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The Software Ar

hite ture of a

Distributed Problem-Solving Environment

D. W. Walker
Computer S ien e and Mathemati s Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
PO Box 2008, Oak Ridge TN 37831-6367, USA
M. Li, O. F. Rana, M. S. Shields, and Y. Huang
Department of Computer S ien e
Cardi University, PO Box 916, Cardi CF24 3XF, UK
September 20, 2000

Abstra t
This paper des ribes the fun tionality and software ar hite ture of a
generi problem-solving environment (PSE) for ollaborative omputa-
tional s ien e and engineering. A PSE is designed to provide transparent
a ess to heterogeneous distributed omputing resour es, and is intended
to enhan e resear h produ tivity by making it easier to onstru t, run,
and analyze the results of omputer simulations. Although implementa-
tion details are not dis ussed in depth, the r^ole of software te hnologies
su h as CORBA, Java, and XML is outlined. An XML-based omponent
model is presented. The main features of a Visual Component Composi-
tion Environment for software development, and an Intelligent Resour e
Management System for s heduling omponents, are des ribed. Some
prototype implementations of PSE appli ations are also presented.

1 Introdu tion

A problem-solving environment (PSE) is a omplete, integrated omputing en-


vironment for omposing, ompiling, and running appli ations in a spe i area.
A PSE may also in orporate many features of an expert system and an assist
users in formulating problems, running the problem on an appropriate platform,
and viewing and analyzing results. In addition, a PSE may have a ess to virtual
libraries, knowledge repositories, sophisti ated exe ution ontrol systems, and
visualization environments. The uses of PSEs in lude modeling and simulation,
de ision support, design optimization, and industrial pro ess management.
 walkermsr.epm.ornl.gov

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The main motivation for developing PSEs is that they provide software tools
and expert assistan e to the omputational s ientist in a user-friendly environ-
ment, allowing more rapid prototyping of ideas and higher resear h produ tivity.
By relieving the s ientist of the burdens asso iated with the inessential and of-
ten ar ane details of spe i hardware and software systems, the PSE leaves the
s ientist free to on entrate on the s ien e.
This paper des ribes the general fun tionality and software ar hite ture of
a generi distributed PSE. The use of CORBA, Java, XML, and other soft-
ware te hnologies is dis ussed, but this paper's emphasis is on des ribing the
overall fun tionality of the PSE and on how the di erent sub-systems of the
PSE intera t, rather than on implementation details. Implementation details
an be found in [28℄. Therefore, some issues of importan e in the design of
PSEs are not fully addressed in this paper, although a brief referen e to them
is made in se tion 7.2, with respe t to the urrent PSE infrastru ture. These
in lude se urity and authenti ation, fault toleran e, debugging, quality ontrol
and validation of software omponents.
The two major parts of the PSE are the Visual Component Composition
Environment (VCCE) and the Intelligent Resour e Management Sub-system
(IRMS). These are des ribed in Se tions 2 and 3, respe tively. In Se tion 4
other aspe ts of PSEs are dis ussed, su h as the role of \intelligen e" and mobile
agents. Prototype implementations are des ribed in Se tion 5. Related resear h
into PSEs is presented in Se tion 6. A summary is given in Se tion 7.

2 The Visual Component Composition Environ-


ment

The Visual Component Composition Environment (VCCE) of the PSE is used


primarily to onstru t appli ations from software omponents. In this ontext,
an appli ation is merely seen as a high-level omponent. The VCCE is used
to onstru t omponents in the form of a data ow graph. On e a omplete
appli ation has been onstru ted, it is passed to the Intelligent Resour e Man-
agement System (IRMS) to be s heduled on the distributed omputing systems
available on the network.

2.1 Components and Their Properties


In general, a omponent is a pro edural or fun tional abstra tion de ned by its
input and output interfa es and its semanti s. Components have the following
properties:
1. Components may be Java Beans or CORBA obje ts. They may be se-
quential odes written in Java, Fortran, or C; they may be parallel odes
that make use of message passing libraries su h as MPI; or they may ex-
ploit array-based parallelism through language extensions su h as HPJava
[8℄. Lega y odes, in Fortran for instan e, an be wrapped as omponents.

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2. Components themselves may be hierar hi al (i.e., onstru ted from other
omponents) and be of arbitrary granularity. Thus, a omponent may
perform a simple task, su h as nding the average of a set of input values,
or it may be a omplete appli ation for solving a omplex problem.
3. Ea h omponent is represented by a well-de ned model spe i ed in XML,
as des ribed in Se tion 2.5.
4. A omponent may have individual, group, or world a ess permissions to
spe ify who may use it.
5. Information is passed from one omponent to another via uni-dire tional
typed hannels. A hannel onne ts an outport of one omponent to an in-
port of another omponent. A omponent may have zero or more inports.
The set of data obje ts referen ed by the hannels onne ted to a ompo-
nent's inport(s) together de ne its input interfa e. Similarly, a omponent
may have zero or more outports, and the set of data obje ts referen ed
by the hannels onne ted to a omponent's outport(s) together de ne its
output interfa e.
6. A set of onstraints may be asso iated with ea h omponent, indi ating
on what platforms it is li ensed to run, and whether it requires generi
software, su h as MPI or the BLAS, to be bound in later in order to run.
7. A performan e model is optionally asso iated with ea h omponent. Ide-
ally, this gives the runtime of the omponent as a fun tion of its input,
ma hine, ommuni ation, and network parameters. If no performan e
model is available, an upped bound on performan e an be approximated
based on riteria su h as the number of inputs/outputs, the implementa-
tion language, the exe ution platform et . Subsequent exe utions of the
omponent an be logged into a database, and used to provide a perfor-
man e model.
8. Information on a omponent's purpose, the algorithms it uses, and other
pertinent explanatory data is optionally asso iated with a omponent.
There are several ways in whi h a pie e of exe utable ode may be ome
asso iated with a omponent. The binding of an exe utable with a omponent
generally takes pla e after the VCCE has been used to onstru t the appli ation.
Thus, a omponent may be available only as an exe utable spe i to a ertain
type of hardware, and in this ase the binding pro ess is trivial. Alternatively,
the omponent may be available as sour e ode, in whi h ase the PSE must
arrange for it to be ompiled for a target ar hite ture. Finally, if neither the
sour e nor the exe utable ode is available, the Software Information Servi e is
used within the IRMS to lo ate an implementation of the omponent. This latter
ase is useful when using ommonly available software, su h as the BLAS, whi h
may be available from a ompute server. For example, if it was ne essary to
perform a matrix-matrix multipli ation, it might be better to allow the PSE to

