Model-based Engineering Dominates Software-Centric Systems Conference

I attended the online edition of Software-Centric Systems Conference (SC2) today. Although I prefer the networking and social aspects of a physical conference, it was nice to enjoy these presentations from the comfort of my couch.

It was interesting to see that most of the conference presentations were related to domain-specific languages (DSLs) in one way or another. There were also presentations about model-based testing and digital twinning. I am not sure if model-based engineering was an intentional theme, or if this is just what is considered interesting in software-centric systems in the Netherlands for the moment. However, this suggests that the applied research into model-based design methodologies done by ESI (TNO) together with its industrial eco-system is highly relevant.

A highlight for myself was the two presentations about the Component Modelling and Analysis (ComMA) DSL. This is not only because it relates to my research on evolvable interfaces, but also because of the main message that the industry can achieve a lot through open innovation in areas that are not their core business, such as specification, verification, and evolution of software interfaces. Great news that ComMA will become open-source in 2021!

An Empirical Survey-based Study into Industry Practice in Real-time Systems @ RTSS 2020

It is my great pleasure to announce that our paper “An Empirical Survey-based Study into Industry Practice in Real-time Systems” has been invited to appear at the 41st IEEE Real-Time Systems Symposium (RTSS). Not only will the paper be presented there, it will also be the focus of a panel session with industry practitioners. The paper presents results and observations from a survey of 120 industry practitioners in the field of real-time embedded systems. The survey provides insights into the characteristics of the systems being developed today and identifies important trends for the future. The survey aims to inform both academics and practitioners, helping to avoid divergence between industry practice and fundamental academic research.

This work is a dear pet project of mine that has been a long time in the making. Once I joined ESI (TNO), I started reading papers and attending conferences in the modelling community. I came across empirical survey-based research that systematically investigated industry trends, needs and practices, and that studied adoption and perceived benefits and drawbacks of different technologies and methodologies. I immediately found this line of work incredibly useful as it elevated my understanding of what happened in industry from a collection of anecdotes based on conversations with a few people in a few companies to something that could capture the experience of hundreds of people across industrial domains. I also had the feeling that this line of work provided all the citations I needed for the introduction of my papers, as it helped me position my own work on modelling in a broader industrial reality.

Empirical research is an established research direction in some fields, such as software engineering and to a lesser extent system engineering. However, there was no work like this in the area of real-time systems. I decided to change this and pitched the idea to Rob Davis, Mitra Nasri, and Geoffrey Nelissen and Sebastian Altmeyer during a meeting in May 2019. They substantially improved on my ideas and did a lot of very good work and almost a year and a half later, the paper is available for you to read. We could not fit everything we had to say into the RTSS paper, so there is also a supporting technical note entitled “A Comprehensive Survey of Industry Practice in Real-time Systems“.

I hope that this work is the first of many empirical research papers in real-time systems. Others need to replicate these results to ensure that they hold for different populations, and of course there are many other questions to ask than what we could cover in this work. This direction in real-time system research is just emerging and you can play an important part!

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.