Benny Akesson

Senior Research Fellow @ ESI (TNO) | Professor @ University of Amsterdam

RTNS Outstanding Paper Award and Best Student Paper Award

The 27th International Conference on Real-Time Networks and Systems (RTNS) in Toulouse, France is over. Our paper “Response Time Analysis of Multiframe Mixed-Criticality Systems” received not one, but two awards! Before the conference, we were notified that it had received an Outstanding Paper Award, as listed in the conference program. During the conference, we also learned that it received a Best Student Paper Award. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ishfaq Hussain, PhD student at CISTER and first author of the paper. This seems like a good start of a distinguished research career.

Announcement of Appointment as Professor at UvA

The press release announcing my appointment as Professor at the University of Amsterdam is finally ready. Time to make them and ESI (TNO) proud!

The Chair of Design Methodologies for Cyber-Physical Systems focuses on two research areas. The first area considers design methodologies for cyber-physical systems in which abstraction, provided by models used for specification, analysis, simulation, or synthesis, play an essential role. While this area applies to cyber-physical systems in general, the second area focuses on design aspects of real-time systems. Together, these two areas capture much of my existing work in both academic (TU/e, CTU Prague, CISTER) and applied research (ESI) in different application domains and industries in which I have worked, e.g. avionics (Airbus), consumer electronics (Philips & NXP), and defense (Thales). They are also broad enough to sustain a long-term effort towards managing complexity of cyber-physical systems. For more information about the research, click the ‘Research‘ button in the menu at the top of the page.

My first mission will involve developing and teaching a course on Embedded Software and Systems, a course that is extremely relevant to our work at ESI. The course is primarily aimed at students following the Master in Software Engineering and teaches the fundamentals of embedded system development. This includes modelling systems using StateCharts, Petri Nets, Data-flow graphs, and Domain-Specific Languages, embedded hardware, functional and timing verification, and design-space exploration. I will also explain the industrial reality behind some of these aspects by drawing on my experience from projects at ESI.

During the course, the students will get practical experience with model-based engineering as they work in groups to program a LEGO Mindstorm Rover using Stateflow to autonomously follow a path, while avoiding obstacles. From this batch of students, I am hoping to find some promising ones that can help us make the next innovative steps in model-based engineering for complex cyber-physical systems for their thesis project.

Back from MODELS 2019

After six days in Munich I have now left the MODELS 2019 conference. It has been an intense couple of days with three days of workshops and tutorials, and three days of main conference. Both the technical and social aspects of the conference were exceptionally well-organized, so kudos to the men and women who worked hard to make that happen.

The four main highlights at the conference for me were:
1. Presenting our paper “Towards Continuous Evolution through Automatic Detection and Correction of Service Incompatibilities” at the MODCOMP workshop. Discussions with conference participants about Petri Net transformations have given inspiration for how to formally work with more complex service behaviors than we do in our work on service-oriented architectures today.

2. A tutorial on StateCharts that improved my understanding of a model-of-computation I will be teaching at the University of Amsterdam in the near future. Thanks to Simon van Mierlo, Hans Vangheluwe, and Axel Terfloth for organizing this tutorial and for sharing their excellent material.

3. Meeting and discussing with representatives from BMW, Daimler, MAN, Continental, TTTech, and other automotive companies and hear more about automotive trends towards centralization of computation, first through domain controllers and then further towards integration of domains in automotive “supercomputers”. It was also interesting to see that the automotive industry is showing interest in service-oriented architectures as a paradigm for their platforms. In fact, a paper entitled “Model-Based Resource Analysis and Synthesis of Service-Oriented Automotive Software Architectures” from BMW got the Best Paper Award on the Practice and Innovation track for work in this direction. This confirms our belief that our current applied research on service-oriented architectures in the defense domain can be generalized to other domains.

4. Meeting and talking to people from both Flanders Make and CETIC, which are the Flemish and Wallonian equivalents of ESI (TNO). It was interesting to talk to them and learn about how what we do is similar and different, both in terms of technical scope and business models.

I hope to return to the MODELS conference again next year to present more of our work and have another opportunity to discuss with and learn from top academics and industrialists in the area of model-based engineering.

Anna Minaeva Successfully Defends Dissertation

Today, Anna Minaeva successfully defended her PhD dissertation entitled “Scalable Scheduling Algorithms for Embedded Systems with Real-Time Requirements” and earned the right to call herself a doctor. The reviewers were pleased with the dissertation and she confidently answered their questions.

The dissertation considers applications with real-time requirements sharing resources, such as memories, cores, and networks, in distributed systems. Scheduling this type of application subject to resource and precedence constraints, among others, while maximizing system performance is a challenging problem. Existing approaches either propose exact solutions that cannot solve industrial-sized instances or propose heuristic algorithms without validating its efficiency with optimal solutions.

The dissertation addresses this problem through a three-stage approach, corresponding to three problems with gradually increasing complexity and accuracy of the model. The four main contributions of are: 1) Comparison of three formalisms to solve the problems optimally, Integer Linear Programming (ILP), Satisfiability Modulo Theory, and Constraint Programming, along with computation time improvements. To increase the scalability of the ILP approach, an optimal approach that wraps the ILP in a branch-and-price framework is presented. 2) For each problem, a scalable and efficient heuristic algorithm is presented that decomposes the problem to decrease its computation time. 3) The efficiency of the optimal and heuristic strategies are quantitatively and qualitatively compared. 4) The practical applicability of the proposed heuristic algorithms and optimal approaches is demonstrated on case studies of real systems in both the automotive and consumer electronics domains.

I wish Anna the best of luck in her future career and hope I will have the opportunity to work with her again.

