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Salient Features

In this section, we will explore the set of features present in the XEvents/XMessages framework that make it an effective grid messaging system.

Reliability and Robustness

The need for a reliable event service that handles most of the failure cases expected in a complex grid environment is understood and addressed by the XEvents/XMessages system. Since it is likely that events would be used to a certain extent to inform other components of errors while executing a particular application, it is important that the event service does not introduce exceptions of its own that require the intervention of the application program. In order to ensure this, the various possible failure cases in the messaging framework have to be ascertained and their occurrence prevented.

In order to exchange messages, publishers and listeners need to be able to contact each other. If the network is down and they are unable to be reached, the network connection must be tried repeatedly till it is up and running. By using the agent middleware, this process is automated. If the network goes down while messages are being transmitted, messages should not be lost. To assure this, the publisher agent logs the message before sending it so that the message can be recovered in case the network fails while it is being sent. Similarly, the listener agent uses persistent leases and the tokens to make sure all messages are retrieved.

If a message sink is unable to process a message and throws an exception to message source, the publisher agent traps the exception and logs it. The publisher agent also sends the events in the same order that it has been received from the application, though it may send duplicate messages at times when the message may have been sent but if the acknowledgment is lost. The tokens in the message batch are used to remove these duplicates.

These features ensure that no messages are lost and that a ``best effort'' will be put to assure delivery while the network is up.

Filtering and Querying

Numerous events may get generated by a publisher and usually, the listener is interested in only a subset of these. So it is necessary to have filtering capabilities that select only the events matching the requirements of the listener, for retrieval. Simple filters may match certain fields of the message while others may perform more complex tasks like executing queries similar to SQL's. To enable such varied use of the filter that would depend on the particular needs of the application, a generic query object is passed in the XMessageRequest structure. This query can be understood as required by customizing the implementation of the message source.

One of the features critical for a successful event system intended for the scientific applications is the ability to store application generated events permanently and allow users to execute queries on them. Such historical queries can be used to discover application behavior under different circumstances. The query object mentioned above can enable the user to perform such data mining by allowing retrieval of both historical and live events using a consistent message request interface. In addition, by using an RDBMS to store the events in the back end, we have provided the user with the option to use sophisticated data mining tools. We have provided initial support for SQL like queries as the persistent message storage is currently based on an RDBMS. Other querying mechanisms, in particular simple template queries similar to JINI, will be added in future.

Another factor that helps in performing historical queries that tend to be large is the ability to retrieve chunks of the message set and not the entire list of matching messages. This incremental retrieval allows the application to cancel the query midway without having to process all messages orginally asked for.

Flexible, Extensible, Interoperable

The messages that are transmitted over the XMessages framework are represented as XML on the wire. This gives the flexibility to interpret them generically and extend them to different messaging domains. Since the method invocations use SOAP, it is easy to write bridges that convert between other messaging APIs to the XMessages framework so that a message sink from another messaging implementation can retrieve messages from an XMessages source or vice versa. This makes it well suited to operate in a heterogeneous grid environment which may require interaction with other messaging systems.

Another point in favor is the possibility of pulling messages, to simulate a push model, using the listener agents. This allows listeners behind firewalls to contact message sources and retrieve messages from them. Similarly, publishers behind firewalls can send messages to message sinks that are visible. Using this feature, we can create an entire messaging system by having just one host running the message channel (comprising of a message source and sink) to be visible and all other listeners and publishers can be protected by firewalls.

When building messaging environment that spans across multiple clusters, it helps to have many message channels that can service an optimal set of hosts and yet have the ability to interchange messages with listeners and publishers present beyond the local channel. This can be achieved by interconnecting message channels to form a messaging network or a cloud. In such a system, each channel would act as a listener to the other channels and subscribe to remote messages. We would need to have a proper message passing algorithm to ensure we do not have runaway messages that propagate indefinitely and avoid storing duplicate messages in the persistent store. Having a globally unique token for each message batch helps in addressing these concerns.

Simple API

The XMessages framework has a light weight, yet powerful API that makes it possible to perform tasks ranging from rudimentary messaging using just a preformatted string writer as message source and a simple message sink, to a full featured messaging service that allows for querying and interconnecting multiple listeners and publishers. As we have shown with the XEvents extension, it is possible to build additional capabilities to the XMessages API and implement other messaging systems like JMS using it.

Grid Web Services

We have provided support for accessing the XMessages grid messaging framework as a web service by specifying the WSDL port types for the methods and the XML schemas for the data structures. This allows other applications that are not in the local environment to use the messaging service over the internet. It also does not tie one down to a single programming model or language for using the system.

next up previous
Next: Further Work Up: XEVENTS/XMESSAGES: Application Events and Previous: Architecture and Implementation
Aleksander Andrzej Slominski 2002-09-20