Automatic Workload Inference Improves Scalability of DSE in Complex Systems

I am happy to announce that the paper “Automated Derivation of Application Workload Models for Design Space Exploration of Industrial Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems” has been accepted for publication at the 7th IEEE International Conference on Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS). The paper is first-authored by Faezeh Saadatmand in the context of the DSE2.0 project, a part of the academic research program MasCot, co-funded by TNO-ESI and NWO. Congratulations Faezeh!

The paper addresses challenges with respect to designing their next-generation distributed cyber-physical systems (dCPS). Efficient Design Space Exploration (DSE) techniques are needed to evaluate possible design decisions and their consequences on non-functional aspects of the systems. To enable scalable and efficient DSE of complex dCPS, it is essential to have abstract and coarse-grained models that are both accurate and capable of capturing dynamic application workloads. However, manually creating such models is time-consuming and error-prone, and they need to be continuously updated as the system evolves. This research addresses this need by introducing an automatic method for deriving an application workload model. This model, based on trace analysis, captures computation and communication activities within an application in a timing-agnostic manner. The approach has been validated through a case study on an ASML Twinscan lithography machine, demonstrating high accuracy in capturing real application workloads. Next steps in this research involves combining this model with an automatically inferred hardware platform model to enable DSE exploring different hardware, software, and mapping alternatives.

Jesse Liauw-A-Fong Defends Master’s Thesis on Local Anomaly Detection in Smart Public Transport Vehicles

Yesterday, Jesse Liauw-A-Fong, a student of the Master of Software Engineering program at UvA, defended his thesis Local Anomaly Detection in Smart Public Transport Vehicles. This research was conducted externally at a company called Ximedes. Jessie’s research is addressing the problem of detecting anomalies, such as a loss of cloud connection, in Smart Public Transport Vehicles (SPTV), such as buses, trams, and metros, comprising many complex heterogeneous systems. It emphasizes the importance of local, context-aware anomaly detection due to the dynamic nature of SPTVs and explores the generalization of anomaly detection, particularly addressing performance, normal region, and quality challenges. The research proposes a unified data collection framework comparing agent-based and agent-less methods, advocating for an agent-based approach for its adaptability and integration ease. It also quantitatively evaluates three local anomaly detection algorithms on real data from a specific bus line. We thank Jessie for his contributions to our research and wish him the best of luck in his future career.

Master Thesis Shines Light on Hardware Dimensioning for Cyber-Physical Systems

On Wednesday, Marijn Vollaard defended his master thesis “Hardware Dimensioning for Microservice-based Cyber-Physical Systems: A Profiling and Performance Prediction Method” at the University of Amsterdam. This research has been supervised by Ben Pronk and myself as a part of a project with TNO-ESI.

The thesis addresses the problem of determining the number of homogeneous compute nodes needed for a particular variant of a cyber-physical system to meet its timing requirements. This is important in early discussions with customers and bidding processes, since it affects the size and cost of the resulting system. To this end, the thesis proposes a structured hardware dimensioning methodology comprising a profiling method and a performance prediction method. The four novel contributions of the thesis are: 1) A component-based profiling method, 2) a performance prediction method, 3) a structured hardware dimensioning methodology, and 4) validation of the approach, using a case study that represents a prototype of a CPS. Experimental evaluations on the case study show that the predicted performance differs from measurements on the application by at most 20%, which is satisfactory for hardware dimensioning decisions for new product variants.

The defense went well and Marijn confidently presented his story and convincingly answered the questions of the audience. The examination committee, impressed by his work, awarded his thesis a well-deserved grade of 8. As we bid farewell to Marijn, embarking on his next career adventure, we also extend our heartfelt congratulations. He certainly has much to be proud of. We wish him all the best on his travels and in his future pursuits.

Advancing Sustainability: Paper Accepted on Estimating Energy Consumption of Applications in the Computing Continuum

I am happy to please that the paper “Estimating the Energy Consumption of Applications in the Computing Continuum with iFogSim” was accepted at the International Workshop on Converged Computing (WOCC). The paper is first-authored by Saaedeh Baneshi and is the first publication to come out of the project Energy Labels for Digital Services. Congratulations Saaedeh!

