Section: Research Program

Distribution and Concurrency

While ASCOLA does not investigate distribution and concurrency as research domains per se (but rather from a software engineering and modularization viewpoint), there are several specific problems and corresponding approaches in these domains that are directly related to its core interests that include the structuring and modularization of large-scale distributed infrastructures and applications. These problems include crosscutting functionalities of distributed and concurrent systems, support for the evolution of distributed software systems, and correctness guarantees for the resulting software systems.

Underlying our interest in these domains is the well-known observation that large-scale distributed applications are subject to numerous crosscutting functionalities (such as the transactional behavior in enterprise information systems, the implementation of security policies, and fault recovery strategies). These functionalities are typically partially encapsulated in distributed infrastructures and partially handled in an ad hoc manner by using infrastructure services at the application level. Support for a more principled approach to the development and evolution of distributed software systems in the presence of crosscutting functionalities has been investigated in the field of open adaptable middleware  [49], [71]. Open middleware design exploits the concept of reflection to provide the desired level of configurability and openness. However, these approaches are subject to several fundamental problems. One important problem is their insufficient, framework-based support that only allows partial modularization of crosscutting functionalities.

There has been some criticism on the use of AspectJ-like aspect models (which middleware aspect models like that of JBoss AOP are an instance of) for the modularization of distribution and concurrency related concerns, in particular, for transaction concerns  [70] and the modularization of the distribution concern itself  [86]. Both criticisms are essentially grounded in AspectJ's inability to explicitly represent sophisticated relationships between execution events in a distributed system: such aspects therefore cannot capture the semantic relationships that are essential for the corresponding concerns. History-based aspects, as those proposed by the ASCOLA project-team provide a starting point that is not subject to this problem.

From a point of view of language design and implementation, aspect languages, as well as domain specific languages for distributed and concurrent environments share many characteristics with existing distributed languages: for instance, event monitoring is fundamental for pointcut matching, different synchronization strategies and strategies for code mobility  [64] may be used in actions triggered by pointcuts. However, these relationships have only been explored to a small degree. Similarly, the formal semantics and formal properties of aspect languages have not been studied yet for the distributed case and only rudimentarily for the concurrent one  [44], [61].