Event structures were introduced in order to abstract away from the precise ‘places’ and times at which events occur in distributed systems. The structure focuses on the events and the causal ordering between them.
Event structures in the sense of this article are sometimes also called prime event structures. There are other variants, for example where the partial order $\leq$ is replaced by an enabling relation $\vdash$. This is usually more expressive, because an event can have disjunctive causes: if $a \vdash e$ and $b \vdash e$, then either of $a$ or $b$ suffices for $e$ to occur. In a prime event structure, if $a \leq e$ and $b \leq e$ then both $a$ and $b$ must occur before $e$; these are conjunctive causes.
An event structure is a tuple $(E,\leq, \mathrm{Con})$ consisting of a poset $(E,{\le})$ of events, and a nonempty set $\mathrm{Con} \subseteq \mathcal{P}(E)$ of consistent subsets, satisfying the following axioms:
finite causes: for every event $e$ the set $\{e'\mid e'\le e\}$ is finite;
if $e \in E$ then $\{ e \} \in \mathrm{Con}$;
if $X \in \mathrm{Con}$ and $Y \subseteq X$ then $Y \in \mathrm{Con}$;
if $X \in \mathrm{Con}$, $e \in X$, and $e' \leq e$, then $X \cup \{ e\} \in \mathrm{Con}$.
A restricted but simpler definition is as follows:
An event structure with binary conflict is a tuple $(E, \leq, \#)$, where $(E, {\leq})$ is a poset and $\#$ is an irreflexive binary relation on $E$, the conflict relation, satisfying:
finite causes: for every event $e$ the set $\{e'\mid e'\le e\}$ is finite;
hereditary conflict: if $e \# e'$ and $e' \leq e''$ then $e \# e''$.
Event structures with binary conflict can be characterised as follows:
If $(E, \leq, \#)$ is an event structure with binary conflict, then defining $\mathrm{Con} = \{ X \subseteq E \mid \forall e, e' \in X. \neg (e \# e') \}$ makes $(E, \leq, \Con)$ an event structure.
Conversely, if an event structure $(E, \leq, \mathrm{Con})$ satisfies
then defining $\# = \{ (e, e') \mid \{ e, e'\} \in \mathrm{Con} \}$ makes $(E, \leq, \#)$ an event structure with binary conflict.
That is, event structures with binary conflict correspond to event structures in which pairwise consistency implies mutual consistency.
We write $E$ for $(E, \leq, \Con)$ whenever possible. The possible states of an event structures are called configurations.
Let $E$ be an event structure. A configuration of $E$ is a subset $x \subseteq E$ which is consistent ($x \in \Con$) and down-closed (if $e\in x$ and $e' \leq e$ then $e' \in x$). The set of finite configurations of $E$ is denoted $\mathscr{C}(E)$.
A (total) map of event structures from $(E, \leq, \Con)$ to $(E', \leq', \Con')$ is a function $f : E \to E'$ such that:
$f$ preserves configurations: if $x\in \mathscr{C}(E)$, then $f(x) \in \mathscr{C}(E')$.
$f$ is locally injective: if $e, e' \in x \in \mathscr{C}(E)$ and $f(e) = f(e')$, then $e = e'$.
Intuitively, a map $E \to E'$ expresses that all executions of $E$ can be faithfully simulated within $E'$.
Partial maps of event structures are also important in the literature, for example in the event structure model of CCS. The definition is the same when $f$ is a partial function, and the condition $f(e) = f(e')$ means in particular that they are both defined. Winskel and Nielsen explain this definition as follows:
A morphism $f : E\to E'$ between event structures expresses how behaviour in $E$ determines behaviour in $E'$. The partial function, $f$, expresses how the occurrence of an event in $E$ implies the simultaneous occurrence of an event in $E'$; the fact that $f(e) = e'$ can be understood as expressing that the event $e$ is a ‘’component’‘ of the event $e'$ and, in this sense, that the occurrence of $e$ implies the simultaneous occurrence of $e'$. If two distinct events in $E$ have the same image in $E'$ under $f$ then they cannot belong to the same configuration.
With this definition of morphism, and the obvious notions of identity and composition, we get the category $\mathbf{ES}$ of event structures (and total maps).
G. Winskel and M. Nielsen, Models for concurrency. vol. 3, Handbook of Logic in Computer Science, pages 100 - 200, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994. (see also online technical report).
G. Winskel, Events, causality, and symmetry, (an earlier version appeared in the BCS conference ‘Visions in Computer Science.’ September 2008. The final version appears in a special issue of The Computer Journal 2009; doi: 10.1093/comjnl/bxp052; see also an online version).
Sam Staton and G. Winskel, On the expressivity of symmetry in event structures,
Last revised on May 17, 2022 at 08:37:57. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.