DiSh: Dynamic Shell-Script Distribution


Tammam Mustafa, MIT; Konstantinos Kallas, University of Pennsylvania; Pratyush Das, Purdue University; Nikos Vasilakis, Brown University


Shell scripting remains prevalent for automation and data-processing tasks, partly due to its dynamic features—e.g., expansion, substitution—and language agnosticism—i.e., the ability to combine third-party commands implemented in any programming language. Unfortunately, these characteristics hinder automated shell-script distribution, often necessary for dealing with large datasets that do not fit on a single computer. This paper introduces DiSh, a system that distributes the execution of dynamic shell scripts operating on distributed filesystems. DiSh is designed as a shim that applies program analyses and transformations to leverage distributed computing, while delegating all execution to the underlying shell available on each computing node. As a result, DiSh does not require modifications to shell scripts and maintains compatibility with existing shells and legacy functionality. We evaluate DiSh against several options available to users today: (i) Bash, a single-node shell-interpreter baseline, (ii) PaSh, a state-of-the-art automated-parallelization system, and (iii) Hadoop Streaming, a MapReduce system that supports language-agnostic third-party components. Combined, our results demonstrate that DiSh offers significant performance gains, requires no developer effort, and handles arbitrary dynamic behaviors pervasive in real-world shell scripts.

NSDI '23 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

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This content is available to:

@inproceedings {286492,
author = {Tammam Mustafa and Konstantinos Kallas and Pratyush Das and Nikos Vasilakis},
title = {{DiSh}: Dynamic {Shell-Script} Distribution},
booktitle = {20th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-33-5},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {341--356},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr,

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