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nd the BLAS routine to do this on some platform, rather than the omposer
of the appli ation making the de ision within the VCCE. To be exe uted, a
omponent must be resolved to a given server implementation. Hen e, although
a omponent in the VCCE represents a pla e holder for exe utable ode, it must
be linked to a server whi h an implement the fun tionality, and this he k is
also made by the VCCE prior to invoking the resour e management system.
This topi is dis ussed further in Se tion 3.
There are four ommon types of omponent. The main task of ompute
omponents is to do omputational work, su h as performing a matrix multipli-
ation or a fast Fourier transform. Template omponents require one or more
omponents to be inserted into them in order to be ome fully fun tional. Tem-
plate omponents an be used to embody ommonly-used algorithmi design
patterns. This allows a developer to experiment with di erent numeri al meth-
ods or model physi s. Thus, in a partial di erential equation solver, a template
might require a pre- onditioner to be inserted. Template omponents an also
be used to introdu e ontrol onstru ts su h as loops and onditionals into a
higher-level omponent. For example, in a simple for loop, the initial and nal
values of the loop ontrol variable, and its in rement, must be spe i ed, together
with a omponent that represents the body of the loop. For an if-then-else
onstru t, a Boolean expression and a omponent for ea h bran h of the on-
ditional must be given. A template omponent an be viewed as a ompute
omponent in whi h one or more of the inputs is a omponent. Data manage-
ment omponents are used to read and onvert between the di erent types of
data format that are held in les and internet data repositories. The intention
of this type of omponent is to be able to (1) sample data from various ar hives,
espe ially if there is a large quantity of data to be handled; (2) onvert between
di erent data formats;(3) support spe ialized transports between omponents if
large quantities of data need to be migrated a ross a network; and (4) undertake
data normalization, and perhaps also generate SQL or similar queries to read
data from stru tured databases. The fourth type of ommon omponent is the
user interfa e omponent, whi h allows a user to ontrol an appli ation through
a graphi al user interfa e and plays a key role in omputational steering.

2.2 Features of the VCCE


The entral feature of the VCCE is a visual tool known as the Component
Composition Tool (CCT) that enables a user to build and edit appli ations by
plugging together omponents, by inserting omponents into pre-de ned tem-
plates, or by repla ing omponents in higher-level hierar hi al omponents. A
higher-level omponent may be onstru ted from multiple existing omponents
by onne ting an outport of one omponent to the inport of another ompo-
nent. The CCT allows an outport to be onne ted to an inport only if the two
ports are ompatible in the number and type of data obje ts asso iated with
ea h port. The manipulation of omponents takes pla e on a s rat h pad (or
anvas), with existing omponents being dragged onto the s rat h pad from a
web-a essible Component Repository (CR), where they are then linked. On e

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a new hierar hi al omponent has been built in this way, it may then be added
to an appropriate CR for future use and for sharing with other appli ation
developers.
The basi fun tionality of the VCCE is similar to that of other modular visu-
alization environments su h as AVS [24℄, IBM Data Explorer [1℄, IRIS Explorer
[14℄, and Khoros [38℄. A re ent arti le by Wright et al. [37℄ has reviewed these
types of modular visualization environments. The VCCE di ers from these en-
vironments through its use of an XML-based omponent model, and an event
model that is able to support he kpointing and ontrol onstru ts su h as loops
and onditionals. In addition, the VCCE in orporates a number of sophisti ated
support tools whi h are des ribed below in this sub-se tion.
The VCCE in ludes a tool for building inports and outports from a ompo-
nent's input and output interfa es. Although a omponent's interfa es annot
be hanged, inports and outports an be onstru ted out of the data obje ts
omprising the input and output interfa es, respe tively. Ea h omponent has
a set of default inports and outports de ned by the author of the omponent.
For example, suppose the input to a omponent onsists of two oating point
numbers, a and b, and an integer, j . These ould be on gured into a single
inport (a; b; j ), or as two inports ((a; b) and (j ), or (a) and (b; j ), or (b) and
(a; j )), or as three inports (a), (b), and (j ). It is also permitted to have a data
obje t asso iated with two or more inports. Thus, in the previous example,
the inports ould be on gured as (a; b) and (b; j ). In general, this results in a
non-deterministi program with a ra e ondition on b.
The VCCE also in ludes a text editor for reating a new omponent from
s rat h in some programming language. The Wrapper Tool an then be used to
onvert the new ode into a CORBA- ompliant omponent that an be pla ed
in an CR, if required. The Wrapper Tool an also be used to onvert lega y
odes into omponents [22℄. A omplete lega y appli ation may be wrapped as
a single omponent, or it may be divided and wrapped as a series of smaller
omponents, provided the internal stru ture of the appli ation is known.
The Annotation Tool allows a developer of a omponent to annotate it with
information that may be of use to other users and parts of the PSE. This
information might in lude an explanation of what the omponent does and of
its input and output interfa es, together with a URL giving the web address
of more detailed information. Other annotations in lude onstraints on the
omponent's use and information about its performan e.
The Component Analysis Tool (CAT) of the VCCE an be used to display
the hierar hi al stru ture of a omponent. A omponent an be expanded to
show the data ow graph of the omponents omprising it. Alternatively, if it is
not omposed of lower-level omponents, the sour e ode is displayed. This may
be annotated to show the signi an e of important variables, data stru tures,
and lines of ode. A URL may be asso iated with ea h omponent giving the
web address of do umentation about the omponent explaining, for example, its
purpose, the algorithms used, the meaning of the input and output arguments,
et . This do umentation may also in lude links to sour es of information related
to the omponent external of the PSE.

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The Expert Assistant (EA) helps users to lo ate and use omponents based
on a de ision tree and/or rule-based approa hes. The EA is also responsible for
mat hing user requirements to omponent types, based on omponent interfa es
spe i ed in XML (as dis ussed in Se tion 2.5). Therefore, the EA an be used
to sear h omponent repositories that are registered for a parti ular PSE. The
EA is a ore part of the user interfa e. It en odes rules that are domain spe i ,
and an help a novi e user evaluate the omponents that may be most useful
for his or her parti ular problem. These domain spe i rules an either be
asso iated with a omponent for use within the EA, or they may be developed
in-house by an organization using the PSE.
The Input Wizard he ks that the input provided to an appli ation does not
violate any algorithmi onstraints, and orre tly represents the system being
modelled.
Figure 1 shows the software ar hite ture of the VCCE part of a PSE.

Expert
Third party Assistant
Input
software Wizard

Wrapper Component Component To IRMS


TEXT Editor Composition
Tool Repository
Tool Task
graph

Legacy code Annotation Component


Tool Analysis
Tool

Figure 1: The software ar hite ture of the VCCE

2.3 Computational Steering


In a ommon type of omputational steering, a user intera ts with a running ap-
pli ation by hanging the input to one or more omponents. Typi ally, the user
would assess the urrent status of some data within an appli ation by viewing it
through a visualization interfa e, and then in uen e this visual representation
by hanging some omponent input value(s). The impa t of this hange would
then be evident in the visualization, and perhaps lead the user to make further
hanges. An example would be the visualization of a ow, in whi h the user
seeks to a hieve some design goal by moving a boundary. Parker et al. [27℄ have
dis ussed approa hes to omputational steering in the ontext of the SCIRun
PSE and also review a number of other visual steering systems.
Computational steering an be provided for within the VCCE by inserting
a loop that ontains a user interfa e omponent into the task graph. This
omponent re eives data from one or more omponents, presents the data to the
user, and relays any hanges the user may make to the appropriate omponents.

