The Active Streams Approach to Adaptive Distributed Applications And Services

Fabián E. Bustamante
Ph.D. Thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, November 2001.

College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

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The widespread deployment of inexpensive communication technologies, computational resources in the networking infrastructure, and network-capable end devices offers a rich design space for novel distributed applications and services. Exploration of this space has given rise, for instance, to the notions of grid and peer-to-peer computing. Both technologies promise to change the way we think about and use computing, by harvesting geographically distributed resources in order to create a universal source of pervasive computing power that will support new classes of applications.

Despite the growing interest in these new environments and the increasing availability of the necessary hardware and network infrastructure, few actual applications are readily available and/or widely deployed. Such scarcity results from a number of technical challenges that must be addressed before the full potential of these technologies can be realized. Most of these applications, as well as the services they utilize, are expected to handle dynamically varying demand on resources and to run in large, heterogeneous, and dynamic environments, where the availability of resources cannot be guaranteed `a priori' -- all of this while providing acceptable levels of performance.

To support such requirements, we believe that new services need to be customizable, applications need to be dynamically extensible, and both applications and services need to be able to adapt to variations in resources' availability and demand. The Active Streams approach, advocated in this dissertation, aims to facilitate the task of building new distributed systems with these characteristics. To this end, the approach considers the contents of the information flowing across the application and its services, it adopts a component-based model to application/service programming, and it provides for dynamic adaptation at multiple levels and points in the underlying platform. In addition, due to the complexity of building such systems, it tries to ease the programmer's task by facilitating the needed infrastructure for resource monitoring, self-monitoring and adaptation. This dissertation explores the Active Streams approach and its supporting framework in the context of these new distributed applications and services.