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Agent Grid PI: Craig Thompson Object Services and Consulting, Inc. (OBJS), DARPA coABS Program PM: Jim Hendler. Acknowledgements to Brian Kettler (ISX) and Frank Manola (OBJS). Server. Server. Component.

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Agent Grid

PI: Craig Thompson

Object Services and Consulting, Inc. (OBJS),

DARPA coABS Program

PM: Jim Hendler

Acknowledgements to Brian Kettler (ISX) and Frank Manola (OBJS)














Agent Grid - System Concept View

































Agents + the Global Grid


Agent Grid

  • Our paper “Characterizing the Agent Grid”
    • documents examples of grids
    • describes views of the Agent Grid as
      • a set of agent mechanisms
      • a global registry/system management backplane environment for agents and agent systems that provides resource, services, and system wide properties
      • a collection of interacting semantic grids representing various kinds of collections: organizations, teams, … ensembles (including ALP) all acting like mini-grids to control local resources
      • all of the above
    • lists grid architecture issues
      • Is the agent grid itself a kind of agent system?
      • Is the agent grid logically centralized? hierarchical?
      • How can we use existing object services? Must they be wrapped as agent services?
      • Is there a minimal set of services?
    • will be published in Bradshaw’s agent book forthcoming
grid vision meta comments
The Grid Vision is evolving…

Goals of Grid Vision Effort

capture shared vision for Grid from CoABS community to guide development of Grid prototypes

communicate vision to potential Grid users

GITI/ISX has put out a strawman draft for discussion

GITI/ISX Vision Team coordinating the process

Vision Doc Ver. 2.0 (June 1999) - released internally to CoABS

Current version is not necessarily a proper subset of CoABS Program Vision...

Will capture additional community inputs and iterate...

discussions at the June workshop

bottom-up inputs from prototype building experience

establish “affinity groups” to produce interface descriptions for specific services

coordination with ALP, CPOF, CAST, and other efforts

Grid Vision: “Meta” Comments
the challenge
Information Systems in the Military (and elsewhere) are:

moving from “sneaker net” to network-centric to information-centric systems exploiting interconnectivity

e.g., USAF Global Grid (C2 CONOPS), USAF SAB Battlespace Infosphere, ABIS Information Grid, etc.

enabled by faster, cheaper hardware and software technologies (telecomm, WWW, Java, etc.)

The Challenge:

How do we go from isolated applications to interconnected and interoperating “super applications”* (aka “systems of systems”*)that can work together to solve complex tasks in dynamic environments and that are built with minimum effort and maximum reuse?

*need a new name for these concepts

The Challenge
an example

Rapidly configure a collection of military command and control systems in 24 hours to handle a new kind of crisis involving a coalition of the US and various countries that have never worked together before….

Need a “super application” tailored to the current crisis and battlespace...

Tasks to achieve:

establish interconnectivity (networks, etc.) over a wide area

establish interoperability among systems (syntax and semantics of data exchanged)

manage computing and data resources and protect them from misuse (by enemy and coalition members)

allow human C2 staff to interact with the super application

reconfigure the super application to handle changes in the mission, battlespace, coalition membership, collection of IT systems and resources (computing, comm, and data) available, etc.

An Example
target agent grid capabilities
“When your personal assistant connects to the Grid, it tells the Gridwhere you are, what you are doing, how your resources are configured,what supplies you need, and so on.”

“Your forces might be dynamically reassigned to a new plan; your computer equipment…might briefly be recruited to run a meteorologicalsimulation by a load-balancing agent; due to your personal expertise inArabic, you might receive documents to translate, or perhaps not if theGrid realizes your time is already claimed by other responsibilities.”

“All resources - mental and material, human and non-human, permanentand ephemeral - are balanced by the Grid. Goals are reconciled byagents in the Grid and priorities are established.”

“Whatever kind of agent you are, when you enter the Grid, youimmediately become part of a larger, coherent system. And when you leave the Grid…the Grid prepares for your return by generating statusreports, reading and summarizing your mail, planning how to use yourresources, and so on.”

Target Agent Grid Capabilities

Requirements View

  • Target operational requirements
  • Humans and agents connect to the agent grid anytime from anywhere and get the information and capability they need. Enable teams led by humans and staffed by agents.
  • Intelligent automation -- easier application connectivity where networks of agents self-organized at run-time. Reduce the 60% of time in command and control systems spent manipulating stovepipes; incrementally replace stovepipes.
  • Connect the $40B worth of DoD equipment that currently only interoperates with one or two other components, permitting better knowledge sharing. Another example is a process improvement in factory 1 is broadcast immediately to factories 2..N.
  • Agent-enable object and web applications to reconfigure as new data and function is added to the system. Add capability modularly. Stable, scaleable, evolvable, reliable, secure, survivable, ...
    • Scale to millions of agents so agents are pervasive and information and computation is not restricted to machine or organization boundaries.
    • Survivable so if one agent goes down, another takes its place;
super applications key requirements
Built from heterogeneous software components

including legacy systems/applications, objects, agents

components built by different people for different tasks over long periods of time

Must operate continuously, with high reliability, in dynamic environments

requirements always changing

system (re)configuration must be done quickly, with minimal programmer effort - ideally at runtime

Must interact with human users

humans need to understand and influence the operation

Must “play nice” with other super applications

share resources, avoid deadlock, etc.