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Computational steering is often used in situations in whi h data are presented
to the user from within a loop, for example, a time-stepping loop. Another use
o urs when the user wishes to pause the appli ation at some point in order to
set a value based on the appli ation results at that point.
These two types of omputational steering an be provided for by having
ea h omponent identi ed (through the omponent model des ribed in Se tion
2.5) as either steerable or non-steerable. Steerable omponents may, or may not,
be initiated upon entry in the paused state. If a steerable omponent is in the
paused state, then input from a user interfa e omponent is required to make
it ontinue. The user interfa e omponent steering the appli ation an be used
to swit h a steerable omponent between the paused and non-paused states.
Figure 2 shows a portion of a task graph that is used for omputational
steering. The steerable omponent requires two inputs, a and b. Input a may
ome from either the user interfa e omponent doing the steering or from some
pre eding omponent in the task graph. A steerable omponent will always
a ept input preferentially from the user interfa e omponent, if any is available;
otherwise, it will a ept input from the pre eding omponent. The output from
the steerable omponent loops ba k into the user interfa e omponent, as well
as being passed on to another omponent for onsumption.

a a b
User interface
component Steerable component

c c d

Figure 2: A portion of a task graph used for omputational steering.

2.4 Collaborative Use of PSEs


The ability to use a PSE ollaboratively is important for appli ations in resear h
and edu ation. The VCCE provides a ollaborative software development en-
vironment sin e omponents reated and pla ed in the Component Repository
by one user an be used by other users. Another ollaborative aspe t of a PSE
is that it provides multiple users with onsistent representations of data from

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simulations and/or databases, often through a visualization interfa e. Within
the VCCE, a PSE an be used ollaboratively by \ loning" user interfa e om-
ponents. This permits ea h user to view, or intera t with, the data through
their own lone of the master user interfa e omponent. Thus, all user interfa e
omponents are lonable or non- lonable, and the lones may, or may not, in-
herit from the master the ability to steer a omponent in the task graph. The
loning fa ility is mediated through a web page asso iated with the master user
interfa e. In a typi al ollaborative appli ation, the master user would initiate
an appli ation in the paused state (see Se tion 2.3) and then wait for other users
to a ess the web page through whi h they generate their user interfa e lones.
Users may join the ollaborative appli ation at any time that the master user
interfa e is a tive.

2.5 The Component Model


XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is a subset of the do ument formatting
language SGML (Standard General Markup Language), aimed at developing
do uments for the Web, and devised by the W3C. One obje tive of XML is to
enable stored data intended for human use to also be manipulated by a ma hine,
su h as a sear h engine. XML de nes standard tags used to express the stru -
ture of a do ument, in terms of a Do ument Type De nition (DTD). Hen e,
a DTD must be de ned for every do ument that uses tags within a parti ular
ontext, and the validity of a do ument is on rmed with referen e to a parti -
ular DTD. Various DTDs have been de ned for parti ular appli ation domains,
su h as the BioInformati Sequen e Markup Language (BSML), Weather Ob-
servation Markup Format (OMF), the Extensible Log Format (XLF) for logging
information generated by Web servers, amongst others. The approa h losest
to the work des ribed here is Open Software Des ription (OSD) from Mi rosoft
and Marimba Te hnologies for de ning omponent models that an fa ilitate
the automati updating of omponents. Using OSD, \push-based" appli ations
an automati ally trigger the download of parti ular software omponents as
new versions are developed. Hen e, a omponent within a data ow may be
automati ally downloaded and installed when a new or enhan ed version of the
omponent is reated. XML does not de ne the semanti s asso iated with a
given tag, only the positioning of a tag with respe t to other tags. However, one
must asso iate and de ne semanti a tions when parsing an XML do ument
that ause parti ular a tions to take pla e when parti ular tags are en oun-
tered. These a tions an range from displaying the ontent of a do ument in a
parti ular way, to running programs that are triggered as a result of rea hing a
parti ular tag.
Ea h omponent in the PSE ar hite ture presented in this paper is rep-
resented by a well-de ned omponent model spe i ed in XML. XML is used
be ause of its wide usage in omponent-based software development and sup-
port for it in browsers, su h as Internet Explorer and Nets ape. All omponents
with interfa es in XML an be automati ally atalogued as web pages and an
be queried by a number of ommer ially available sear h engines. The query

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me hanism is parti ularly useful when PSEs share omponents or when the user
wishes to evaluate other omponents that may be used as alternatives. XML
has also be ome a useful integration me hanism with Java Beans, and numerous
ommer ial tools are readily available to support this integration. These reasons
suggest that XML is the most appropriate way of reating omponent interfa es
within a PSE. The use of XML also enables the generation of ontext-sensitive
help and leads to the development of self- ataloguing omponents.
XML tags are used to de ne a standard omponent model within the PSE
that will be deployed within all subsystems. Components are stored in the
Component Repository using this format, and any binary data asso iated with a
omponent must also be tagged appropriately. The XML interfa e to a CORBA
obje t or a Java Bean, for instan e, does not make a distin tion between an em-
bedded omponent obje t or an obje t that is native to CORBA-IDL or Java-
IDL. Therefore, a wrapped omponent an be a Java Bean, a COM obje t, C
or C++ library alls, wrapped Fortran ode alled from C, alls to DLLs or
shared-obje ts, and other run-time linking methods. In ea h ase, the XML in-
terfa e is used to de ne interfa e information, for a essing parti ular attributes
and methods, for registering listeners, and for handling ex eptions and events.
Further, spe ialized support for expressing onstraints on the run-time environ-
ment is also provided, along with me hanisms to express hierar hy and dire tory
stru tures if omponents are stored within a stru tured le system.
Our XML based omponent model ontains the following tags:
1. Context and header tags. These are used to identify a omponent and the
types of PSEs that a omponent may be usefully employed in. The om-
ponent name must be unique, with an alternative alphanumeri identi er;
however, any number of PSEs may be spe i ed. These details are grouped
under the prefa e tag, hen e:

<!ELEMENT prefa e (name pse-type+)>


<!ELEMENT name (name-list+)>
<!ATTLIST name alt %PCDATA
id %PCDATA>
<!ELEMENT pse-type %PCDATA>
...

The hierar hy tag is used to identify parent and omponents, and works
in a similar way to the Java pa kage de nition. A omponent an have
one parent and multiple hildren.
2. Port tags. These are used to identify the number of input and output
ports and their types. An input port an a ept multiple data types and
an be spe i ed in a number of ways by the user. The DTD for the ports
part of the omponent model an be spe i ed as:

<!ELEMENT ports (inportnum outportnum


inporttype+ outporttype+)>

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<!ELEMENT inportnum INTEGER>
<!ELEMENT outputnum INTEGER> ...

