Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Objective #2: Self-optimization - Sharing runtime behaviors to continuously adapt software

Complex distributed systems have to seamlessly adapt to a wide variety of deployment targets. This is due to the fact that developers cannot anticipate all the runtime conditions under which these systems are immersed. A major challenge for these software systems is to develop their capability to continuously reason about themselves and to take appropriate decisions and actions on the optimizations they can apply to improve themselves. This challenge encompasses research contributions in different areas, from environmental monitoring to real-time symptoms diagnosis, to automated decision making. The variety of distributed systems, the number of optimization parameters, and the complexity of decisions often resign the practitioners to design monolithic and static middleware solutions. However, it is now globally acknowledged that the development of dedicated building blocks does not contribute to the adoption of sustainable solutions. This is confirmed by the scale of actual distributed systems, which can—for example—connect several thousands of devices to a set of services hosted in the Cloud. In such a context, the lack of support for smart behaviors at different levels of the systems can inevitably lead to its instability or its unavailability. In June 2012, an outage of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud in North Virginia has taken down Netflix, Pinterest, and Instagram services. During hours, all these services failed to satisfy their millions of customers due to the lack of integration of a self-optimization mechanism going beyond the boundaries of Amazon.

The research contributions we envision within this area will therefore be organized as a reference model for engineering self-optimized distributed systems autonomously driven by adaptive feedback control loops, which will automatically enlarge their scope to cope with the complexity of the decisions to be taken. This solution introduces a multi-scale approach, which first privileges local and fast decisions to ensure the homeostasis (Homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, relatively constant condition of properties [Wikipedia].) property of a single node, and then progressively propagates symptoms in the network in order to reason on a longer term and a larger number of nodes. Ultimately, domain experts and software developers can be automatically involved in the decision process if the system fails to find a satisfying solution. The research program for this objective will therefore focus on the study of mechanisms for monitoring, taking decisions, and automatically reconfiguring software at runtime and at various scales. As stated in the self-healing objective, we believe that there is no one-size-fits-all mechanism that can span all the scales of the system. We will therefore study and identify an optimal composition of various adaptation mechanisms in order to produce long-living software systems.

The novelty of this objective is to exploit the wisdom of crowds to define new middleware solutions that are able to continuously adapt software deployed in the wild. We intend to demonstrate the applicability of this approach to distributed systems that are deployed from mobile phones to cloud infrastructures. The key scientific challenges to address can be summarized as follows: How does software behave once deployed in the wild? Is it possible to automatically infer the quality of experience, as it is perceived by users? Can the runtime optimizations be shared across a wide variety of software? How optimizations can be safely operated on large populations of software instances?

The remainder of this section further elaborates on the opportunities that can be considered within the frame of this objective.

Monitoring software in the wild

Once deployed, developers are generally no longer aware of how their software behave. Even if they heavily use testbeds and benchmarks during the development phase, they mostly rely on the bugs explicitly reported by users to monitor the efficiency of their applications. However, it has been shown that contextual artifacts collected at runtime can help to understand performance leaks and optimize the resilience of software systems [81]. Monitoring and understanding the context of software at runtime therefore represent the first building block of this research challenge. Practically, we intend to investigate crowd-sensing approaches, to smartly collect and process runtime metrics (e.g., request throughput, energy consumption, user context). Crowd-sensing can be seen as a specific kind of crowdsourcing activity, which refers to the capability of lifting a (large) diffuse group of participants to delegate the task of retrieving trustable data from the field. In particular, crowd-sensing covers not only participatory sensing to involve the user in the sensing task (e.g., surveys), but also opportunistic sensing to exploit mobile sensors carried by the user (e.g., smartphones).

While reported metrics generally enclose raw data, the monitoring layer intends to produce meaningful indicators like the Quality of Experience (QoE) perceived by users. This QoE reflects representative symptoms of software requiring to trigger appropriate decisions in order to improve its efficiency. To diagnose these symptoms, the system has to process a huge variety of data including runtime metrics, but also history of logs to explore the sources of the reported problems and identify opportunities for optimizations. The techniques we envision at this level encompass machine learning, principal component analysis, and fuzzy logic [70] to provide enriched information to the decision level.

