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The notion of soft state has been introduced in packet-switched networks to achieve particular services for end-to-end communications, such as quality-of-service provisioning and configuration of stateful packet filters. Protocols built upon soft state principles were believed to be simple, however in practice they are far more complex. An important issue with such protocols is to ensure their operations to be error-free and deadlock-free. In the paper the use of formal techniques is proposed, specifically, Specification and Description Language (SDL) and Message Sequence Charts (MSCs), for modelling, analysis and validation of soft-state protocols. Based on a general state management system that identifies their most representative behaviour, an extensive study on modelling and validating soft-state protocols with SDL/MSCs is presented, and it is shown that design flaws and ambiguity introduced in informally specified, textual protocols can be avoided if a protocol is formally modelled.
Date of Publication: 2 June 2006