Input/output to/from a omponent an also ome from/go to other types


of sour es, su h as les or network streams. In this ase, the inport and
outport ports need to de ne an href tag rather than a spe i data type.
We standardise our href de nition to a ount for various s enarios where
it may be employed, su h as:

<ports>
<inport id=1 type=stream>
<parameter value=regression value=NIL/>
<href name=http://www. s. f.a .uk/PSE/ value=test.txt>
</inport>
</ports>

When reading data from a le, the href tag is hanged to:

<ports>
<inport id=1 type=stream>
<parameter value=regression value=NIL/>
<href name=file:/home/pse/test.txt value=NIL>
</inport>
</ports>

This gives a user mu h more exibility in de ning data sour es and using
omponents in a distributed environment. The general type:

<parameter type=X value=Y>

or

<parameter sour e=X target=Y>

are appli able within any tag, and are used to spe ify (name,value) pairs
that o ur frequently in interfa e de nitions. The user may also de ne
more omplex input types, su h as a matrix, stream, or an array in a
similar way.
3. Steerability tabs. A omponent an be tagged to indi ate that it an be
steered via the user interfa e. In order to a hieve this, the input/output
to/from a omponent must be obtainable from a user interfa e. Hen e,
with a steerable omponent, the inports and outports of a omponent
must have a spe ialized tag to identify this. Hen e, for a onventional
omponent without steerability, the ports de nition is:

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<ports>
<inport id=1 type=stream>
<parameter type=velo ity value=10.2 />
</inport>
</ports>

For a steerable omponent, the following de nition would be used:

<ports>
<steerable>
<inport id=1 type=stream
<parameter type=velo ity value=10.2 />
</inport>
</steerable>
</ports>

This will automati ally produ e an additional input port over whi h in-
tera tive inputs an be sent to the omponent, with the input being of the
same type as in the non-steerable version of the omponent.
4. Exe ution tags. A omponent may have exe ution-spe i details asso i-
ated with it, su h as whether it ontains MPI ode, if it ontains internal
parallelism, et . If only a binary version of a omponent is available, then
this must also be spe i ed by the user. Su h omponent-spe i details
may be en losed in any number of type tags.
The exe ution tag is divided into a software part and a platform part.
The former is used to identify the internal properties of the omponent,
while the latter is used to identify a suitable exe ution platform or a
performan e model.
5. Help tags. A user an spe ify an external le ontaining help for a parti u-
lar omponent. The help tag ontains a ontext option that enables the
asso iation of a parti ular le with a parti ular option to enable display
of a pre-spe i ed help le at parti ular points in appli ation onstru tion.
The ontexts are prede ned, and all omponent interfa es must use these.
Alternatively, the user may leave the ontext eld empty, suggesting that
the same le is used every time help is requested for a parti ular ompo-
nent. If no help le is spe i ed, the XML de nition of the omponent is
used to display omponent properties to a user. Help les an be kept
lo ally, or they an be remote referen es spe i ed by a URL. One or more
help les may be invoked within a parti ular ontext, some of whi h may
be lo al.
6. Con guration tags. As with the help tag, a user an spe ify a onfiguration
tag, whi h enables a omponent to load prede ned values from a le, from
a network address, or using parameter,value. This enables a omponent

11
to be pre- on gured within a given ontext (e.g., to perform a given a tion
when a omponent is reated or destroyed). The onfiguration tag is
parti ularly useful when the same omponent needs to be used in di erent
appli ations, enabling a user to share parts of a hierar hy, while de ning
lo al variations within a given ontext.
7. Performan e model. Ea h omponent has an asso iated performan e model,
whi h an be spe i ed in a le using a similar approa h to omponent
on guration de ned above. A performan e model is en losed in the
performan e tag and may range from being a numeri al ost of running
the omponent on a given ar hite ture, to being a parameterized model
that an a ount for the range and types of data it deals with, to more
omplex models that are spe i ed analyti ally.
8. Event model. Ea h omponent supports an event listener. Hen e, if a
sour e omponent an generate an event of type XEvent, then any listener
(target) must implement an Xlistener interfa e. Listeners an either be
separate omponents that perform a well de ned a tion, su h as handling
ex eptions, or an be more general and support methods that are invoked
when the given event o urs. We use an event tag to bind an event to a
method identi er on a parti ular omponent:

<event target="ComponA" type="output"


name="overflow" filter="filter">
< omponent id=XX> ... </ omponent>
</event>

The target identi es the omponent to be initiated when an event of


a given type o urs on omponent with identity id, as de ned in the
prefa e tag of a omponent. The name tag is used to distinguish di erent
events of the same type, and the filter tag is a pla e-holder for JDK1.2
property hange and vetoable property hange events support. Also, the
lter attribute is used to indi ate a spe i method in the listener interfa e.
This method must be used to re eive the event for a parti ular method to
be invoked.
Event handling may either be performed internally within a omponent,
where an event listener needs to be implemented for ea h omponent that
is pla ed in the PSE. This is a useful addition to a omponent model for
handling ex eptions and makes ea h omponent self- ontained. Alterna-
tively, for lega y odes wrapped as omponents, separate event listeners
may be implemented as omponents and may be shared between ompo-
nents within the same PSE. Components that ontain internal stru ture,
and support hierar hy, must be able to register their events at the highest
level in the hierar hy, if separate event listeners are to be implemented. A
simple example of an event listener is as follows:

12
<prefa e>
<name alt=DA id=DA02>Data Extra tor</name>
<pse-type>Generi </pse-type>
<hierar hy id=parent>Tools.Data.Data_Extra tor</hierar hy>
<hierar hy id= hild></hierar hy>
</prefa e>

<event type="initialise" name="start" filter="">


<s ript>
< all-method target="DA01" name="bayesian">
</s ript>
</event>

The s ript tags are used to spe ify what method to invoke in another
omponent, when the given event o urs.
9. Additional tags. These tags are not part of the omponent model and an
be spe i ed by the user in a blo k at the end of ea h se tion by using:

<add> ... </add>

Variable tags will not be supported in the rst version.


All appli ations onstru ted using a PSE based on the ar hite ture dis ussed
in this paper must adhere to this omponent model. A user may spe ify the
omponent model using tags or have it en oded using a Component Model
editor. The editor works in a similar manner to an HTML editor, where a user
is presented with a menu based hoi e of available tags. Alternatively, a user
of the omponent editor may de ne their own tags. Tags do not appear in
the editor and are automati ally inserted into the des ription on e the user has
entered the required text and wants to generate a omponent interfa e.
The Component Model in XML forms the interfa e between the VCCE and
other parts of the PSE, as illustrated in Fig. 3. Therefore, the XML represen-
tation is pervasive throughout the PSE and links the VCCE to the Intelligent
Resour e Management System (IRMS) des ribed in Se tion 3. Various repre-
sentations an be obtained from the XML des ription in S heme, Python, Perl,
CORBA-IDL, or others, for onne tion to other systems that may be atta hed
to the PSE. Similarly, XML is used to store omponents in the repository, and
various query approa hes may be employed within the VCCE to obtain ompo-
nents with given hara teristi s or omponents at a parti ular hierar hy.
The use of tags enables omponent de nitions to be ex hanged as web do u-
ments, with the stru ture available at either a single site or at parti ular erti ed
sites. Hen e, hanges to the DTD an be made without requiring hanges to
omponent de nitions held by appli ation developers, and will be propagated
the next time a omponent interfa e is used.
Component inter onne tivity is also spe i ed in XML, in the form of a di-
re ted graph. Component dependen ies are en losed in dependen y tags and

13
XML
VCCE

Component
Repository
XML
Representation
Python
Scheme Output
Output
To
Resource CORBA-IDL
Web Pages Manager Output

Figure 3: The XML-based omponent model.

in lude onstru ts, su h as parent-of, hild-of and sibling-of, enabling dis-


tant relationships to be onstru ted from re ursive appli ations of these three
basi types. Su h dependen ies an also be embedded within a JAR le, for
instan e, where multiple omponents may be stored in a single le for transfer
over a network. The use of the omponent model also requires that ea h om-
ponent has a unique identi er a ross the PSE workspa e and is registered with
a omponent repository. This is parti ularly signi ant when handling events,
as event types will need to be based on omponent identities and their parti -
ular position in the data ow. The omponent models mentioned here have
been in uen ed by IBM's BeanML [35℄ and Mi rosoft's OSD [26℄ XML based
frameworks.