The paper explains how digital services – applications that often span the entire computing continuum – have become an essential part of our daily lives, but they can have a significant energy cost, raising sustainability concerns. Measuring the energy consumption of such applications is challenging due to the distributed nature of the system and the application. As such, simulation techniques are promising solutions to estimate energy consumption, and several simulators are available for modeling the cloud and fog computing environment. The paper investigates iFogSim’s effectiveness in analyzing the end-to-end energy consumption of applications in the computing continuum through two case studies. We design different scenarios for each case study to map application modules to devices along the continuum, including the Edge-Cloud collaboration architecture, and compare them with the two placement policies native to iFogSim: Cloud-only and Edge-ward policies. We observe iFogSim’s limitations in reporting energy consumption, and improve its ability to report energy consumption from an application’s perspective; this enables additional insight into an application’s energy consumption, thus enhancing the usability of iFogSim in evaluating the end-to-end energy consumption of digital services.

Advancing Design Space Exploration: Literature Review Explores Network Delay Models for Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems

Another literature review has been completed in the context of the DSE2.0 research project. William Ford completed his review entitled “Network Delay Model Creation and Validation for Design Space Exploration of Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems“.

Design-space exploration (DSE) in early phases of design of a distributed cyber-physical system (dCPS) requires models. In the DSE2.0 project, we are particularly interested in models that capture the timing behavior of hardware and software, allowing temporal system performance to be evaluated for different design points. One important part of the system to model is the network that connects the subsystems of the CPS. This study reviews previous work in the fields of analytical network modeling, network simulation, and network model validation. In addition, a recommended plan is presented to create and validate such a network model for the DSE2.0 project, based on this previous work. Two main directions are recommended at different levels of abstraction. For the lower level of abstraction, we will make a model using the existing INET framework that models each network element explicitly. At a higher level of abstraction, we will use a latency-rate server to capture the behavior of the network using only two parameters, latency and rate.

Having delivered his literature review. William has started his master project to pursue this research along these directions. The team looks forward to working with him.

Ensuring Safety, Performance, and Security in Cloud-Enabled CPS: Accepted Paper Presents Thirteen Concepts at IEEE SysCon 2023

Our paper entitled “Thirteen Concepts to Play it Safe with the Cloud” has been accepted at IEEE International Systems Conference (SysCon), that will take place in Vancouver, Canada on April 17-20, 2023. The paper discusses how edge and cloud technologies has the potential to enhance safety-critical CPS, also in regulated environments. This is only possible when safety, performance, cyber security, and privacy of data are kept at the same level as in on-device only safety-critical CPS. To this end, this paper presents thirteen selected safety and performance concepts for distributed device-edge-cloud CPS solutions. This early result of the TRANSACT project aims to ensure needed end-to-end performance and safety levels from an end-user perspective, to extend edge and cloud benefits of more rapid innovation and inclusion of value-added services, also to safety-critical CPS.

Literature Review on Scalable System-level Simulation

Herman Kelder has joined the DSE2.0 research project as a master student. DSE2.0 is a project that aims to propose a methodology for design-space exploration of complex distributed cyber-physical systems, like lithography machines manufactured by ASML. One of the great challenges is to improve the scalability to handle the complexity of such systems, a challenge that needs to be addressed both in terms of how the system (performance) is modelled and evaluated (simulated) for a particular design point, as well as how design points to evaluate is being chosen. Hermans thesis will focus on how to improve the scalability of system-level simulation to allow more design points to be evaluated faster.

One of Herman’s first assignments was to put together a literature review on this topic. The literature review, entitled “Exploring Scalability in System-Level Simulation Environments for Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems“, investigates state-of-the-art scalability techniques for system-level simulation environments, i.e. Simulation Campaigns, Parallel Discrete Event Simulations (PDES), and Hardware Accelerators. The goal is to address the challenge of scalable Design Space Exploration (DSE) for dCPS, discussing such approaches’ characteristics, applications, advantages, and limitations. The conclusion recommends starting with simulation campaigns as those provide increased throughput, adapt to the number of tasks and resources, and are already implemented by many state-of-the-art simulators. Nevertheless, further research has to be conducted to define, implement, and test a sophisticated general workflow addressing the diverse sub-challenges of scaling system-level simulation environments for the exploration of industrial-size distributed Cyber-Physical Systems.

