Assume I have a distributed system of entities, each with a replica of the same data object that can be modified by broadcasting the changes and I'm using vector clocks to know how to order changes.

In this scenario, Why would I need to increment my own clock if I receive an update? (I noticed in the original paper on vector clocks, they didn't mention this rule, yet followed it in the examples...) Would it be sufficient if I only incremented my clock when I change the data object?

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    $\begingroup$ Actually my question is about version vectors, which don't require incrementing your own clock upon applying an update. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


Look at the definition of $<_H$.

We say that $e_1<_H e_2$ (event 1 happened before event 2) if:

  1. $e_1,e_2$ took place in the same process, and $e_1$ happened first (events within the same process are ordered).

  2. $e_1,e_2$ are the sending and receiving of some message $m$, correspondingly.

Finally, we take the transitive closure of the above, and this yield Lamport's happened before relation.

Our objective is to assign time stamps to events, $T_{e_i}$ with a partial order $<_t$, such that $e_1<_H e_2 \iff T_{e_1}<_t T_{e_2}$.

The timestamps suggested here are vectors in $\mathbb{N}^n$, with the ordering $T_{e_p}<_t T_{e_q} \iff T_{e_p}[p]<T_{e_q}[p]$ where $e_p,e_q$ are events in processes $p,q$ correspondingly (assume each time stamp contains the process id).

Back to your question, not updating your clock upon receiving a message would cause your new relation $<_t$ to disagree with $<_H$ in events within the same process. For example, you would have $c\not\rightarrow d$ (figure 3). In addition, this is mentioned in the paper (rule 2, increase the local clock at each atomic event, which is either sending or receiving a message).

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    $\begingroup$ Mh, the paper's definition of the partial ordering is different from the one on wikipedia :/ It appears in the paper only the p component is compared and needs to be strictly less, while on Wikipedia all components must be less or equal and one must be strictly less. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ I think I found the answer to my problem. It seems my feeling was correct: Version vectors are updated upon local changes (by incrementing the local counter) and upon receiving remote changes by using max() for all values. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MarcelKlehr It seems like you're confusing Version Vectors with Vector Clocks. For more informatio, see haslab.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/…. $\endgroup$
    – nubbel
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 12:42

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