Directed explicit-state model checking in the validation of communication protocols

Stefan Edelkamp, Stefan Leue, Alberto Lluch Lafuente

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The success of model checking is largely based on its ability to efficiently locate errors in software designs. If an error is found, a model checker produces a trail that shows how the error state can be reached, which greatly facilitates debugging. However, while current model checkers find error states efficiently, the counterexamples are often unnecessarily lengthy, which hampers error explanation. This is due to the use of "naive" search algorithms in the state space exploration. In this paper we present approaches to the use of heuristic search algorithms in explicit-state model checking. We present the class of A* directed search algorithms and propose heuristics together with bitstate compression techniques for the search of safety property violations. We achieve great reductions in the length of the error trails, and in some instances render problems analyzable by exploring a much smaller number of states than standard depth-first search. We then suggest an improvement of the nested depth-first search algorithm and show how it can be used together with A* to improve the search for liveness property violations. Our approach to directed explicit-state model checking has been implemented in a tool set called HSF-SPIN. We provide experimental results from the protocol validation domain using HSF-SPIN.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal on Software Tools for Technology Transfer
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)247-267
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Model checking
  • Directed search
  • Protocol validation


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