The Policy Obstacle Course: A Framework for Policies Embedded within Distributed Computer Systems

D. Jonscher, J.D. Moffett, J.A. McDermid

Research output: Working paper


The paper proposes a framework for the discussion of policies which are embedded within distributed computer systems, i.e. those which are intended to influence system actions. In a distributed system both the policies and the managers who interpret them may be fragmented, and a framework is necessary on order to provide a means of describing and controlling them. The paper proposes a framework in which the functions of initiating or inhibiting actions – "imperatival" policies, and of permitting or prohibiting them – "authority" policies, are separated, into Situation Monitor and Reference Monitor respectively. It emerges that all policies, except those whose function is to propose an action to be initiated, are negative in character, and the process that an action goes through before reaching its target object may be described as an obstacle course, with negative policies being the obstacles which must be hurdled. Positive and negative policies differ from each other in both function and form. A model is proposed which throws light on scalability, conflict resolution, and distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1993

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