3 The Intelligent Resour e Management System

On e a omplete appli ation has been spe i ed using the VCCE the resulting
task graph, annotated with information about the omponents' performan e
and onstraints on exe ution, is passed to the Intelligent Resour e Management
System (IRMS) to be s heduled for exe ution. The stru ture of the IRMS is
shown in Fig. 4 and will now be des ribed.

3.1 The S heduler


The S heduler is the most important part of the IRMS. It must analyze the task
graph to determine an appropriate level of granularity, to resolve omponents
(i.e., reate or lo ate an exe utable orresponding to ea h omponent), and to
asso iate ea h omponent with a hardware resour e or with a lo al resour e
manager. After this, the task graph is said to be exe utable, and it is then

14
Task graph Compile
from VCCE and Install
Constraints Service
Perf. model

Scheduler Computational
Choose granularity of task graph Software infrastructure
Resolve components Information Computers
Schedule components on hardware Service Libraries
Networks

Executable
task graph
Performance Hardware
History Information
Database Service
Execution Controller
Dispatch components to hardware
Perform checkpointing
Handle I/O
Monitor performance

Executable
components

Local Resource
Manager Interfaces Hardware
CODINE resources
LSF
etc.

Figure 4: The IRMS ar hite ture.

15
passed to the Exe ution Controller.
The S heduler must devise a s hedule a ording to ertain goals embodied in
a s heduling poli y and in a ordan e with a set of onstraints. It makes use of
a number of information resour es to devise an exe utable s hedule. S heduling
involves the oupled a tivities of determining an appropriate level of granularity
for s heduling the task graph obtained from the VCCE and de iding on whi h
resour es to run the omponents of the task graph.
Currently, a fairly simple S heduler is envisioned that takes a top down
approa h, starting at the highest level of granularity. The task graph re eived
from the VCCE is initially regarded as having a single node that represents
the whole appli ation. This node is then expanded (i.e., repla ed by its sub-
omponents), and an improved s hedule is sought. If no su h s hedule an be
found then the initial task graph and its asso iated s hedule is a epted, and
output to the Exe ution Controller. Otherwise, we expand again and repeat
until we either generate a task graph that is worse then the previous one, or
until we annot expand any more. The metri used to de ide if one task graph
is better than its prede essor is important, and di erent metri s orrespond to
di erent s heduling poli ies. For example, the metri that always views TG(i) as
better than TG(i+1) (provided the former obeys all the onstraints) orresponds
to a poli y that attempts to always s hedule at the highest granularity possible,
regardless of ost or performan e. The metri that regards TG(i) as better than
TG(i+1) if it has a smaller expe ted time to ompletion will result in a s hedule
that attempts to minimize exe ution time. The expe ted time to ompletion is
derived from the performan e model asso iated with a omponent.
In the simple s heme des ribed above, \expansion" means expanding ea h
node of the urrent task graph, but they ould be expanded one at a time
(starting with the most resour e hungry) to see whi h is best. The s heduling
s heme is represented in Fig. 5.

3.2 Constraints
A omponent is said to be ompatible with a pie e of hardware if all its sub-
omponents an be exe uted on that hardware. Clearly, the S heduler must
always expand omponents that are not ompatible.
The S heduler an run a omponent on a parti ular pie e of hardware only if
it an lo ate or reate an exe utable for that omponent/hardware ombination.
If no exe utable is expli itly asso iated with a omponent, and if the lo ation of
the sour e ode is known, then the S heduler will use the Compile and Install
Servi e to reate an exe utable for the hardware platform of interest.
Resour es are owned and operated by di erent individuals or organizations
and exist in di erent administrative domains. Therefore, resour e usage may
have di erent se urity restri tions or be subje t to parti ular poli y onstraints,
restri ting the s heduling of omputational tasks to these devi es (or groups of
devi es). Li ensing onstraints are a pertinent example of these restri tions,
whereby mathemati al or s ienti software is restri ted to a single ma hine or
parti ular groups of ma hines.

16
START

i=1

Schedule TG(i)
i=i+1
Yes

Is
Can Yes Refine Schedule TG(i+1)
TG(i) be granularity TG(i+1) better than
refined to give TG(i+1) TG(i)

No No

Accept TG(i)

STOP

Figure 5: S heduling a task graph. The input task graph TG(1) is the omplete
appli ation re eived from the VCCE.

3.3 Information Resour es


If neither an exe utable nor the sour e ode is available for a omponent, then
the Software Information Servi e is used to attempt to nd a suitable exe utable
for the omponent.
The Hardware Information Servi e (HIS) provides the S heduler with in-
formation about the hardware resour es available and the network onne ting
them. At any given time, the HIS attempts to maintain an a urate pi ture
of the apabilities, load, and a essibility of the resour es within its lo al do-
main. Required information an in lude on guration details about resour es
su h as CPU speed, disk and memory spa e, number of nodes in a parallel om-
puter, or the number and type of network interfa es available; instantaneous
performan e information, su h as point-to-point network laten y, available net-
work bandwidth, and CPU load; and appli ation-spe i information, su h as
memory requirements.
Performan e information about omponents from previous runs is stored in
the Performan e History Database (PHD). This information an then be used
by the S heduler in onjun tion with, or in pla e of, the omponent performan e
models to make s heduling de isions. On e a suÆ iently large PHD has been
built up, intelligent methods based on geneti and neural network algorithms
(for example) an be used to estimate performan e. This is an area for further
resear h, and will be investigated in more detail in the future.

17
3.4 The Exe ution Controller
Components an be run on hardware under the dire t ontrol of the Exe ution
Controller, or they may be passed to lo al resour e managers that will handle
their exe ution. The simplest ase is where the entire appli ation is handled
by a single lo al resour e manager, su h as CODINE [10℄ or GRAM [17℄. Co-
ordinating appli ations whose sub- omponents are handled by multiple lo al
resour e managers, and also dire tly by the Exe ution Controller, may present
signi ant diÆ ulties.

4 Other Aspe ts of PSEs

4.1 Ele troni Notebooks and Living Do uments


Ele troni notebooks are useful add-ons to PSEs. They provide a me hanism
whereby the omputational experiments ondu ted using a PSE an be re orded
and annotated, thereby onstituting a re ord of what has been done. Ele troni
notebooks are intended to be the digital equivalent of the lab books kept by
experimental s ientists. An advantage of an ele troni notebook is that it allows
experiments to be replayed, and serves as a safeguard against error and fraud.
An ele troni notebook an also be used to demonstrate adheren e to prin iples
of best pra ti e.
A living do ument is the digital equivalent of a paper, thesis, or book,
whereby the omputational experiments ondu ted in a pie e of resear h an
be re-run, or run again with di erent input parameters. For example, suppose
a gure in a living do ument was produ ed using a ertain set of parameters.
A reader of the do ument might want to nd out what the gure would look
like for di erent input parameters. Living do uments represent the next phase
in the ele troni publi ation of resear h results, and it is expe ted that ea h
PSE will have a set of living do uments asso iated with it whose omputational
results were produ ed using the PSE.
Clearly, the on epts of a ele troni notebook and a living do ument are
quite similar, and the two ould be merged, though it may be better to keep
them distin t as they orrespond to di erent phases of the s ienti pro ess.

