Donaldson, Alastair F.
Automatic techniques for detecting and exploiting symmetry in model checking.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The application of model checking is limited due to the state-space explosion problem – as the number of components represented by a model increase, the worst case size of the associated state-space grows exponentially. Current techniques can handle limited kinds of symmetry, e.g. full symmetry between identical components in a concurrent system. They avoid the problem of automatic symmetry detection by requiring the user to specify the presence of symmetry in a model (explicitly, or by annotating the associated specification using additional language keywords), or by restricting the input language of a model checker so that only symmetric systems can be specified. Additionally, computing unique representatives for each symmetric equivalence class is easy for these limited kinds of symmetry.
We present a theoretical framework for symmetry reduction which can be applied to explicit state model checking. The framework includes techniques for automatic symmetry detection using computational group theory, which can be applied with no additional user input. These techniques detect structural symmetries induced by the topology of a concurrent system, so our framework includes exact and approximate techniques to efficiently exploit arbitrary symmetry groups which may arise in this way. These techniques are also based on computational group theoretic methods.
We prove that our framework is logically sound, and demonstrate its general applicability to explicit state model checking. By providing a new symmetry reduction package for the SPIN model checker, we show that our framework can be feasibly implemented as part of a system which is widely used in both industry and academia. Through a study of SPIN users, we assess the usability of our automatic symmetry detection techniques in practice.
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