Mutant Hardware/software Components for Dynamically Reconfigurable Distributed Systems

The COMMUTA project aims at defining, constructing and experimenting a distributed reconfigurable architecture based on the possibility of dynamically modifying the hardware and software components of a system.

The most innovative aspect of this project is the ability to handle both hardware and software reconfigurability using Mobile Agents.

Mobile agents are software programs that can be dispatched from one system to another to be executed in a remote environment. The COMMUTA project will use mobile agents to enforce requirements, constraints, standards, configurations and procedures, which are specific in a particular system, but can be unknown for the producers of some individuals that participate in the system itself.

The COMMUTA project will push the concept of Mobile Agents to the hardware level introducing the concept of hardware mobility. The use of uncommitted logic, whose function can be modified at runtime to optimize performances or to replace a faulty hardware component, is very appealing. Hardware mobility has never been applied to self-healing systems where we believe it has the potential of becoming a significant breakthrough.

The functionality of the architecture will be experimented in a real application for the control of distributed sensors. This application is particularly important and requires controlling several distributed devices in wide geographic areas. In this case, we assume that the system will works in two phases. In a first phase, the system uses the reconfigurable hardware that is available to increase the performance of filtering algorithms. In a second phase, because of a fault in a memory unit for handling field signals, uses the same hardware to substitute the memory module, implementing the whole filtering algorithm as software.

The scientific expertise of the three partners of the COMMUTA project have allowed to optimally plan the activities. The research unit at Politecnico di Torino has a mature and well recognized experience in testing and reliability assessment of digital systems; the research unit at University of Milano-Bicocca is one of the most active groups in the field of software testing and adaptability; and the research unit of Napoli Federico II has a wide and proved experience in the field of security and mobile agent systems. The complementarities of these knowledge and the optimal ability to collaborate of these research units, already tested in the scope of past projects, will allow the COMMUTA project to reach all goals trough innovative solutions from both the scientific and industrial viewpoint. Logically, the activities will be divided as follows:

ARCHITECTURE OF THE DISTRIBUTED SYSTEM AND INTERACTION MECHANISMS AMONG COMPONENTS (Unit of Napoli Federico II):definition of an infrastructure (in terms of hardware and software minimum requirements) able to handle search and access of mobile agents, to adequately configure the computing node (agent search and access problems);
definition of performance analysis models in order to determine in advance the best reconfiguration schema.
HARDWARE ARCHITECTURE OF THE COMPUTING NODE AND DYNAMIC RECONFIGURATION (Unit of Politecnico di Torino)definition and design of architectural solutions for the computing node able to detect, during the normal operations, possible permanent faults in the node components and find efficient and effective reconfigurations to solve the problem.
TECHNIQUES TO DEVELOP AND TEST SOFTWARE AGENTS (Unit of Milano-Bicocca)definition of techniques to test and reconfigure computing nodes composed of both statically known and dynamically reconfigurable hardware and software components.

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