We look forward to working with Herman and seeing how his research develops along these directions.

Position paper accepted at DSD 2022

I am pleased to announce that our position paper “Design Space Exploration for Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems: State-of-the-art, Challenges, and Directions” has been accepted for publication at the Euromicro Conference on Digital System Design (DSD). This is the first accepted paper from the DSE2.0 project, a collaboration between University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, and ASML. The project is a part of the Mastering Complexity (MasCot) partnership program funded by ESI.

The paper addresses the challenge of designing industrial cyber-physical systems (CPS), which are often complex, heterogeneous, and distributed computing systems that typically
integrate and interconnect a large number of hardware and software components. Producers of these distributed Cyber-Physical Systems (dCPS) require support for making (early) design decisions to avoid expensive and time consuming oversights. This calls for efficient and scalable system-level Design Space Exploration (DSE) methods for dCPS. In this position paper, we review the current state of the art in DSE, and argue that efficient and scalable DSE technology for dCPS is more or less non-existing and constitutes a largely unchartered research area. Moreover, we identify several research challenges that need to be addressed and discuss possible directions for targeting such DSE technology for dCPS.

Paper Accepted at PNSE 2022

I am happy to announce that the paper “Partial Specifications of Component-based Systems using Petri Nets” has been accepted for publication at the International Workshop on Petri Nets and Software Engineering (PNSE) 2022. This paper was first-authored by Bart-Jan Hilbrands, a (former) student in the Master of Software Engineering program at the University of Amsterdam, who did his master thesis project under the supervision of myself and my ESI colleague Debjyoti Bera. The master thesis project was conducted in the context of the DYNAMICS project, a bi-lateral research project between ESI and Thales, which looked into specification, verification, and adaptation of software interfaces.  This publication is a good example of how a good master thesis can be turned into a publication.

The paper addresses the problem of verifying correctness properties, such as absence of deadlocks, livelocks, and buffer overflows, in software components with multiple inter-dependent interfaces. An approach based on partial specification of dependencies between interfaces, expressed as a set of functional constraints, is proposed in the paper. The papers presents and formalizes three commonly occurring functional constraints and provides algorithms for encoding them into a Petri net representation of the interfaces, enabling interface verification through reachability analysis. The approach has been implemented and demonstrated using ComMA.

Article about Survey-based Study into Industry Practice in Real-time Systems in Real-time Systems Journal

It has been almost a year since we published the first survey-based study in the area of real-time systems at the Real-time Systems Symposium (RTSS) back in December 2020. The paper was entitled “An Empirical Survey-based Study into Industry Practice in Real-time Systems” and had the ambitious goal of addressing the gap between academic research and industry practice through an empirical survey-based study into industry practice. The survey had five objectives: 1) Establish whether timing predictability is of concern to the real-time embedded systems industry, 2) Identify relevant industrial problem contexts, including hardware platforms, middleware, and software, 3) Determine which methods and tools are used to achieve timing predictability, 4) Establish which techniques and tools are used to satisfy real-time requirements, and 5) Determine trends for future real-time systems. The survey was completed by 120 industry practitioners in the field of real-time embedded systems, which allowed interesting observations and insights to be made about the characteristics of the systems being developed today and important trends for the future.

Now, almost one year later, I am happy to announce that an extended version of our RTSS paper has been accepted for publication in the Real-time Systems journal. The title of the article is “A Comprehensive Survey of Industry Practice in Real-Time Systems“. The main extensions in the article include: 1) a discussion of potential threats to validity of the survey and its results, as well as the steps taken to mitigate them, 2) a statistical analysis and discussion of the results of the survey, in the context of its five objectives, 3) a discussion of the results of a quiz aimed at determining if the aggregate findings of the survey are common knowledge in the real-time systems community. In addition, more aggregated data from the survey has been released, allowing interested readers to further delve into the similarities and differences between the avionics, automotive, and consumer electronic domains.

We hope that you enjoy the article!