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Overall Objectives
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Section: Overall Objectives

Goal and Context

General Context

The recent evolutions in computer networks technology, as well as their diversification, yield a tremendous change in the use of these networks: applications and systems can now be designed at a much larger scale than before. This scaling evolution is dealing with the amount of data, the number of computers, the number of users, and the geographical diversity of these users. This race towards large scale computing has two major implications. First, new opportunities are offered to the applications, in particular as far as scientific computing, data bases, and file sharing are concerned. Second, a large number of parallel or distributed algorithms developed for average size systems cannot be run on large scale systems without a significant degradation of their performances. In fact, one must probably relax the constraints that the system should satisfy in order to run at a larger scale. In particular the coherence protocols designed for the distributed applications are too demanding in terms of both message and time complexity, and must therefore be adapted for running at a larger scale. Moreover, most distributed systems deployed nowadays are characterized by a high dynamism of their entities (participants can join and leave at will), a potential instability of the large scale networks (on which concurrent applications are running), and an increasing individual probability of failure. Therefore, as the size of the system increases, it becomes necessary that it adapts automatically to the changes of its components, requiring self-organization of the system to deal with the arrival and departure of participants, data, or resources.

As a consequence, it becomes crucial to be able to understand and model the behavior of large scale systems, to efficiently exploit these infrastructures, in particular w.r.t. designing dedicated algorithms handling a large amount of users and/or data.

Limitations of Parallel Processing Solutions

In the case of parallel computation solutions, some strategies have been developed in order to cope with the intrinsic difficulty induced by resource heterogeneity. It has been proved that changing the metric (from makespan minimization to throughput maximization) simplifies most scheduling problems, both for collective communications and parallel processing. This restricts the use of target platforms to simple and regular applications, but due to the time needed to develop and deploy applications on large scale distributed platforms, the risk of failures, the intrinsic dynamism of resources, it is unrealistic to consider tightly coupled applications involving many tight synchronizations. Nevertheless, (1) it is unclear how the current models can be adapted to large scale systems, and (2) the current methodology requires the use of (at least partially) centralized subroutines that cannot be run on large scale systems. In particular, these subroutines assume the ability to gather all the information regarding the network at a single node (topology, resource performance, etc.). This assumption is unrealistic in a general purpose large size platform, in which the nodes are unstable, and whose resource characteristics can vary abruptly over time. Moreover, the proposed solutions for small to average size, stable, and dedicated environments do not satisfy the minimal requirements for self-organization and fault-tolerance, two properties that are unavoidable in a large scale context. Therefore, there is a strong need to design efficient and decentralized algorithms. This requires in particular to define new metrics adapted to large scale dynamic platforms in order to analyze the performance of the proposed algorithms.

Limitations of P2P Strategies

As already noted, P2P file sharing applications have been successfully deployed on large scale dynamic platforms. Nevertheless, since our goal is the design of efficient algorithms in terms of actual performance and resource consumption, we need to concentrate on specific P2P environments. Indeed, P2P protocols are mostly designed for file sharing applications, and are not optimized for scientific applications, nor are they adapted to sophisticated database applications. This is mainly due to the primitive goal of designing file sharing applications, where anonymity is crucial, exact queries only are used, and all large file communications are made at the IP level.

Unfortunately, the context strongly differs for the applications we consider in our project, and some of the constraints appear to be in contradiction with performance and resource consumption optimization. For instance, in these systems, due to anonymity, the number of neighboring nodes in the overlay network (i.e. the number of IP addresses known to each peer) is kept relatively low, much lower than what the memory constraints on the nodes actually impose. Such a constraint induces longer routes between peers, and is therefore in contradiction with performance. In those systems, with the main exception of the LAND overlay, the overlay network (induced by the connections of each peer) is kept as far as possible separate from the underlying physical network. This property is essential in order to cope with malicious attacks, i.e. to ensure that even if a geographic site is attacked and disconnected from the rest of the network, the overall network will remain connected. Again, since actual communications occur between peers connected in the overlay network, communications between two close nodes (in the physical network) may well involve many wide area messages, and therefore such a constraint is in contradiction with performance optimization. Fortunately, in the case of file sharing applications, only queries are transmitted using the overlay network, and the communication of large files is made at IP level. On the other hand, in the case of more complex communication schemes, such as broadcast or multicast, the communication of large files is done using the overlay network, due to the lack of support, at IP level, for those complex operations. In this case, in order to achieve good results, it is crucial that virtual and physical topologies be as close as possible.

Targeted Platforms

Our aim is to target large scale platforms. From parallel processing, we keep the idea that resource heterogeneity dramatically complicates scheduling problems, what imposes to restrict ourselves to simple applications. The dynamism of both the topology and the performance reinforces this constraint. We will also adopt the throughput maximization objective, though it needs to be adapted to more dynamic platforms and resources.

From previous work on P2P systems, we keep the idea that there is no centralized large server and that all participating nodes play a symmetric role (according to their performance in terms of memory, processing power, incoming and outgoing bandwidths, etc.), which imposes the design of self-adapting protocols, where any kind of central control should be avoided as much as possible.

Since dynamism constitutes the main difficulty in the design of algorithms on large scale dynamic platforms, we will consider several layers in dynamism:


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