Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
XML PDF e-pub
PDF e-Pub

Section: New Results

Real-Life Applications and Case Studies

ACE Cache Coherency Protocol

Participants : Abderahman Kriouile, Radu Mateescu, Wendelin Serwe.

In the context of a CIFRE convention with STMicroelectronics, we study system-level cache coherency, a major challenge faced in the current System-on-Chip architectures. Because of their increasing complexity (mainly due to the significant number of computing units), the validation effort using current simulation-based techniques grows exponentially. As an alternative, we study formal verification.

We focused on the ACE (AXI Coherency Extensions) cache coherency protocol, a system-level coherency protocol proposed by ARM  [29] . In previous years, we developed a formal LNT model (about 3,400 lines of LNT) of a system consisting of an ACE-based cache coherent interconnect, processors, and a main memory. The model is parametric and can be instantiated with different configurations (number of processors, number of cache lines, number of memory lines) and different sets of supported elementary ACE operations (currently, a representative subset of 15 operations), including an abstract operation that represents any other ACE operation. We handled the global requirements of the ACE specification using a constraint oriented programming style, i.e., by representing each global requirement as a dedicated process observing the global behavior and inhibiting incorrect executions. We also specified temporal properties expressing cache coherence, data integrity, and successful completion of each transaction. Note that the former property required to transform state-based properties into action-based ones, by adding information about the cache state to the actions executed by the cache.

In 2014, we exploited the formal model to improve the validation of the architecture under design at STMicroelectronics. In a first step, we studied the sanity (soundness and completeness) of an industrial interface verification unit, consisting of a list of so-called formal checks. After modeling each check in LNT, we used the BISIMULATOR tool to verify that each check is an overapproximation of the corresponding projection of the formal model. When we tried to establish that the parallel composition of all checks is an overapproximation of the projection of the formal model, we discovered a missing check (a particular channel did not occur in any of the checks).

In a second step, we studied the derivation of system level test cases, using a two-phase approach:

The tests derived from the formal model increased the coverage of problematic features of some blocks used in the architecture. In particular, our approach was able to detect a limitation concerning data integrity 20 months before it was confirmed by classical methods, and our methodology provides all the scenarios triggering the limitation.

This work led to a publication accepted in an international conference [15] . Also, a large Petri net derived from our LNT model was provided as benchmark example for the Model Checking Contest.

Formal Verification of BPMN Processes

Participants : Radu Mateescu, Gwen Salaün, Lina Ye.

A business process is a set of structured, related activities that aims at fulfilling a specific organizational goal for a customer or market. An important metric when developing a business process is its degree of parallelism, i.e., the maximum number of tasks that are executable in parallel in that process. The degree of parallelism determines the peak demand on tasks, providing a valuable guide for the problem of resource allocation in business processes.

In 2014, we investigated how to automatically measure the degree of parallelism for business processes, described using the BPMN standard notation. To this aim, we defined a formal model for BPMN processes in terms of LTSs, which are obtained through an encoding in LNT. We then proposed an approach for automatically computing the degree of parallelism by using model checking of parameterized MCL formulas and dichotomic search. We developed a prototype tool for automating this check and we applied it successfully to more than one hundred BPMN processes.

This work led to a publication in an international conference [16] .

Stability of Asynchronously Communicating Systems

Participants : Gwen Salaün, Lina Ye.

Analyzing communicating systems that interact asynchronously via reliable FIFO buffers is an undecidable problem. A typical approach is to check whether the system is bounded, and if not, the corresponding state space can be made finite by limiting the presence of communication cycles in behavioral models or by fixing buffer sizes.

We followed a different approach, which aims at analyzing communicating systems without restricting them by imposing any arbitrary bounds. These systems are likely to be unbounded and therefore result in infinite state spaces. We introduce a notion of stability and prove that once the system is stable for a specific buffer bound (called stability bound), it remains stable whatever larger bounds are chosen for the buffers. This enables us to check certain properties on the (finite-state) system obtained for the stability bound and to ensure that the system will preserve them whatever larger bounds are used for buffers.

We have also proven that computing the stability bound is in general undecidable, and we proposed a semi-algorithm that successfully computes the stability bounds for many typical examples of communicating systems using heuristics and equivalence checking. This work is described in a research report [27] .

Deployment and Reconfiguration Protocols for Cloud Applications

Participants : Rim Abid, Gwen Salaün.

