Category: Research (page 1 of 4)

Leveraging Docker and reproducible workflows for portable research environments

Reproducibility is an important aspect of research. One particular concept of interest is FAIR principles. FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable and defines a ‘best practices’ approach for research.

However, complying with such a concept presents its own unique challenges: Some research tools rely on complex infrastructure elements and software stacks that are hard to replicate. In cases such as these, the added workload acts as an inhibitor on ensuring reproducibility. The result is that many experiments, data pipelines and results are hard to replicate. According to our preliminary insights, based on interviews within the ZHAW, on how experiments are conducted, such complexity is indeed commonplace in our current research activities. 

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Processing IoT Sensor Data with Semi-Stateful Cloud Functions

At Zurich University of Applied Sciences, we are currently building a test track to link applied teaching with research and innovation. Such a facility allows for covering a whole range of topics: programming, autonomous driving, robotics, cloud, serverless, continuums, sensing, open data, data science, and various computing paradigms. We expect a video to be available around November that explains the facility and especially the teaching element. In this research blog post, we already report on interesting observations around the uplink between sensors and FaaS. We expect these insights to bring benefits to companies building IoT-cloud integrations.

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Deep tracing of cloud function execution

In an increasingly self-aware and knowledge-driven software world, understanding the execution behaviour of an application is mandatory for cost-effective delivery. This applies especially to cloud functions, because many complex applications are composed of those functions. Similar short-lived, event-driven processing models can be found inside databases and message brokers. This means systematic tracing of cloud functions should be conducted so that a large variety of applications benefits from rightsizing memory allocation and associated fair microbilling.

We recently reported on our upcoming presentation on generating static trace profiles for cloud functions. In general, tracing techniques help reporting with high precision how much memory an application requires. But in practice, the memory needs depend on a number of factors that change over time. Similar to how static environment variables have been replaced by dynamic queries to updateable key-value stores to increase dynamics, we should be able to produce dynamic traces that show at least a correlation to certain values within the function, like the number of rows in a table. This research blog post shows one approach to do that.

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Middleware 2020 System Demonstrations Accepted

As applied sciences researchers focusing on new digital application designs implemented and deployed with multiple computing paradigms, we emphasise the practical nature of our contributions and the direct transferability to stakeholders in industry and society. In this context, we are happy to report that two system demonstrations have been recently accepted to be presented at the 21st ACM/IFIP Middleware 2020 conference running from December 7-11 in «virtual Delft». Read on for details.

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Serverless Code Linting

For software development to succeed in Switzerland, that is to justify the relatively high development cost, it is essential to offer unique advantages in terms of timeliness and quality assurance. At Zurich University of Applied Sciences, we are proud to have contributed a number of tools for quality assessment and linting especially for cloudware – among others, the first Docker Compose checker, the first multi-Dockerfile linter, and the first advanced Helm and SAM consistency scans.

As we also teach Python programming to first-year engineering students, we consider it important to encourage the frequent use of linting tools. This blog post introduces such a service, naturally doubling as informal case study on how to deliver SaaS linting functionality without much effort through serverless technologies.

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Smart Cloud Log File Compression

Software developers and service operators need log files to identify issues, detect anomalies and trace execution behaviour. The amount of generated log data is increasing, and often log files need to be kept for longer periods of time due to regulations. To preserve logs in a cost-efficient manner, they are typically compressed, at certain cost for running the compression, and then stored in long-term archives, again at certain cost per size-duration products. The goal is decrease both cost components, but there are certain trade-offs, for instance a highly efficient compression that consumes a lot of CPU but leads to better compression ratios, consuming less storage capacity as a result. The decision which compression tools and parameters to use is usually hardcoded. We present a smart knowledge-based advisor service to query goal-based adaptive compression commands to maximise savings.

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Towards smarter continuum application designs

In the context of our «Smart Cities and Regions Services Enablement» efforts, space (and to some extent time) are important dimensions. First, the digital transformation has an inherent spatial component. While the research application field is pragmatically scoped to cities and regions, indeed it spans a wider spectrum from households, quarters, districts to countries and even supranational entities. The recent wave of «surface digitalisation» has primarily affected mobile citizens (pandemic apps) and workers (video conferencing in home offices) around the world. This increased the surface over the previous one that for most citizens encompassed e-banking, e-ticketing and e-tax declarations, with various degrees of voluntariness.

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Financial Analytics with Cloud Functions

As we have recently been granted Google Cloud Research Credits for the investigation of Serverless Data Integration, we continue our exploration of open and public data. This HOWTO-style blog post presents the application domain of financial analytics and explains how to run a cloud function to achieve elastically scalable analytics. Although there are no research results to report yet, it raises a couple of interesting challenges that we or other computer scientists should work on in the future.

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Investigation of Self-Management for Flask-based Services

Self-management is an important property of software services to increase the degree of exploiting benefitial characteristics of underlying runtime systems. Whether such services run in a managed cloud environment, on a device or somewhere else in the computing continuum, there may always be limitations in the managing runtime platform that a complementary or overarching application-level management can help to overcome. Using a Python Flask-based web service as example, this research blog post informs about our ongoing investigations into two specific self-management aspects: runtime resilience and feistiness.

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Deploying Singer.io to the Cloud

As presented in a prior post, Singer.io is a modern, open-source ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) framework for integrating data from various sources, including online datasets and services, with a focus on being simple and light-weight. The basics of the framework were explored in our last post on the topic, so we will refer you to that if you are unfamiliar.

This post is about our process for deploying Singer to the cloud, more specifically, to the Cloud Foundry open source cloud application platform. This was done in the context of researching the maturity of data transformation tools in a cloud-native environment. We will explore the options for deploying Singer taps and targets to a cloud provider and discuss our implementation and deployment process in detail.

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