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5 Discussion and Future Work


Our MultiSpace and service implementation efforts have given some insights into our original design principles, and into the use of Java as an Internet service construction language. In this section of the paper, we delve into some of these insights.

5.1 Code Mobility as a Service Construction Primitive

When we were designing the MultiSpace, we knew that code mobility would be a powerful tool. We originally intended to use code mobility for delivering code to clients (which we do in the form of Redirector Stubs), and for it to be used by clients to upload customization code into the MultiSpace (which has not been implemented). However, code mobility turned out to be useful inside the MultiSpace as a mechanisms for structuring services, and distributing service components across the cluster.

Code mobility solved a software distribution problem in the Jukebox, without us realizing that software distribution might become a problem. When we updated the ripper service, we needed to distribute the new functionality to all of the nodes in the cluster that would potentially have CD's inserted into them. Code mobility also partially solved the service location problem in the Jukebox: the ripper services depend on the CDDB service to gather detailed track and album information, but the ripper has no easy way to know where in the cluster the CDDB service is running. Using code mobility to push the CDDB service onto the same node as the ripper, we enforced the invariant that the CDDB service is colocated with the ripper.

5.2 Bases are a Simplifying Principle, but not a Complete Solution

The principle of solving complex service problems in a Base makes it easier to reason about the interactions between services and clients, and to ensure that difficult tasks like state management are dealt with in an environment in which there is a chance of success. However, this organizational principle alone is not enough to solve the problem of constructing highly available services. Given the controlled environment of a Base, service authors must still construct services to ensure consistency and availability. We believe that a Base can provide primitives that further simply service authors' jobs; the Redirector Stub is an example of such a primitive.

While building the Ninja Jukebox and Keiretsu, we made observations about how we achieved availability and consistency. Most of the code in these services dealt with distributing and maintaining tables of shared state. In the Ninja Jukebox, this state was the list of available music. In Keiretsu, this state was the list of other Keiretsu nodes, and the tables of client stub bindings. The distributed hash table was not yet complete when these two services were being implemented. If we had relied on it instead of our ad-hoc peer state exchange mechanisms, much of the services' source code would have been eliminated.

In both of these services, work queues are not explicitly exposed to service authors. These queues are hidden inside the thread scheduler, since NinjaRMI spawns a thread per connected client. This design decision had repercussions on service structure: each service had to be written to handle multithreading, since service authors must handle consistency within a single service instance as well as across instances throughout the cluster. Providing a mechanism to expose work queues to service authors may simplify the structure of some services, for example if services serialize requests to avoid issues associated with multithreading.

In the current MultiSpace, service instances must explicitly keep track of their counterparts on other nodes and spawn new services when load or availability demands it. A useful primitive would be to allow authors to specify conditions that dictate when service instances are spawned or pushed to a specific node, and to allow the MultiSpace infrastructure to handle the triggering of these conditions.

5.3 Java as an Internet-service construction environment

Java has proven to be an invaluable tool in the development of the Ninja infrastructure. The ability to rapidly deploy cross-platform code components simply by assuming the existence of a Java Virtual Machine made it easy to construct complex distributed services without concerning oneself with the heterogeneity of the systems involved. The use of RMI as a strongly-typed RPC, tied very closely to the Java language semantics, makes distributed programming comparably simple to single node development. The protection, modularization, and safety guarantees provided by the Java runtime environment make dynamic dissemination of code components a natural activity. Similarly, the use of Java class reflection to generate new code wrappers for existing components (as with Redirector Stubs) provides automatic indirection at the object level.

Java has a number of drawbacks in its current form, however. Performance is always an issue, and work on just-in-time [14, 24] and ahead-of-time [27] compilation is addressing many of these problems. The widely-used JVM from Sun Microsystems exhibits a large memory footprint (we have observed 3-4 MB for ``Hello World'', and up to 30 MB for a relatively simple application that performs many of memory allocations and deallocationsgif), and crossing the boundary from Java to native code remains an expensive operation. In addition, the Java threading model permits threads to be non-preemptive, which has serious implications for components which must run in a protected environment. Our approach has been to use only Java Virtual Machines which employ preemptive threads.

We have started an effort to improve the performance of the Java runtime environment. Our initial prototype, called Jaguar, permits direct Java access to hardware resources through the use of a modified just-in-time compiler. Rather than going through the relatively expensive Java Native Interface for access to devices, Jaguar generates machine code for direct hardware access which is inlined with compiled Java bytecodes. We have implemented a Jaguar interface to a VIAgif enabled fast system area network, obtaining performance equivalent to VIA access from C (80 microseconds round-trip time for small messages and over 400 megabits/second peak bandwidth). We believe that this approach is a viable way to tailor the Java environment for high-performance use in a clustered environment.

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Next: 6 Related Work Up: The MultiSpace: an Evolutionary Previous: 4 Applications