4.2 Intelligen e in PSEs


There are several ways in whi h a PSE an take advantage of \intelligen e." The
rst is in the lo ation and use of the omponents needed to solve a parti ular
problem. This an range from a simple sear h interfa e to expert assistan e
in the form of a de ision tree or rule-based system that guides the user in
the sele tion of omponents. A se ond example of an intelligent method is
the use of an input wizard that he ks the onsisten y of the input data to
an appli ation, and looks for values out of expe ted a eptable ranges. This
an be of parti ular importan e when the input data is large and has omplex
interrelations. The third way in whi h intelligen e an be used is in s heduling

18
by the Intelligent Resour e Management System (see Se tion 3). A database of
previous performan e history is built up to store the performan e of omponents
for di erent hardware platforms and inputs. This may then be used to help
s hedule omponents using geneti algorithms and neural networks.

4.3 Generi and Spe i Aspe ts of PSEs


A lear distin tion an be made between those parts of a PSE that are generi ,
and hen e an be used in onstru ting PSEs in other appli ation domains, and
those that are spe i to just one appli ation domain. The following parts of a
PSE are spe i :
 The omponents in the Component Repository (mostly spe i , although
some may have broad appli ability).
 Expert assistan e (spe i to an appli ation domain).
 Input wizards.
 The performan e history database.
Apart from these appli ation-spe i aspe ts of a PSE, most of the rest of
the PSE infrastru ture is generi and an be used a ross multiple appli ation
domains.

4.4 The Role of Mobile Agents in PSEs


Mobile agents an be used in PSEs in the areas of resour e dis overy, resour e
monitoring, and software propagation. When applied to resour e dis overy,
they an be used to support the Software and Hardware Information Servi es
to maintain an up-to-date pi ture of the resour es available to the PSE and to
seek out new resour es. Thus, for example, mobile agents an be dispat hed by
the Hardware Information Servi e (HIS) to nd omputational resour es whose
a ess and usage poli ies permit them to be used by a PSE. Similarly, mobile
agents dispat hed by the Software Information Servi e an seek out generi
omponents, su h as the BLAS, and knowledge repositories on remote ma hines
so they an be used subsequently in appli ations. Resour e dis overy using
mobile agents an be performed ontinuously, and pro eeds independently of
the users of the PSE.
The omputing and network resour es used by a PSE must be monitored
so that the IRMS an eÆ iently s hedule appli ations. This ould be done
stati ally by having ea h resour e send performan e information (su h as ma-
hine load or the bandwidth of a network link) to the HIS periodi ally or upon
demand. Alternatively, this information ould be gathered by mobile agents,
thereby avoiding the need to keep a stati agent or daemon ontinuously running
on ea h remote resour e.
The Compilation and Installation Servi e an use mobile agents to propagate
software. If the sour e ode is available for a omponent in the CR, then an

19
agent an take this and attempt to ompile and install the omponent on the
ma hines known to the PSE through the HIS. The resulting exe utable an then
be used in appli ations built within the VCCE. Again, this a tivity an take
pla e ontinuously, independent of the users of the PSE.

4.5 Wrapping Lega y Codes as CORBA Obje ts


Lega y odes are existing odes that often possess the following features: 1)
they are domain-spe i ; 2) they are not reusable; 3) they are still useful; and
4) they are large, omplex monoliths. Wrapping lega y odes as CORBA obje ts
is a method of en apsulation that provides lients with well-known interfa es for
a essing these obje ts. The prin ipal advantage is that behind the interfa e, the
lient need not know the exa t implementation. Wrapping an be a omplished
at multiple levels: around data, individual modules, subsystems, or the entire
system. After being wrapped as CORBA obje ts, these lega y odes an be
reused as omponents in a heterogeneous distributed omputing environment.

5 Prototype Implementations

5.1 A Prototype Expert Assistant


A prototype Expert Assistant (EA) has been implemented using the Java Expert
System Shell (JESS) whi h gives the ability to \plug-in" domain spe i rules
into the EA. To enable su h a system to work, the prototype EA provides
support for rule onsisten y he king (i.e., what happens if a new rule is added
and how does it interfere with rules whi h already exist) and rule upgrade over
a period of time (i.e., if rules are no longer required, and do not get re alled
during PSE use, these rules an automati ally \expire", so that the size of the
rule base is manageable).

5.2 A Simple Mathemati al Equation Builder


A small prototype with a spe i set of fun tions has been built to demonstrate
some of problems and possible solutions in the design and implementation of a
VCCE. The prototype has just two omponents in the omponent repository: a
display omponent and an operator omponent. Using these omponents it is
possible to build simple arithmeti equations of arbitrary length.
An instan e of the display omponent has just one fun tion (i.e., to display
a value) and the omponent an be either a sour e or a destination omponent
within an equation. An instan e of the operator omponent takes two input
values, performs one of the four simple arithmeti operations on the inputs and
al ulates an output value.
The prototype illustrates three initial problems that arise in attempting to
provide a dynami environment in whi h the s ientist an work. The rst is
to provide a me hanism by whi h the environment an dis over the properties,
methods, inports and outports that a omponent provides at design time. The

20
se ond is to provide a me hanism that an be used to dynami ally reate links
between omponents. The third is to provide dynami method invo ation on
parti ular omponents within the environment.
The solutions to date, using the Java programming language, provide the
ability for the system to dis over a omponent's properties at design time and
display them via a simple \Obje t Inspe tor." Thus, for a display omponent
the value that is set for the omponent is shown as an editable string, and
for an operator omponent the two input values are shown as editable strings,
and the operator as a sele tion from a \drop-down list." The system an also
dynami ally reate links between two omponents and use these links to all
\set methods" to update the properties of a given omponent instan e.

5.3 The Implementation of MDS-PSE


A lega y mole ular dynami s simulation, written in C, has been wrapped as
a distributed appli ation using CORBA. The simulation ode is parallel and
uses MPI for interpro ess ommuni ation. The wrapped verison of the ode has
been used as the basis for a prototype PSE for mole ular dynami s simulations
(MDS-PSE). When a user submits input data using MDS-PSE simulation results
are returned to them. The user does not need to download the MDS-PSE
appli ation, and does not need to know where the simulation appli ation runs
or what programming language is used in the lega y ode.

5.3.1 The MDS-PSE Ar hite ture

Figure 6 illustrates the ar hite ture of the MDS-PSE. Java IDL is used as the
fundamental infrastru ture for de ning omponent interfa es in MDS-PSE. Java
IDL is a CORBA ompliant IDL shipped with JDK1.2. The Wrapper onverts
the lega y ode in the server node to a CORBA obje t. It is responsible for
ommuni ation with the lega y ode through a shared le and provides servi es
to the lient. Sin e the operations performed in MDS-PSE are known at ompile
time, the lient invokes the Wrapper through an IDL stub on the lient side and
an IDL skeleton on the server side. Using CORBA, the lient an submit input
simulation data and wait for simulation results without knowing the lo ation of
the wrapper and the exa t implementation of the simulation.