In the context of the OpenCloudware project (see § ), we collaborate with Noël de Palma and Fabienne Boyer (University Joseph Fourier), Xavier Etchevers and Thierry Coupaye (Orange Labs) in the field of cloud computing applications, which are complex distributed applications composed of interconnected software components running on distinct virtual machines (VMs). Setting up, (re)configuring, and monitoring these applications involve intricate management protocols, which fully automate these tasks while preserving application consistency as well as some key architectural invariants.

In 2014, we extended the specification of the self-deployment protocol to support VM failures. This led to a publication in an international conference [11] , of which an extended version is under preparation for submission to an international journal.

We also worked on the dynamic reconfiguration of cloud applications. As a first attempt, we proposed to design this protocol using a publish-subscribe communication model  [32] . In 2014, we improved the protocol to also support VM failures, and drastically validated the corresponding LNT specification using model checking. A paper presenting these results was submitted to an international journal. In parallel, we studied a version of this protocol where the different participants interact asynchronously via FIFO buffers. This led to a publication in an international conference [10] .

As a new line of work, we undertook the study of controller synthesis techniques for the coordination of autonomic managers in asynchronous environments. Our approach relies on an encoding into LNT and on the application of several operations on automata (synchronous products, hiding, reduction) for synthesizing the corresponding controller using CADP tools. We also proposed automated techniques for generating Java code from an abstract model of the controller. For validation purposes, we applied our approach to real-world three-tier Web applications and showed that the introduction of a controller allows one to avoid erroneous situations due to the absence of coordination between autonomic managers.

Networks of Programmable Logic Controllers

Participants : Hubert Garavel, Fatma Jebali, Jingyan Jourdan-Lu, Frédéric Lang, Eric Léo, Radu Mateescu.

In the context of the Bluesky project (see § ), we study the software applications embedded on the PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) manufactured by Crouzet Automatismes. One of the objectives of Bluesky is to enable the rigorous design of complex control applications running on several PLCs connected by a network. Such applications are instances of GALS (Globally Asynchronous, Locally Synchronous) systems composed of several synchronous automata embedded on individual PLCs, which interact asynchronously by exchanging messages. A formal analysis of these systems can be naturally achieved by using the formal languages and verification techniques developed in the field of asynchronous concurrency.

For describing the applications embedded on individual PLCs, Crouzet provides a dataflow language with graphical syntax and synchronous semantics, equipped with an ergonomic user-interface that facilitates the learning and use of the language by non-experts. To equip the PLC language of Crouzet with functionalities for automated verification, the solution adopted in Bluesky was to translate it into GRL (see §  6.1.3 ), which enables the connection to testing and verification tools covering the synchronous and asynchronous aspects.

In 2014, we have developed a set of GRL libraries implementing about 40 of the function blocks present in the PLC programming tool of Crouzet, to facilitate the integration of GRL in the PLC software design process. These function blocks include (among others) logic and comparison functions, timers, triggers, and counters. These GRL libraries have been used to model large applications provided by Crouzet. The GRL2LNT and GRL.OPEN tools (see §  6.1.3 ) provide a direct connection to all verification functionalities of CADP, in particular model checking and equivalence checking.

Regarding model checking, we have studied existing work in the verification of synchronous systems and GALS systems. We have identified a set of typical patterns of temporal properties (e.g., deadlocks, safety, liveness) relevant for GALS systems. These property patterns have been specified using MCL and checked on a set of feature-rich GRL examples using GRL.OPEN and EVALUATOR.

Regarding equivalence checking, the purpose is to compare the behavior of a GALS system with its service, which represents its desired observable behavior, modulo a suitable equivalence relation. We have studied existing work in equivalence checking for GALS systems and we have investigated how to formally define the expected service of a GALS system at the appropriate level of expressiveness and abstraction, which requires a careful identification of the observable actions corresponding to the interactions between the GALS system and its physical environment. We have modeled several examples of GALS systems in GRL, and experimented the definition of appropriate services and their usage for equivalence checking by means of GRL.OPEN and BISIMULATOR.

The validation approach we promote, together with our colleagues from the LCIS laboratory (Valence) in the Bluesky project, led to a common publication in a national conference [21] .

EnergyBus Standard for Connecting Electric Components

Participants : Hubert Garavel, Wendelin Serwe.

The EnergyBus  ( ) is an upcoming industrial standard for electric power transmission and management, based on the CANopen field bus. It is developed by a consortium assembling all major industrial players (such as Bosch, Panasonic, and Emtas) in the area of light electric vehicles (LEV); their intention is to ensure interoperability between all electric LEV components. At the core of this initiative is a universal plug integrating a CAN-Bus  ( ) with switchable power lines. The central and innovative role of the EnergyBus is to manage the safe electricity access and distribution inside an EnergyBus network.