Super Applications: Key Requirements
some challenges in using agents to build super applications
How do agents from different agent architectures interoperate?

e.g., in CoABS there are agents from RETSINA, OAA, TEAMCORE, etc.

they have different kinds of agents and different control strategies and agent communication languages

what interoperability mechanisms are needed for agent communication, etc?

standards, protocols, services

How do non-agent components play?

objects, legacy applications, etc.

e.g., via wrappers, proxies, etc.

Some Challenges in Using Agents to Build Super Applications
sources of requirements for the grid
Technology Integration Experiments (TIEs)

Integration/OOTW TIEs (initially NEO domain)

1-2 dozen agents from different agent architectures

manually assembled for initial demo

custom-built interoperability agents (e.g. RETSINA-OAA)

Grid will simplify above by providing more general interoperability services and reducing the services that an agent developer must build

Scalability TIEs (agent control, mobility, etc.)

Grid will provide testbed to host a set of agents and collect data on those agents for hypothesis testing via Logging, Visualization, and other services


Other user application domains will supply requirements for Grid-enabled super applications

Sources of Requirements for the Grid
agent technology enables super apps
Components that are agents (or have been wrapped as agents) can assemble themselves into super applications: dynamic configurations or teams tailored to the problem/situation:

components can discover one another at runtime:

agents can declare their capabilities: functions performed, interfaces, languages, etc. (These capabilities and interfaces can adapt.)

middle agents can match needs to capabilities and provide brokering, facilitation, translation, etc.

components can establish interoperability in order to cooperate on the task at hand (exchange knowledge and provide services)

agents can communicate using shared languages, ontologies, & protocols.

agent can negotiate subtasking, resources, communication protocols

the organization/configuration and behavior of the team can change if the task, situation, or computing environment changes

agents can represent and reason about the goals and beliefs of other agents and users. They can self-organize into teams that have team goals.

agents can detect changes and adapt their behavior

agents can work offline, and some have mobility

Agent Technology Enables Super Apps
the coabs agent grid is
An infrastructure (or “meta-architecture”) that supports interoperability among agents from heterogeneous architectures

collection of standards, protocols, services, libraries, wrappers, and low-level infrastructure

augments, but does not replace, services within particular infrastructures: the Grid is not another “reference architecture” (i.e., heterogeneity is embraced)

e.g., The Internet provides interoperability (via gateways, services, and standards) between heterogeneous computer networks.

A dynamic collection of agents using this infrastructure

e.g., The Internet is both the plumbing and what uses it

The CoABS Agent Grid is…
super application self assembly reconfiguration

Component discovery

Component interoperability (with semantics)

Component adaptability

Teams of diverse, distributed components


Metadata directory services (white/yellow pages)

Ontology services (capability/need advertisement)

Facilitation services (find/recruit components)

Comm mechanisms/infrastructure (messaging)

Translation services (interoperability)

Super Application Self-assembly & Reconfiguration
smooth running efficient super applications



Reliability and Security

Understandability and Taskability


Team coordination services

Mobility services

Exception management, component lifecycle management, security services

Logging and event services

Visualization services

Smooth-running, Efficient Super Applications
easy to build maintain super applications





Infrastructure services and adapters

Exception mgmt., translation, mobility, component lifecycle

Logging, event, visualization, simulation, debugging

Policy and protocol management services

Grid mgmt. services (start, monitor, manage, maintain Grid services and infrastructure)

Easy to Build/Maintain Super Applications
architectural view of the agent grid
Grid concept implies:

A set of connected resources

Advanced capabilities for integrating them

Agents + services such as:

Infrastructure (Jini discovery & join, messaging, …)

Metadata directory (naming, registration,…)


Facilitation (matchmakers, brokers, facilitators,…)

