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Specifying Systems: The TLA+ Language and Tools for Hardware and Software Engineers Paperback – 19 Jul 2002

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From the Back Cover

"TLA+ represents the only effective methodology I've seen for visualizing and quantifying algorithmic complexity in a way that is meaningful to engineers."
--Brannon Batson, Processor Architect, Intel Corporation

This long-awaited book shows how to write unambiguous specifications of complex computer systems.

The first part provides a concise and lucid introduction to specification, explaining how to describe, with mathematical precision, the behavioral properties of a system--what that system is allowed to do. The emphasis here is on safety properties.

The second part of the book covers more advanced topics, including liveness and fairness, real-time properties, and composition.

The book's final two parts provide a complete reference manual for the TLA+ language and tools, as well as a handy mini-manual. TLA+ is the language developed by the author for writing simple and elegant specifications of algorithms and protocols and for verifying the correctness of a design. The language already has proved to be a valuable aid in understanding and building concurrent and distributed systems. Tools for TLA+ syntax analysis and model checking are freely available from the Web, where you can also find supplemental materials for this book, including exercises.


About the Author

Leslie Lamport, a computer scientist, is well known for his contributions to concurrent computing and distributed systems. His "Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System" paper has been honored for its enduring influence on the field. Lamport is also known for creating the LaTeX typesetting system and the best-selling book, LaTeX, Second Edition, which documents it (Addison-Wesley, 1994). Now at Microsoft Research in Mountain View, California, he began his work on TLA+ at the Digital (later Compaq) Systems Research Center in Palo Alto. Lamport, who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Brandeis University, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.


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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on concurrency and computer systems design 13 April 2014
By Marc Magrans De Abril - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How is it possible that nobody has reviewed this book yet?

This has been an eye opener book for concurrency and distributed software design. I learned more with this book (and the TLA+ toolbox) than with the "classic" from Lynch on distributed algorithms. I do not know if Lynch book also improves qualitatively when used with the Tempo toolbox. I guess it is worth trying.

The book is challenging but it is really well-written. I'll recommend the book to anyone that wants to challenge his understanding of computer systems (hardware, software, concurrency, etc). You will never evaluate your designs so naively.

I would like to have a new edition of this book that covers TLA+2.

BTW, You can get the pdf from Lamport web page.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes the mystery out of concurrency and distributed computing 19 Dec. 2015
By Brian Beckman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the best books I have ever read on any topic. Even if you don't care about the subject matter (modeling and model-checking), the blazing clarity and simplicity will delight you. Classically reductionist, it boils all the complexity of systems (including distributed, concurrent, parallel, Byzantine systems, the kinds of things that send most practitioners running away in horror) down to a handful of primitives in ordinary Boolean logic. Another one of those books (like SICP and VCLADF and the Feynman lectures) that a high-schooler can understand but the average PhD would benefit from.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended if you're interested in rigorous system specification approaches 27 Jan. 2015
By K. D. Wampler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a long time, I've been thinking about ways to improve the reliability of the software we write. We use many techniques to strive for this goal, sometimes in a roundabout way, but the ultimate approach would be mathematical proofs of correctness.

Of the approaches I've read over the years, Lamport's TLA+ comes the closest to this promise a system specification that's workable. This book provides a great introduction with practical, real-world examples.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, both in writing and in content 9 Dec. 2015
By Ioannis Filippidis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very good introduction to temporal reasoning, with a language designed to encourage habits essential for describing large systems readably. The book will benefit both novice and expert readers, and also people that do not plan to specify systems themselves, but need to understand the process, so that they can communicate with those that will. The material is presented precisely in simple mathematics, introduced as needed. The writing is engaging, not at all boring nor boilerplate, which has been a challenge for many other authors.

To convince yourself, you can start by reading the PDF version online, available by the author here: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/lamport/tla/book.html

Compared to the relevant papers by Lamport and coauthors, the book is geared more towards beginners and users. It is not a collection of all the results, but has a complementary purpose. In particular, composition of open systems and timing constraints are developed in more detail outside this book.
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