In the framework of the European FP7 project SENSATION (see § ) a formal specification in LNT of the main EnergyBus protocols is being developed by Alexander Graf-Brill and Holger Hermanns at Saarland University  [48] , with the active collaboration of CONVECS.

In 2014, our joint work with Saarland University on the modeling, verification, and test case generation for the EnergyBus standard led to a common publication [13] .

Graphical User-Interfaces and Plasticity

Participants : Hubert Garavel, Frédéric Lang, Raquel Oliveira.

In the context of the Connexion project (see § ) and in close collaboration with Gaëlle Calvary, Eric Ceret, and Sophie Dupuy-Chessa (IIHM team of the LIG laboratory), we study the formal description and validation of graphical user-interfaces using the most recent features of the CADP toolbox. The case study assigned to LIG in this project is a prototype graphical user-interface  [36] designed to provide human operators with an overview of a running nuclear plant. The main goal of the system is to inform the operators about alarms resulting from faults, disturbances, or unexpected events in the plant. Contrary to conventional control rooms, which employ large desks and dedicated hardware panels for supervision, this new-generation interface uses standard computer hardware (i.e., smaller screen(s), keyboard, and mouse), thus raising challenging questions on how to best provide synthetic views of the plant status. Another challenge is to introduce plasticity in such interface, so as to enable several supervision operators, including mobile ones outside of the control room, to get accurate information in real time.

We formally specified this new-generation interface in LNT, encompassing not only the usual components traditionally found in graphical user-interfaces, but also a model of the physical world (namely, a nuclear reactor with various fault scenarios) and a cognitive model of a human operator in charge of supervising the plant. Also, several desirable properties of the interface have been expressed in MCL and verified on the LNT model using CADP. This led to a publication in an international conference [17] .

In 2014, we continued our activity along several directions. The LNT specification was matured in various respects. As a result of several interactions with EDF, the specification was enhanced with a more realistic representation of the plant (currently 5,358 lines of LNT code). Besides, new desirable properties of the user-interfaces emerged with the evolution of the formal model, making a total of seven complex properties formally specified in MCL.

We initiated an integration of our formal model with an industrial control room prototype, provided by a partner in the project. To this aim, several improvements were done in the formal specification, and the integration is currently in progress.

We started to address the introduction of plasticity in the formal specification, a challenge that was identified in 2013. Plasticity is the capacity of a user-interface to withstand variations of its context of use (i.e., platform, user, environment) while preserving usability. We proposed two approaches to introduce plasticity in the analysis. The first one introduces in the formal model a representation of a plasticity engine (responsible for user-interfaces adaptation) and applies model checking to verify its properties. The second approach consists in formally specifying several versions of the user-interfaces, derived from adaptation, and applying equivalence checking to verify similarity relations on the user-interface models.

Fault-Tolerant Routing for Network-on-Chip Architectures

Participant : Wendelin Serwe.

Fault-tolerant architectures provide adaptivity for on-chip communications, but also increase the complexity of the design, so that formal verification techniques are needed to check their correctness. In collaboration with Chris Myers and Zhen Zhang (University of Utah, USA), we studied an extension of the link-fault tolerant Network-on-Chip (NoC) architecture introduced by Wu et al  [67] that supports multiflit wormhole routing.

To keep the state space manageable, the formal LNT model of the routing algorithm was constructed in several steps, applying different abstractions (structural and related to data). This modeling process led to several insights. First, it led to the discovery of a package leakage path that could lead to the complete loss of a packet and a deadlock. This error in the design of an arbiter was corrected in the subsequent models. Second, a buffering capacity in an arbiter was found to be crucial; this insight also led to a redesign of the arbiters. The resultant changes on the router and arbiter models uncovered interesting symmetries. Finally, we studied how deadlock freedom and tolerance of a single-link fault can be verified for a NoC architecture.

This work led to a publication in an international conference [20] .

Other Case Studies

The demo examples of CADP, which have been progressively accumulated since the origins of the toolbox, are a showcase for the multiple capabilities of CADP, as well as a test bed to assess the new features of the toolbox. In 2014, the effort to maintain and enhance these demos has been pursued. The progressive migration to LNT has continued, by translating certain demos from LOTOS to LNT. Many demos have been enriched with value-passing temporal formulas that illustrate the conciseness and expressiveness of MCL and the capabilities of the EVALUATOR 4 model checker. Finally, many demos have been shortened and made more readable by using the new features of SVL, especially the “property ” and “|= ” statements that allow formulas to be gathered in a single SVL file rather than disseminated in a collection of MCL or XTL files.