PIM: A Novel Architecture for Coordinating Behavior of Distributed Systems

Kenneth M. Ford, James Allen, Niranjan Suri, Patrick J. Hayes, Robert Morris

Abstract


Process integrated mechanisms (PIM) offer a new approach to the problem of coordinating the activity of physically distributed systems or devices. Current approaches to coordination all have well-recognized strengths and weaknesses. We propose a novel architecture to add to the mix, called the Process Integrated Mechanism (PIM), which enjoys the advantages of having a single controlling authority while avoiding the structural difficulties that have traditionally led to its rejection in many complex settings. In many situations, PIMs improve on previous models with regard to coordination, security, ease of software development, robustness and communication overhead. In the PIM architecture, the components are conceived as parts of a single mechanism, even when they are physically separated and operate asynchronously. The PIM models offers promise as an effective infrastructure for handling tasks that require a high degree of time-sensitive coordination between the components, as well as a clean mechanism for coordinating the high-level goals of loosely coupled systems. PIM models enable coordination without the fragility and high communication overhead of centralized control, but also without the uncertainty associated with the system-level behavior of a MAS.The PIM model provides an ease of programming with advantages over both multi-agent sys-tems and centralized architectures. It has the robustness of a multi-agent system without the significant complexity and overhead required for inter-agent communication and negotiation. In contrast to centralized approaches, it does not require managing the large amounts of data that the coordinating process needs to compute a global view. In a PIM, the process moves to the data and may perform computations on the components where the data is locally available, sharing only the information needed for coordination of the other components. While there are many remaining research issues to be addressed, we believe that PIMs offer an important and novel tech-nique for the control of distributed systems.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v31i2.2261

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