Team management

Lifecycle and Grid management


Ontology management


Logging & event management


Architectural View of the Agent Grid

Architecture Principle: separation of concerns

deconstructionist view - what can you take away

and still have an agent system

Agent Reference Architecture

  • policy*, management
  • resource dial




  • single Vs. multi-agent
  • heterogeneous*
  • computing environ.
  • agent systems
  • ACLs
  • content languages
  • ontologies
  • policies
  • services
  • open world assumption


grid features

common services

  • ensembles
  • # of agents*
  • teams, peers, contracting,
  • org. responsibility
  • roles, capabilities,
  • mutual beliefs
  • hierarchy*
  • conversational policies*
  • societies
  • closed vs.. open, communities of interest
  • agent properties & kinds
  • communication capability
  • computation capability
  • by role in system
    • information agent
      • data sources
    • interface agent
      • NLI, multimodal
      • coop response
    • task agent
    • web/email agent
    • middleware agent
  • mobile agent, itinerary
  • social, personality, motivation, forgetting
  • intelligent agent


messaging svcs*

agent life cycle* - start, stop, checkpoint,

name service**

event monitoring

leasing, compensation

catalog services*,




publish*, subscribe*

trading*, matchmaking,

advertising*, negotiating*,

brokering*, yellow pages*




access control lists*


CIA model agent suspects



query, profile (of metadata)*

data fusion




(scarce) resource mgmt*, allocate*, deallocate*, monitor*,

local, global optimization, load balancing*, negotiation for resources*


time, geo-location

rules, constraints


property list

versioning, config



  • control*, coordination*,
  • multi-agent synchronization
  • cooperation, competition








adaptation, evolution*

via market model, ...

licensing & cost


  • Ontolingua, OKBC
  • metadata representations
    • interests, locations, availability, capability, price/cost
  • XML and web object models

secure*, trust


speech acts*: ACL* - KQML, FIPA ACL, OAA ICL


  • infrastructure
  • primitives
  • reflection
  • serialization
  • threads
  • interceptors
  • proxies
  • filters
  • multicast
  • wrappers
    • legacy sys
    • data sources
  • planning*
  • reactive*
  • goal interactions*
  • discrete vs. continuous*
  • constraints
  • iterative, revision
  • workflow



  • missing
  • views
  • MOP


  • QoS*
  • accuracy
  • priorities


  • learning
  • by example
  • ...
  • More common services
    • instrumenting, logging
    • caching
    • queuing
    • routing, rerouting
    • pedigree, drill down
    • translation*
    • ...

xxx = Agility addresses these

* = Architecture WG in Pittsburg

* = Control WG in Pittsburg

* = Interoperability WG in Pittsburg

red = Sun Jini

green = other DARPA programs


  • content languages


grid services
Provide Grid-wide (“global”) functionality

Augment services provided by “local” agent architectures

Grid limited in its visibility & control of indiv. agents

Need an architecture/infrastructure that allows plugging in of services easily

various service access mechanisms (ACLs, APIs, etc.)

Distinction between services in and on Grid is blurry

e.g., route planning agent could be used by military planning agent or by Grid mobility service

Goal is to encourage “market” for Grid services

standard interfaces with multiple implementations

Leverage existing CoABS/external technology

Grid Services
grid operation services
Infrastructure Services (for interconnectivity)

message delivery, bandwidth adaptability, etc.

leverage: Internet, CORBA, HTTP, Java RMI, JINI, etc.

Grid Management (for administration of Grid)

enable human/agent control of Grid services, resources

leverage: visualization services, policy services, etc.

Grid Operation Services
component interoperability services
Metadata Directory (for component discovery)

white pages, yellow pages

leverage: lightweight vocabularies, XML, RDF, LDAP, JINI, CORBA Naming/Trader, OODB/DBMS, etc.

Ontology Management (compon. discovery, interop.)

store & provide access to ontologies, inferencing

leverage: KB work, XML, etc.

Translation (for interoperability)

between agent comm languages (primitives, content, ontologies)

Facilitation (for interoperability, task achievement)

matchmakers, brokers, etc.

leverage: intelligent matching, blackboards, etc.

Component Interoperability Services
super application operation services 1
Lifecycle Management (for component mgmt.)

agent/component instantiation/birth, death, cloning, status

Mobility (for dynamic adaptability)

agents move while running to other computing nodes via docks, itineraries, etc.

leverage: Java, security services

Security (for resource protection)

user/agent authentication, access ctrl, encryption, etc.

leverage: DARPA IA/IS work, CORBA/Java Security

Team Coordination (for teams to achieve tasks)

dynamic team formation and tasking, team monitoring

leverage: team-oriented programming

Super Application Operation Services (1)
super application operation services 2
Security (for resource protection)

user/agent authentication, access ctrl, encryption, etc.

leverage: DARPA IA/IS work, CORBA/Java Security, etc

Exception Mgmt. (for fault tolerance/recovery)

detect and handle common agent exceptions

leverage: ontology of exception types & strategies

Logging/Event Mgmt. (for debugging and analysis)

capture agent activities, messages, etc. - can mine this data

enable sharing of common events (via triggers, etc.)

leverage: XML, CORBA Events, JINI Events, etc.