Paper Acccepted at ModComp 2019

Our paper “Towards Continuous Evolution through Automatic Detection and Correction of Service Incompatibilities” has been accepted at the 6th International Workshop on Interplay of Model-driven and Component-Based Software Engineering (ModComp). ModComp takes place in September and is co-located with the MODELS conference in Munich.

The paper describes applied research from an industrial ESI project with goal of enabling continuous evolution of software in service-oriented architectures through automatic detection and correction of service incompatibilities. Towards this, the paper has three main contributions: 1) the state-of-the-art in the areas of specification of service interfaces, and detection and correction of incompatible service interactions is surveyed, 2) directions for a methodology to detect and correct incompatible interactions that is currently under development are discussed, and 3) the methodology is discussed in the context of a simplified industrial case study from the defense domain.

Journal Article Presented at ECRTS 2019

Today, Ali presented our Real-time Systems article “Uneven Memory Regulation for Scheduling IMA Applications on Multi-core Platforms” in the Journal-to-conference (J2C) session at ECRTS.

This article addresses the problem of resource sharing in mixed-criticality systems through temporal isolation by extending the state-of-the-art Single-Core Equivalence (SCE) framework in three ways: 1) we extend the theoretical toolkit for the SCE framework by considering EDF and server-based scheduling, instead of partitioned fixed-priority scheduling, 2) we support uneven memory access budgets on a per-server basis, rather than just on a per-core basis, and 3) we formulate an Integer-Linear Programming Model (ILP) guaranteed to find a feasible mapping of a given set of servers to processors, including their execution time and memory access budgets, if such a mapping exists. Our experiments with synthetic task sets confirm that considerable improvement in schedulability can result from the use of per-server memory access budgets under the SCE framework.

Overall, I greatly appreciate that key conferences in the real-time community are starting to allow journal articles to be presented. This increases the exposure of these works that are often longer and better edited. It is also helpful for researchers at the institutes where conference publications are not considered a relevant KPI. You can argue the validity of this reasoning in areas of computer science where conferences are highly competitive with 20-30% acceptance rates, but it is reality for some researchers. An interesting thing with the MODELS conference is that they collaborate with the SOSYM journal such that some accepted articles in the journal gets a full slot at the conference. This is a nice way to highlight good articles and to appreciate the work done by both authors and reviewers.

Paper Accepted at EMSOFT 2019

Our collaboration with CISTER has been extremely fruitful this year, as yet another paper in our research line on mixed-criticality scheduling has been accepted. This latest paper is entitled “Techniques and Analysis for Mixed-criticality Scheduling with Mode-dependent Server Execution Budgets” and has been accepted at the International Conference on Embedded Software (EMSOFT).

The goal of this work is, like many other in this research line, is to reduce cost of mixed-criticality systems. This time, we achieve this by addressing the limitation that a server only has a single execution budget in all modes, despite that their computational requirements may vary significantly. More specifically, the three main contributions of the paper are: 1) a scheduling arrangement for uni-processor systems employing fixed-priority scheduling within periodic servers, whose budgets are dynamically adjusted at run-time in the event of a mode change, 2) a new schedulability analysis for such systems, and 3) heuristic algorithms for assigning budgets to servers in different modes and ordering the execution of the servers. Experiments with synthetic task sets demonstrate considerable improvements (up to 52.8%)

Paper Accepted at RTNS 2019

The paper “Response Time Analysis of Multiframe Mixed-Criticality Systems” has been accepted at RTNS 2019. This work is the next in our mixed-criticality research line, in collaboration with my former colleagues at CISTER. It continues our work on the multi-frame task model, also considered in our RTCSA paper this year. The multi-frame model describes tasks that have different worst-case execution times for each job, following a known pattern, which can be exploited to reduce the cost of the system. Existing schedulability analyses fail to leverage this characteristic, potentially resulting in pessimism and increased system cost.

In this paper, we present a schedulability analysis for the multi-frame mixed-criticality model. Our work extends both the analysis techniques for Static Mixed-Cricality scheduling (SMC) and Adaptive Mixed-Criticality scheduling (AMC), on one hand, and the schedulability analysis for multi-frame task systems on the other. Our proposed worst-case response time (WCRT) analysis for multi-frame mixed-criticality systems is considerably less pessimistic than applying the SMC, AMC-rtb and AMC-max tests obliviously to the WCET variation patterns. Experimental evaluation with synthetic task sets demonstrates up to 63.8% higher scheduling success ratio compared to the best of the frame-oblivious tests.

Paper Accepted at RTCSA 2019

A paper “Memory Bandwidth Regulation for Multiframe Task Sets” has been accepted at RTCSA 2018. This paper aims to reduce cost of real-time systems where the worst-case execution times of tasks vary from job to job, according to known patterns. This kind of execution behavior can be captured by the multi-frame task model. However, this model is optimistic and unsafe for multi-cores with shared memory controllers, since it ignores memory contention, and existing approaches to stall analysis based on memory regulation are very pessimistic if straight-forwardly applied.

This paper remedies this by adapting existing stall analyses for memory-regulated systems to the multi-frame model. Experimental evaluations with synthetic task sets show up to 85% higher scheduling success ratio for our analysis, compared to the frame-agnostic analysis, enabling higher platform utilization without compromising safety. We also explore implementation aspects, such as how to speed up the analysis and how to trade off accuracy with tractability.

Impressions from the ESI Symposium

The ESI Symposium took place on April 9 in the Auditorium of Eindhoven University of Technology. The theme this year was “Intelligence, the next challenge in system complexity?” and featured keynotes from Edward Lee (Professor, UC Berkley) and Henk van Houten (CTO and Head of Research for Royal Philips).  The event was visited by some 300 participants, with a good balance between academia and industry. For those of you who could not attend, feel free to read about the program on the ESI website, and look at the video below for an impression of the event.