Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
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

Hybrid Scalable Architectures

The rise of planetary-scale distributed systems calls for novel software and system architectures that can support user-facing applications while scaling to large numbers of devices, and leveraging established and emerging technologies. The members of WIDE are particularly well positioned to explore this avenue of research thanks to their experience on de-concentrated architectures combining principles from both decentralized peer-to-peer  [48], [58] systems and hybrid infrastructures (i.e. architectures that combines centralized or hierarchical elements, often hosted in well-provisioned data-centers, and a decentralized part, often hosted in a peer-to-peer overlay)   [52]. In the short term, we aim to explore two axes in this direction: browser-based communication, and micro services.

Browser-based fog computing

The dramatic increase in the amount of data being produced and processed by connected devices has led to paradigms that seek to decentralize the traditional cloud model. In 2011 Cisco  [49] introduced the vision of fog computing that combines the cloud with resources located at the edge of the network and in between. More generally, the term edge computing has been associated with the idea of adding edge-of-the network storage and computation to traditional cloud infrastructures  [44].

A number of efforts in this directions focus on specific hardware, e.g. fog nodes that are responsible for connected IoT devices  [50]. However, many of today's applications run within web browsers or mobile phones. In this context, the recent introduction of the WebRTC API, makes it possible for browsers and smartphones to exchange directly between each other, enabling mobile, or browser-based decentralized applications. Maygh  [72], for example, uses the WebRTC API to build a decentralized Content Delivery Network that runs solely on web browsers. The fact that the application is hosted completely on a web server and downloaded with enabled websites means that webmasters can adopt the Content Delivery Network (CDN) without requiring users to install any specific software.

For us, the ability of browsers to communicate with each other using the WebRTC paradigm provides a novel playground for new programming models, and for a browser-based fog architecture combining both a centralized, cloud-based part, and a decentralized, browser-supported part.

This model offers tremendous potential by making edge-of-the-network resources available through the interconnection of web-browsers, and offers new opportunities for the protection of the personal data of end users. But consistently engineering browser-based components requires novel tools and methodologies.

In particular, WebRTC was primarily designed for exchanging media and data between two browsers in the presence of a coordinating server. Its complex mechanisms for connection establishment make many of the existing peer-to-peer protocols inefficient. To address this challenge, we plan to consider two angles of attack. First, we plan to design novel protocols that take into account the specific requirements set by this new technology. Second, we envisage to investigate variants of the current WebRTC model with cheaper connection-establishment protocols, in order to provide lower delays and bandwidth consumption in large-scale browser-based applications.

We also plan to address the trade-offs associated with hybrid browser-cloud models. For example, when should computation be delegated to browsers and when should it be executed on the cloud in order to maximize the quality of service? Or, how can a decentralized analytics algorithms operating on browser-based data complement or exploit the knowledge built by cloud-based data analytics solutions?

Emergent micro-service deployment and management

Micro-services tend to produce fine-grained applications in which many small services interact in a loosely coupled manner to produce a wide range of services within an organization. Individual services need to evolve independently of each other over time without compromising the availability of the overall application. Lightweight isolation solutions such as containers (Docker, ...), and their associated tooling ecosystem (e.g. Google's Borg  [71], Kubernetes  [47]) have emerged to facilitate the deployment of large-scale micro-service-based applications, but only provide preliminary solutions for key concerns in these systems, which we would like to investigate and extend.

Most of today's on-line computer systems are now too large to evolve in monolithic, entirely pre-planned ways. This applies to very large data centres, for example, where the placement of virtual machines to reduce heating and power consumption can no longer be treated using top-down exhaustive optimisation approaches beyond a critical size. This is also true of social networking applications, where different mechanisms—e.g. to spread news notifications, or to recommend new contacts—must be adapted to the different sub-communities present in the system.

To cope with the inherent complexity of building complex loosely-coupled distributed systems while fostering and increasing efficiency, maintainability, and scalability, we plan to study how novel programming techniques based on declarative programming, components and epidemic protocols can help design, deploy, and maintain self-adaptive structures (e.g. placement of VM) and mechanisms (e.g. contact recommendations) that are optimized to the local context of very large distributed systems. To fulfill this vision, we plan to explore a three-pronged strategy to raise the level of programming abstraction offered to developers.