5.3.2 The Implementation of MDS-PSE

The operations provided by the lient and the wrapper in MDS-PSE are de ned
by the IDL de nitions in Code Segment 1. The IDL interfa e hides the Client
from the implementation of the wrapper and the programming language used
to implement the appli ation.
In Code Segment 1, the servi e provided by the Wrapper is startSimulation(),
whi h has two input parameters. One parameter is the referen e to the Client
obje t, whi h will be used to invoke the Client in order to display simulation
results to the user. The other parameter is the input simulation data re eived

21
Client node Server node

Client ORB IDL Shared File Legacy code

IDL compiler Wrapper

IDL stub IDL skeleton

ORB

Figure 6: The MDS-PSE ar hite ture.

from the user. The servi e provided by the Client is displaySimulation()


whi h has six input parameters. The operation is used by the Client to display
simulation results. It is the IDL de nition that hides the exa t implementation
of the simulation from the user.
module Simulation
{
interfa e Client{
void displaySimulation(in unsigned long a,
in float f1,in float f2,
in float f3,in float f4,in float f5);
};
interfa e Wrapper{
void startSimulation(in Client obj, in string SimulationParameters);
};
};

Code Segment 1. Operations de ned through ORB IDL in MDS-PSE.


 Client
The lient provides a simple graphi al user interfa e (GUI) to the user for input.
Using the GUI, a user an input simulation parameters su h as the number of
pro essors to be used in ea h o-ordinate dire tion. After submitting simulation
data, the user an see the simulation results su h as the temperature, pressure,
and energy asso iated with the urrent on guration of parti les.
After the user submits input simulation data to the MDS-PSE, the Client
initializes the Java IDL and obtains the referen e WrapperRef to the Wrapper
through the Java IDL Naming Servi e and requests a servi e provided by the
Wrapper (WrapperRef.startSimulation()), as shown in Code Segment 2.
lass Client{
...
ORB orb = ORB.init(args, null);
org.omg.CORBA.Obje t objRef =orb.resolve_initial_referen es("NameServi e");
NamingContext n Ref = NamingContextHelper.narrow(objRef);
NameComponent n = new NameComponent("Wrapper", "");
NameComponent path[℄ = {n };
Wrapper WrapperRef =WrapperHelper.narrow(n Ref.resolve(path));

22
WrapperRef.startSimulation(ClientRef, simulationParameters);
...
}

Code Segment 2. The Client ode used to request a servi e provided by


the Wrapper obje t.
There are many steps needed to output the simulation results. Ea h time
data are output on the server side, the Wrapper alls ba k to the Client and
invokes the Client to display the simulation results to the user. The Client
onne ts the Client obje t implementation referen e (ClientRef) into the ORB
and waits for requests from the Wrapper. In su h a situation, the Client be omes
an obje t and provides servi es (displaySimulation()) to the Wrapper, as
shown in Code Segment 3.
lass Client{
...
ClientImplementation ClientRef = new ClientImplementation();
orb. onne t(ClientRef);
...
void displaySimulation(unsigned long a,
float f1, float f2,
float f3, float f4, float f5)
{
...
}
}

Code Segment 3. The Client ode used to provide a servi e to the


Wrapper obje t.
 Wrapper
The Wrapper performs two sets of fun tions. First, it initializes the ORB,
identi es itself in the ORB(Wrapper) through the Java IDL naming servi e,
onne ts its implementation (WrapperRef) to the ORB, waits for the Client
request, and then invokes the MDS lega y ode, as shown in Code Segment 4.
The Wrapper uses the Java Native Interfa e (JNI) to ommuni ate with a C
fun tion (NativeC()) to invoke the MDS ode.
lass Wrapper{
ORB orb = ORB.init(args, null);
WrapperImplementation WrapperRef = new WrapperImplementation();
orb. onne t(WrapperRef);
omg.CORBA.Obje t objRef = orb.resolve_initial_referen es("NameServi e");
NamingContext n Ref = NamingContextHelper.narrow(objRef);
NameComponent n = new NameComponent("Wrapper","");
NameComponent path[℄ = {n };
n Ref.rebind(path, invokeServerRef);
java.lang.Obje t syn = new java.lang.Obje t();
syn hronized (syn ) {
syn .wait();
}
...

23
void startSimulation( Client obj, String SimulationParameter)
{
NativeC(String SimulationParameter);
}
...
}

Code Segment 4. The Wrapper ode used to invoke the MDS lega y ode.
Se ond, the Wrapper reads the simulation results from a shared le and
requests the Client
(obj.displaySimulation()) to display the results to the user, as shown in
Code Segment 5.
lass Wrapper{
...
readData();
obj.displaySimulation( a,f1,f2,f3,f4,f5);
...
}

Code Segment 5. The Wrapper ode used to request a servi e from the
Client.

6 Related Work

The urrent on ept of a PSE for omputational s ien e has its origins in an
April 1991 workshop funded by the U.S. National S ien e Foundation (NSF) [15,
16℄. The workshop found that the availability of high performan e omputing
resour es, oupled with advan es in software tools and infrastru ture, made the
reation of PSEs for omputational s ien e a pra ti al goal, and that these PSEs
would greatly improve the produ tivity of s ientists and engineers. This is even
more true today with the advent of web-based te hnologies, su h as CORBA
and Java, for a essing remote omputers and databases.
A se ond NSF-funded workshop on S alable S ienti Software Libraries and
Problem-Solving Environments was held in September 1995 [29℄. This workshop
assessed the status of PSE resear h and made a number of re ommendations for
future development. One parti ular re ommendation was the need to develop
PSE infrastru ture and tools and to evaluate these in omplete s ienti PSEs.
Sin e the 1991 workshop, PSE resear h has been mainly dire ted at im-
plementing prototype PSEs and at developing the software infrastru ture { or
\middleware" { for onstru ting PSEs. Mu h of this work has been presented
in a re ent book by Houstis et al. [18℄. Initially, many of the prototype PSEs
that were developed fo used on linear algebra omputations [9℄ and the solution
of partial di erential equations [20℄. More re ently prototype PSEs have been
developed spe i ally for s ien e and engineering appli ations [11, 12, 21, 32℄.
Tools for building spe i types of PSEs, su h as PDELab [34℄ (a system for
building PSEs for solving PDEs), and PSEWare [6℄ (a toolkit for building PSEs

24
fo used on symboli omputations) have been developed. More generi infras-
tru ture for building PSEs is also under development. This infrastru ture ranges
from fairly simple RPC-based tools for ontrolling remote exe ution [2, 31℄, to
more ambitious and sophisti ated systems, su h as Legion [19℄ and Globus [13℄,
for integrating geographi ally distributed omputing and information resour es.
The Virtual Distributed Computing Environment (VDCE) developed at
Syra use University [33℄ is broadly similar to the PSE software ar hite ture
des ribed in Se tions 2 and 3. However, omponents in the VDCE are not hi-
erar hi al, whi h simpli es the s heduling of omponents. Also, the transfer of
data between omponents in VDCE is not handled using CORBA, but instead
is the responsibility of a Data Manager that uses so kets. The Appli ation-
Level S heduler (AppLeS) [5℄ and the Network Weather Servi e [36℄ developed
at the University of California, San Diego [5℄ are similar to the IRMS and HIS
des ribed in Se tion 3, sin e both make use of appli ation performan e models
and dynami ally gathered resour e information.
Visual programming based on the spe i ation of appli ations and algo-
rithms with dire ted graphs is the basis of the Heterogeneous Network Com-
puting Environment (HeNCE) [4℄ and the Computationally Oriented Display
Environment (CODE) [25℄. Browne et al. have reviewed the use of visual pro-
gramming in parallel omputing and ompared the approa hes of HeNCE and
CODE [7℄. Though a similar approa h is used by the VCCE des ribed in Se tion
2, HeNCE and CODE were designed for use at a ner level of algorithm design;
thus, they require a greater degree of sophisti ation in their design. SCIRun
[27℄ is a PSE for parallel s ienti omputing that also uses dire ted graphs to
visually onstru t appli ations and has been designed to support visual steering
of large-s ale appli ations.

