An article about strategic academic programming at TNO-ESI has appeared in Bits & Chips. The MasCot program, a collaboration co-funded by ESI and the Dutch research council NWO, is designed to tackle the increasing complexity of high-tech equipment. The program addresses the pressing need for advanced engineering methodologies through four projects covering essential topics, such as design space exploration during early system design, scheduling, verification, and restructuring of evolving software. In the article, I explain how the 3-million-euro program facilitates the transition of academic research into practical industrial applications, creating an innovation funnel that spans from academic research through applied research to industrial embedding. The program’s strategic approach not only mitigates the risks associated with high-reward, complex projects but also fosters a symbiotic relationship between academia, industry, and TNO, allowing for a continuous exchange of knowledge, challenges, and innovations.
In a bid to spearhead advancements in engineering methodologies and manage the increasing complexity of industrial systems, the third annual Mastering Complexity (MasCot) Program Day was successfully held on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. The MasCot program, a six-year strategic academic initiative jointly funded by TNO-ESI and NWO, has brought together leading universities and research organizations to pioneer the next generation of engineering methods, promoting cost-effective and high-quality development of industrial systems. The program consists of four key projects: 1) Scheduling Adaptive Modular Flexible Manufacturing Systems (TU/e, TU Delft, Radboud University), 2) Programming and Validating Software Restructurings (TU Delft, TU/e), 3) Testing in Times of Continuous Change (Radboud University, Twente University), and 4) Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems (UvA, Leiden University).
This year, Radboud University hosted the event at Hotel Van der Valk Nijmegen-Lent, drawing a crowd of 38 attendees from academia, industry, NWO, and TNO-ESI. With the first MasCot projects set to conclude in 2024, the theme of this year's gathering revolved around technology transfer. The event commenced with project updates from each of the four projects. During breaks, attendees had the opportunity to engage in technical dialogues with PhD students, who presented their work on posters. A highlight of the day was the keynote address delivered by Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel, head of ASML research (a.i.). Verduyn. A key message of his presentation was the required improvement of productivity of design engineers by a factor of 2.5 in the next ten years to keep up the pace of innovation. ASML is therefore engaging in defining road maps and establishing long-term collaborations with academic partners and research organization, such as TNO. He also described how ASML are differentiating projects at different levels of maturity, from fundamental research to proofs-of-concept, and how they scale up and transfer knowledge between these phases. This keynote was well-appreciated and many participants were inspired by this structured approach to programming and managing research and innovation.
The afternoon was dedicated to breakout sessions where participants shared their perspectives on technology transfer and discussed the roles that various MasCot stakeholders—universities, industry, NWO, and ESI—can concretely play in facilitating this critical process. The day concluded with a networking session and dinner, marking another successful edition of the MasCot Program Day.
Today, we celebrate that Herman Kelder successfully defended his master thesis “Scalability in System-Level Simulation Environments for Distributed Cyber-Physical Systems“. This work was carried out in the context of the DSE2.0 project, where we address the complex scientific challenges involved in performing design-space exploration (DSE) for complex distributed cyber-physical systems (dCPS), such as lithography machines. Three key challenges in this context are: 1) automatically modelling the application and platform based on data from the running system, 2) scalable search and pruning algorithms that help navigate large design spaces efficiently, and 3) scalable simulation environments that allow many design points to be efficiently evaluated concurrently.
Herman’s thesis addresses the last of these three challenges. To facilitate scalable and efficient DSE for dCPS, an evaluation environment is proposed, implemented, and evaluated. The research considers key design considerations for developing a distributed evaluation workflow that can dynamically be adapted to enable efficient and scalable exploration of the vast design space of complex, distributed cyber-physical systems. Evaluation of the proposed environment employs a set of system models, representing design points within a DSE process, to assess the solution and its behavior, performance, capability, and applicability in addressing the scalability challenge in the context of DSE for dCPS. During the evaluation, the performance and behavior are investigated in three areas: (i) Simulation Campaign, (ii) Task Management Configuration, and (iii) Parallel Discrete-Event Simulation (PDES). Throughout the evaluation, it is demonstrated that the proposed environment is capable of providing scalable and efficient evaluation of design points in the context of DSE for dCPS. Furthermore, the proposed solution enables designers and researchers to tailor it to their environment through dynamic complex workflows and interactions, workload-level and task-level parallelism, and simulator and compute environment agnosticism.
Herman executed his project meticulously and delivered excellent research results, both in terms of concepts and implementation. Thank you very much for your contributions Herman and we hope to work with you again at some point.
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.
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.
The 3rd Annual Program Day for the Mastering Complexity (MasCot) Partnership program took place on Wednesday October 19. This time, the event was hosted by the University of Amsterdam and was held in the Startup Village at Science Park. Approximately 40 participants from academia, industry, NWO, and TNO attended the event. After a brief introduction, project updates were given from the four academic projects in the program:
- Scheduling Adaptive Modular Flexible Manufacturing Systems (SAM-FMS)
- Programming and Validating Software Restructurings
- TiCToC – Testing in Times of Continuous Change
- Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems
This was followed by Q&A and a short interaction where participants tried to identify the general complexity management techniques used in the projects. In the afternoon, there were breakout sessions focusing on the way-of-working in MasCot projects, how to best involve and engage all stakeholders in the project: industry and academic partners, users, and ESI liaisons. This allowed the different projects to listen to how the others organized their work, e.g. in terms of regular meetings and working on industry location, during the first years and reflect on the best way-of-working to reach their goals for the next stage.
The event was followed by a social program with informal networking set to the tune of a boat ride with drinks on the beautiful canals of a sunny autumn-colored Amsterdam and a dinner at the restaurant In de Waag.
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.
Today was the official project kick-off for the research project “Design Space Exploration 2.0: Towards Optimal Design of Complex, Distributed Cyber Physical Systems”. This project is a part of the Partnership Program Mastering Complexity (MasCot), funded by NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) together with ESI (TNO). The University of Amsterdam and Leiden University are the academic partners, spearheaded by Andy Pimentel and Todor Stefanov. The carrying industrial partner is ASML, but with Philips, Siemens and ESI as parts of the user committee.
The main goal of the project is to extend existing methods for design-space exploration, often developed for on-chip systems, to cover complex distributed cyber-physical systems (dCPS), such as the lithography machines made by ASML. Designers of such systems need quick answers to so-called “what-if” questions with respect to possible design decisions/choices and their consequences on non-functional properties, such as system performance and cost. This calls for efficient and scalable system level design space exploration (DSE) methods that integrate appropriate application workload and system architectures models, simulation and optimization techniques, as well as supporting tools to facilitate the exploration of a wide range of design decisions. However, such DSE technology for complex dCPS does currently not exist. This projects hence tries to answer the question of how perform efficient and effective DSE for complex, distributed cyber-physical systems.
In today’s kick-off meeting, all stakeholders in the project had an opportunity to introduce themselves and refamiliarize themselves with the project and its goals. The two PhD students who will be working on the project, Marius and Faezeh, from UvA and Leiden, respectively, also gave a brief overview of the work they had done in the first three months of the project, which included a literature review and generation of high-level simulation models for different parameter settings.
I am directly involved in this project through my part-time appointment at UvA. As Marius’ second promotor, I will help him on his journey towards a PhD. I also have an interest in this project as an ESI Research Fellow and part of the MasCot Core Team. In this capacity, I am happy to help linking this project to ESI’s applied research projects, in particular at ASML, to exploit possible synergies, and to stimulate exchanges with other projects in the MasCot program.