Section: Research Program
Methodology for Large Scale Distributed Systems
Research in the context of LSDS involves understanding large scale phenomena from the theoretical point of view up to the experimental one under real life conditions.
One key aspects of the impact of large scale on LSDS is the emergence of phenomena which are not coordinated, intended or expected. These phenomena are the results of the combination of static and dynamic features of each component of LSDS: nodes (hardware, OS, workload, volatility), network (topology, congestion, fault), applications (algorithm, parameters, errors), users (behavior, number, friendly/aggressive).
Validating current and next generation of distributed systems targeting large-scale infrastructures is a complex task. Several methodologies are possible. However, experimental evaluations on real testbeds are unavoidable in the life-cycle of a distributed middleware prototype. In particular, performing such real experiments in a rigorous way requires to benchmark developed prototypes at larger and larger scales. Fulfilling this requirement is mandatory in order to fully observe and understand the behaviors of distributed systems. Such evaluations are indeed mandatory to validate (or not!) proposed models of these distributed systems, as well as to elaborate new models. Therefore, to enable an experimentally-driven approach for the design of next generation of large scale distributed systems, developing appropriate evaluation tools is an open challenge.
Fundamental aspects of LSDS as well as the development of middleware platforms are already existing in Grand-Large. Grand-Large aims at gathering several complementary techniques to study the impact of large scale in LSDS: observation tools, simulation, emulation and experimentation on real platforms.
Observation tools are mandatory to understand and extract the main influencing characteristics of a distributed system, especially at large scale. Observation tools produce data helping the design of many key mechanisms in a distributed system: fault tolerance, scheduling, etc. We pursue the objective of developing and deploying a large scale observation tool (XtremLab) capturing the behavior of thousands of nodes participating to popular Desktop Grid projects. The collected data will be stored, analyzed and used as reference in a simulator (SIMBOINC).
Tool for scalability evaluations
Several Grid and P2P systems simulators have been developed by other teams: SimGrid  , GridSim  , Briks  . All these simulators considers relatively small scale Grids. They have not been designed to scale and simulate 10 K to 100 K nodes. Other simulators have been designed for large multi-agents systems such as Swarm  but many of them considers synchronous systems where the system evolution is guided by phases. In the P2P field, ad hoc many simulators have been developed, mainly for routing in DHT. Emulation is another tool for experimenting systems and networks with a higher degree of realism. Compared to simulation, emulation can be used to study systems or networks 1 or 2 orders of magnitude smaller in terms of number of components. However, emulation runs the actual OS/middleware/applications on actual platform. Compared to real testbed, emulation considers conducting the experiments on a fully controlled platform where all static and dynamic parameters can be controlled and managed precisely. Another advantage of emulation over real testbed is the capacity to reproduce experimental conditions. Several implementations/configurations of the system components can be compared fairly by evaluating them under the similar static and dynamic conditions. Grand-Large is leading one of the largest Emulator project in Europe called Grid explorer (French funding). This project has built and used a 1K CPUs cluster as hardware platform and gathers 24 experiments of 80 researchers belonging to 13 different laboratories. Experiments concerned developing the emulator itself and use of the emulator to explore LSDS issues. In term of emulation tool, the main outcome of Grid explorer is the V-DS system, using virtualization techniques to fold a virtual distributed system 50 times larger than the actual execution platform. V-DS aims at discovering, understanding and managing implicit uncoordinated large scale phenomena. Grid Explorer is still in use within the Grid'5000 platform and serves the community of 400 users 7 days a week and 24h a day.
Real life testbeds: extreme realism
The study of actual performance and connectivity mechanisms of Desktop Grids needs some particular testbed where actual middleware and applications can be run under real scale and real life conditions. Grand-Large is developing DSL-Lab, an experimental platform distributed on 50 sites (actual home of the participants) and using the actual DSL network as the connection between the nodes. Running experiments over DSL-Lab put the piece of software to study under extremely realistic conditions in terms of connectivity (NAT, Firewalls), performance (node and network), performance symmetry (DSL Network is not symmetric), etc.
To investigate real distributed system at large scale (Grids, Desktop Grids, P2P systems), under real life conditions, only a real platform (featuring several thousands of nodes), running the actual distributed system can provide enough details to clearly understand the performance and technical limits of a piece of software. Grand-Large members are strongly involved (as Project Director) in the French Grid5000 project which intents to deploy an experimental Grid testbed for computer scientists. This testbed features about 4000 CPUs gathering the resources of about 9 clusters geographically distributed over France. The clusters will be connected by a high speed network (Renater 10G). Grand-Large is the leading team in Grid5000, chairing the steering committee. As the Principal Investigator of the project, Grand-Large has taken some strong design decisions that nowadays give a real added value of Grid5000 compared to all other existing Grids: reconfiguration and isolation. From these two features, Grid5000 provides the capability to reproduce experimental conditions and thus experimental results, which is the cornerstone of any scientific instrument.