Collaborative decision-making approaches

Beyond the symptoms analysis, decisions should be taken in order to improve the Quality of Service (QoS). In our opinion, collaborative approaches represent a promising solution to effectively converge towards the most appropriate optimization to apply for a given symptom. In particular, we believe that exploiting the wisdom of the crowd can help the software to optimize itself by sharing its experience with other software instances exhibiting similar symptoms. The intuition here is that the body of knowledge that supports the optimization process cannot be specific to a single software instance as this would restrain the opportunities for improving the quality and the performance of applications. Rather, we think that any software instance can learn from the experience of others.

With regard to the state-of-the-art, we believe that a multi-levels decision infrastructure, inspired from distributed systems like Spotify [57], can be used to build a decentralized decision-making algorithm involving the surrounding peers before requesting a decision to be taken by more central control entity. In the context of collaborative decision-making, peer-based approaches therefore consist in quickly reaching a consensus on the decision to be adopted by a majority of software instances. Software instances can share their knowledge through a micro-economic model [51], that would weight the recommendations of experienced instances, assuming their age reflects an optimal configuration.

Beyond the peer level, the adoption of algorithms inspired from evolutionary computations, such as genetic programming, at an upper level of decision can offer an opportunity to test and compare several alternative decisions for a given symptom and to observe how does the crowd of applications evolves. By introducing some diversity within this population of applications, some instances will not only provide a satisfying QoS, but will also become naturally resilient to unforeseen situations.

Smart reconfigurations in the large

Any decision taken by the crowd requires to propagate back to and then operated by the software instances. While simplest decisions tend to impact software instances located on a single host (e.g., laptop, smartphone), this process can also exhibit more complex reconfiguration scenarios that require the orchestration of various actions that have to be safely coordinated across a large number of hosts. While it is generally acknowledged that centralized approaches raise scalability issues, we think that self-optimization should investigate different reconfiguration strategies to propagate and apply the appropriate actions. The investigation of such strategies can be addressed in two steps: the consideration of scalable data propagation protocols and the identification of smart reconfiguration mechanisms.

With regard to the challenge of scalable data propagation protocols, we think that research opportunities encompass not only the exploitation of gossip-based protocols [56], but also the adoption of publish/subscribe abstractions [64] in order to decouple the decision process from the reconfiguration. The fundamental issue here is the definition of a communication substrate that can accommodate the propagation of decisions with relaxed properties, inspired by Delay Tolerant Networks (DTN), in order to reach weakly connected software instances. We believe that the adoption of asynchronous communication protocols can provide the sustainable foundations for addressing various execution environments including harsh environments, such as developing countries, which suffer from a partial connectivity to the network. Additionally, we are interested in developing the principle of social networks of applications in order to seamlessly group and organize software instances according to their similarities and acquaintances. The underlying idea is that grouping application instances can contribute to the identification of optimization profiles not only contributing to the monitoring layer, but also interested in similar reconfigurations. Social networks of applications can contribute to the anticipation of reconfigurations by exploiting the symptoms of similar applications to improve the performance of others before that problems actually happen.

With regard to the challenge of smart reconfiguration mechanisms, we are interested in building on our established experience of adaptive middleware [75] in order to investigate novel approaches to efficient application reconfigurations. In particular, we are interested in adopting seamless micro-updates and micro-reboot techniques to provide in-situ reconfiguration of pieces of software. Additionally, the provision of safe and secured reconfiguration mechanisms is clearly a key issue that requires to be carefully addressed in order to avoid malicious exploitation of dynamic reconfiguration mechanisms against the software itself. In this area, although some reconfiguration mechanisms integrate transaction models [65], most of them are restricted to local reconfigurations, without providing any support for executing distributed reconfiguration transactions. Additionally, none of the approached published in the literature include security mechanisms to preserve from unauthorized or malicious reconfigurations.