Guest Editorial - Middleware technologies for future communication networks

G. Blair, A.T. Campbell, D.C. Schmidt
2004 IEEE Network  
mprovements in hardware and networking technologies over the past two decades have yielded dramatic increases in computer and communication capabilities. Despite , however, the effort and'cost required to develop, validate, port, and enhance software for networked applications remains remarkably high. Much of the complexityandcost ofbuilding networkedapplicationscan bealleviated by the use of highly flexiblc, efficient, dependable, a n d secure middleware, which is systems software that resides
more » ... ftware that resides between the applications and the underlying operating systems and networks, and provides reusable services that can be composed, configured, and deployed to creatc networked applications rapidly and rohustly. Middleware represents the confluence of two key areas of information technology (IT): distributed systemsandcomponent-based design and programming. Techniques for developingdistributed systems focus on integrating many computing devices toact asacoordir1atedcomputatioualresource.Likewise, techniques for developing component-based systems focuson reducingsoftware coinplexityhy capturingsuccessful patterns and creating reusable component frameworks. Middleware is therefore the field dealing with componentbasedsystemsthatcan hedistributedeffectivelyoveramyriad of computing devices and communication networks to provide developers of networked applications with the necessary platforms and tools to: * Formalize andcoordinatehowpartsofapplicationsarecomposed and how they interoperate ' Monitor, enahle, and validatc the (re)configuration of resources to ensure appropriate application end-to-end quality of service (QoS), even in the face of failures or attacks During the past decade IT developers and end users have benefitted from the commoditization of commercial offthe-shelf (COTS) hardware (e.g., CPUs and storage devices) and networking elements (e.g., IP routers). More recently, the maturation of programminglangiiages (e.g., Java and C+ +), operating environments (e.g., POSIX and Java Virtual Machines), and middleware (e.g., CORBA, Java 2 Enterprise Edition, and SOAPiWcb services) arc helping to commoditizc many COTS software components and architectural layers. Although the quality of COTS commodity software has often lagged behind h;irdware, recent improvements in software frameworks, component models, patterns, and devel-opment processes have encapsulated the knowledge that enables COTS middleware to be developed, integrated, and used successfully with fixed networks in an increasing number of real-world networked application domains, including telecom/datacom, enterprise e-commerce systems, desktop business applications, aerospace and defense systems, induswial process control, and financial services. COTS middleware platforms have generally expected static connectivity, reliable communication channels, and relatively high bandwidth. Significant challenges remain, however, f o design, optimize, and apply middleware for more flexible network e n v i r o n m e n t s , s u c h as self-organizing peer-to-peer (PZP) nrtworks, mobile settings, and highly resource-constrained sensor networks. For example, hiding network topologies and other deployment details from networked applications becomes harder (and often undesirable) in wireless sensor networks since applications and middleware often need to adapt according to changes in location, connectivity, bandwidth, and battery power. Concerted R & D efforts are therefore essential to devise new middlewaresolutions andcapabilities that can fulfill the requirement:; of thesc emerging network technologies and nextgeneration applications. Tlw articles in this Special Issue of lEEE Network on Middleware Technologies for Future Communication Networks describe the latest results of cutting-edge middleware R & D efforts that focus on the next generation of mobile and fixed networks and services. For instance, the emer: gence ofprogrammable sensor networks has yielded a new class of applications (e.g., equipment and process control, environmental monitoring, emergency management, sniper locali;:ation, active vibration damping, and smart structures) in which a wide range of coordinated devices and services can bo assembled flexibly and rapidly to achieve critical missions. Today'ssensor network applications are developed manuallyinanad hocandinformalmanner, however,which iscostly, tedious, and error-prone, and often fails t o achieve t h e desired functionality and quality.under tight resource and reliability constraints. This special issue therefore contains a pair of articles -"Middleware to
doi:10.1109/mnet.2004.1265827 fatcat:rcutpcm65jht3jyruwt55n6sme