Super Application Operation Services (2)
super application operation services 3
Visualization (for human understanding/control)

show agent activities/messages (for debugging, etc.)

show problem-solving activity/results (for end-users)

leverage: GUI technology (2D/3D, VR), HTML, etc.

Policy/Protocol Mgmt. (for customization)

library of policies and protocols for security, comm, etc.

support building super applications on the Grid tailored to particular domains/tasks

supports user admin of Grid and dynamic selection & negotiation on protocols by agents at runtime

leverage: protocol/policy representation work


includes instrumentation, simulation, visualization, etc.

Super Application Operation Services (3)
Increased development of standards (technical and domain)

Further integration with Internet/Web technologies, e.g.,

Use of XML in agent technologies

Internet as agent communication mechanism

Further integration with components / service architectures, e.g.,

Increasing use of Java technology (e.g., Jini)

Agent Grid (CoABS): “agentized Object Services Architecture”

layered grid perspectives
Layered functional grids

Information, Sensor, and Engagement grids

e.g., ABIS, Network Centric Warfare

Layered technical grids

Computational grid

Data grid

Object grid

adds behavior to data grid and links data and links them

Object enhancements to the Web an illustration

Agent grid (object grid plus “smarter objects”)

Layered Grid Perspectives
layered technical grids
Each technical grid layer provides advanced compositional mechanisms for things at that level, e.g.:

A computational grid allows formation of larger “virtual computers” from combinations of physical computers

A data grid allows formation of federated data collections from combinations of existing data

An agent grid allows formation of new agents (teams) fromcombinations of existing agents

Ideally, the compositional mechanisms will supporta closure property

The resulting compositions can be treated as individualentities at that level for further composition

Layered Technical Grids

Agent/Grid Architecture Issues

  • What are agents? - code and data packets that are autonomous, adaptive, cooperative, mobile, interoperable … We want all these properties in future agent-based systems. We need experience building systems with these properties.
  • Pervasiveness - How do we insure that the architecture stays lite-weight for wide-spread adoption.
  • Embracing heterogeneity - We must piggyback agent systems on already pervasive infrastructure like ORBs, the Web, email, and DBMS systems. We must identify the specific kinds of heterogeneity we want agent system architectures to support.
  • Separation of concerns
    • agent-agent separation - can agents access each other’s state directly
    • agent-service separation - do agents implement the long list of services that the grid provides or is that done via underlying component-based middleware?
    • grid-agent separation - agents are autonomous but they cooperate and compete for resources within the software grid. The grid provides some global systemic properties and some basic shared services. Is there an explicit grid or is it implicit in the way agents interact with each other? Are some “services” (like planning) optionally distributed into agents or are they available from the grid’s planing service? Can new services be autoloaded into a grid that does not have them?
  • Semantic interoperability, ontology - do ontologies scale? How do they extend class libraries?
  • Licensing - Agents, data sources, and component software need an economic model so broad communities can get value from them. A model of licensing might be critical to success in the large.
  • Agent communication language (ACL) - Is the ACL compositional and extensible so one can define new speech acts from existing ones? How many speech acts is enough? 20 or 5000?
  • Control points - where are the control points where different control algorithms might be substituted into the architecture
  • Grid federation issues - How are software grids federated - flat versus hierarchical models? If different grids contain different policy choices or different services, how does that affect agents communicating across grid boundaries? Can we add new services and -ilities to a grid once it is deployed? how transparent is addition or subtraction of services and ilities
  • Coordination - Insure Agent Reference Architecture augments DARPA ISO ATAIS architecture. Provide template for next generation unified OMG, FIPA, and W3C agent standards. Insure that reference implementations (toolkits) exist and are widely available.
some references see http www objs com reports html
Characterizing the Agent Grid

Systemic Properties

Some Referencessee

What is an Agent?

deconstructionist view:

agents augment objects with additional capabilities

Object  Component  Agent ?

  • ACL
  • process inside
  • agent framework
  • planning
  • mobility
  • rules
  • goal/task-oriented
  • autonomous
  • ontologies
  • collaborative/teams
  • state
  • behavior
  • encapsulation
  • inheritance
  • reflection
  • packaging
  • serialization
  • repository
  • TBD
what is interoperability
Definition: “the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged” [IEEE]

Information includes anything exchanged, e.g.:

Data (control or domain-related)

Operation invocations on objects

Error notifications

Interoperability is based on various agreements(shared assumptions) among the interacting objects about the information exchanged

Disagreements may limit the possible interoperability,(partial interoperability is possible) or deny it entirely

What is Interoperability?