectures requires consideration of several factors including synchronization and failure handling mechanisms. A thorough understanding of these issues will lead to better performance and reliability within such systems as they continue to evolve over time with new technological advancements being made available regularly through research efforts worldwide!

Types of Message Passing

There are two main types of message passing in distributed systems, namely synchronous and asynchronous −

  • Synchronous Message Passing: This type of message passing ensures that the sending process blocks until the receiver receives the message. It is suitable for situations where synchronization is important and requires an immediate response.

  • Asynchronous Message Passing: In this type of message passing, the sending process does not wait for the receiver to receive the message or respond to it immediately. Instead, it continues with its work, assuming that the message will be delivered correctly. Asynchronous messaging is useful in situations where a delay in receiving a response from the receiver is acceptable or when dealing with large volumes of data.

By understanding these different types of message passing, developers can make informed decisions on which approach to use based on their specific needs and requirements.

Common issues with IPC by Message Passing

Issues with IPC by message passing in distributed systems include synchronization issues in blocking send, failure handling challenges, buffering problems, network latency, delays and dropped messages, deadlocks, race conditions and security concerns.




Synchronization in Blocking Send

Deadlocks and race conditions due to waiting processes

Implement synchronization mechanisms like semaphores, mutexes, asynchronous messaging, or buffering; ensure proper functioning in multi-process scenarios

Failure Handling

Network latency, message delays and drops, system failures affect message passing reliability

Adopt error detection, reliable messaging protocols, and recovery mechanisms; develop a robust incident response plan to handle system failures


Prevent message loss, delay, or drops due to network latency and process overload

Optimize buffer sizes and placement, considering trade-offs between performance and reliability; design strategies to manage network congestion effectively

Network Latency

Delays in message transmission affect system functioning

Use protocols designed for reliable messaging and techniques like buffering; optimize network infrastructure to minimize latency and prioritize critical messages

Message Delays and Drops

Delays lead to synchronization issues; dropped messages result in deadlocks and race conditions

Implement timeouts, buffering mechanisms, and strategies to release resources held by waiting processes; continuously monitor system performance for potential issues

Deadlocks and Race Conditions

Circular dependencies and shared resource access cause inconsistencies and potential system failures

Use synchronization techniques like mutexes, semaphores, timeouts, and failure detection; establish clear guidelines for resource sharing and access management

Security Concerns

Risk of data interception, tampering, and unauthorized access in network communication

Implement encryption techniques, authentication mechanisms, and access control measures; regularly audit security policies and practices to ensure system integrity

In distributed systems, IPC by message passing can face various challenges, including synchronization issues, failure handling, network latency, message delays and drops, deadlocks, race conditions, and security concerns. To ensure seamless communication and reliable performance, it is essential to adopt appropriate synchronization mechanisms, such as semaphores or mutexes, and implement strategies for handling failures, such as error detection and recovery mechanisms.

Buffering can help manage network latency and congestion, while protocols designed for reliable messaging and techniques like timeouts can address message delays and drops. Deadlocks and race conditions can be mitigated through synchronization techniques, timeouts, and resource management guidelines. Lastly, addressing security concerns is vital; this can be achieved through encryption, authentication mechanisms, and access control measures. By understanding and addressing these issues, developers can build robust, efficient, and secure distributed systems that offer consistent user experiences and maintain data integrity across network nodes.


In conclusion, IPC by message passing is an essential component of distributed systems that enables efficient communication between subsystems. However, it also presents various challenges such as synchronization issues, failure handling, and security concerns.

To address these issues, proper protocol design for reliable messaging and implementation of synchronization techniques are necessary. Additionally, ensuring secure message passing is crucial to prevent any unauthorized access to the system. As technology advances in the future, addressing these correctness issues will be even more important in building robust and scalable distributed systems that can effectively handle increasing network loads and data processing requirements.

Updated on: 17-Apr-2023

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