7 Dis ussion and Con lusions

This paper has des ribed the software ar hite ture of a problem-solving envi-
ronment for ollaborative omputational s ien e and engineering. The PSE is
designed to provide transparent a ess to heterogeneous distributed omputing
resour es and is intended to enhan e resear h produ tivity by making it easier
to onstru t, run, and analyze the results of omputer simulations. A PSE may
be used for tasks su h as rapid prototyping, design optimization, and detailed
analysis.

7.1 Summary
Mu h of the PSE infrastru ture des ribed in this paper is generi and an be
used to build PSEs for a range of appli ations. Thus, a PSE for a parti ular
appli ation domain has a tiered stru ture, with the lowest tier onsisting of
the generi PSE infrastru ture. The middle tier ontains the domain-spe i
infrastru ture ( omponents, expert assistan e, input wizards, performan e his-
tory database) that is needed to reate a PSE for an appli ation domain. The

25
upper tier ontains the models (high-level omponents and asso iated input and
output data) that will be used from within the PSE.
Three key aspe ts of a PSE are ollaborative tools, visualization, and intel-
ligen e. It is these features that distinguish a PSE as a powerful environment
for resear h and knowledge dis overy, rather than being merely a sophisti ated
interfa e.
Collaborative working is supported in several ways within a PSE. First,
the VCCE provides a ollaborative software development environment through
the on ept of a web-a essible Component Repository. Se ond, ollaborative
data analysis and exploration is supported through the loning of user interfa e
omponents. Third, ele troni notebooks and living do uments are a me hanism
for sharing the results of previous simulations, and provide a resear h re ord.
Visualization is be oming in reasingly important in omputational s ien e
and engineering, both as a me hanism for runtime monitoring and steering of
appli ations, and for post-mortem data analysis and navigation. Therefore, it is
essential that a PSE tightly integrates visualization, omputation, and analysis.
This an be done using the omponent-based software engineering approa h
upon whi h the VCCE is based. Using the VCCE, omputation and analysis
omponents an be linked to user interfa e omponents that display the data
visually. It is important to make the mode of visualization \resour e aware."
Thus, if the visualization platform is a CAVE a fully immersive representation
of the data should be provided. If a semi-immersive at-panel display is used,
the visualization should be appropriate for that platform. Finally, if a PC is
used as the visualization platform the data ould be displayed using VRML, or
some other me hanism for depi ting virtual reality on a PC.
\Intelligen e" is important for ensuring the PSE is easy to use and eÆ ient,
and is in orporated into the PSE in a number of ways. The Expert Assistant
provided in the VCCE helps users to lo ate and use omponents using de i-
sion tree and/or rule-based approa hes. The Input Wizard he ks that the
input provided to an appli ation does not violate any physi al or algorithmi
onstraints. Lastly, the IRMS an use information from previous runs of an ap-
pli ation or omponent to make s heduling de isions. This approa h an make
use of intelligent methods, su h as geneti algorithms and neural networks.
PSEs have the potential to fundamentally hange how omputational re-
sour es, instrumentation, and people intera t in doing resear h. Although some
interesting PSEs are now beginning to emerge, resear h into PSEs of the type
des ribed in this paper is still at an early stage in many areas. It is hoped
that PSE resear h will lead to the adoption of software standards that in turn
will provide the basis on whi h PSE infrastru ture an be based. The Common
Component Ar hite ture is one su h standardization e ort [3℄.

7.2 Other Issues and Future Work


Additional issues that will be addressed in future versions of our PSE infras-
tru ture in lude support for fault toleran e, debugging and state management
of omponents, user authenti ation, and omponent integrity he king. This

26
se tion brie y outlines our approa h to ta kling some of these issues in the fu-
ture, and is not meant to be an exhaustive overage of possible ways to ta kle
these on erns. Issues su h as quality of servi e (QoS) are urrently beyond the
s ope of this work, and we rely on third party tools from low level infrastru -
ture providers to guarantee this. Support for resour e reservation is also not
provided, and real time appli ations whi h require su h servi es must negotiate
resour es with providers before ommen ing a simulation.
Fault toleran e an be provided in the PSE in two ways, (1) repli ating
ommon and more frequently used omponents to ensure availability, (2) up-
dating the omponent model to support state he kpointing. Repli ation an
be easily integrated into our urrent PSE infrastru ture, as every omponent
within the VCCE is primarily a pla e holder or referen e to an exe utable ode.
Su h a referen e an ontain both a primary referen e, whi h is always given
preferen e, and multiple se ondary referen es. Hen e, subje t to li ensing, the
exe utable ode for a omponent may exist in multiple pla es, and when adding
a new referen e to the omponent repository, the developer is en ouraged to
provide multiple lo ations where the exe utable ode for the omponent may be
found. If a new exe utable ode is being added into the PSE, the developer is
again en ouraged to pla e the ode at multiple lo ations. To a hieve this, the
omponent integration tool [23℄ will prompt the user to provide multiple sites
for an exe utable ode.
State he kpointing an be a hieved by updating the omponent model to
in lude a he kpoint ag, whi h suggests that ertain input variables, or state
variables within a omponent an be saved periodi ally. A he kpoint servi e is
then provided by a given omponent, whi h monitors the state of these variables
at regular intervals, and maintains their values in a database. All omponents
whi h need to be he kpointed must subs ribe to this servi e rst. If a om-
ponent rashes during exe ution, it an be restarted from its last stored state.
The validity of this approa h depends on the type of omponent, and the type
of state variables being re orded. It is left to the developer of a omponent to
ensure that enough state information within a omponent is tagged with the
he kpoint ag to ensure that a omponent an be re-started.
Se urity is an important on ern for many users of s ienti appli ations,
and this an relate to a number of issues, (1) authenti ating users requiring
a ess to a omponent (perhaps due to li ensing), (2) ownership and rights of
generated data from a simulation, (3) re-play of the a ess pro ess to subvert
password prote tion, and (4) omponent modi ation. Some of these issues an
be dealt with by providing se urity erti ates for every omponent through a
entral issuing authority. Ea h omponent exe utable an also be signed prior
to adding it to a repository, to ensure that it annot be subsequently modi ed.
Additional on erns with respe t to migratable ode, in the use of mobile agents
for instan e, is still an open resear h issue [30℄, and being investigated a tively
in the agents ommunity. Low level se urity provision through a Se ure So kets
Layer (SSL) may be too limiting, as our emphasis is at a high level of omponent
manipulation in the VCCE, and not at the ommuni ations layer. Individual
omponent developers may in lude SSL as a way to ommuni ate with their

27
omponents; however, the PSE infrastru ture annot impose su h a requirement.

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