VIM: A Virtual Multicomputer for Symbolic Applications
Contract: CHRX-CT93-0401
GENERAL REPORT

The three topics which bind this network together are parallel and distributed systems, advanced compilation techniques and artificial intelligence (AI) with a common substrate in the programming language Lisp. The research aim of this project is to demonstrate the advantages accruing from the combination of these three technologies to build a virtual multicomputer for large scale symbolic applications. A virtual multicomputer is an ephemeral, persistent machine of available heterogeneous computing resources (workstation, shared-memory multiprocessor, distributed memory multiprocessor, array processor). The system supports a virtual processor abstraction to distribute data and tasks across the multicomputer, the actual physical composition of which may change dynamically. Our practical objective is to assist the prototyping of dynamic distributed symbolic applications in artificial intelligence and computer algebra using whatever resources are available (probably networked workstations), but so that the developed program can also be run on more exotic hardware without reprogramming.

Practice vs. plan

The original work plan identified six topics associated to which were between five and nine specific tasks. To summarise the information from the fourth annual report: of the 40 specific tasks, we have evaluated 22 as being completed and 12 as on-going, while 6 have been dropped. In the case of the on-going tasks, good progress is being made, but either the task cannot be classified as complete at this census point or the task is sufficiently open-ended to make such a classification inappropriate.

Since the purpose of this section is to discuss differences between work accomplished and stated objectives, we will first go into detail on the 6 tasks which were dropped and conclude with some more general observations regarding the changes in emphasis which arose in practice, but which we were able to accommodate within our original objectives. The six specific tasks were:

  1. Reflective architectures: Analysis of the reflective aspects of Omega (Pisa), KRS (VUB), Babylon (GMD-FIT.KI) to find out the differences and commonalities and subsequently to synthesize a requirements definition for a new reflective architecture (Warwick). Dropped in 1995 partly because the relevant partners concluded there would be little benefit arising and partly because of the loss of relevant personnel at GMD. However, some aspects of this topic have been explored latterly and independently at Warwick.
  2. Static analysis: Development of a restructuring tool for sequential programs to generate hierarchical task graphs for concurrent execution (CNR, GMD-FIRST). Dropped in 1996 because GMD suffered managerial reorganization and loss of relevant personnel, making the task infeasible.
  3. Semantics and verification: Investigation of the implications of parallelism for the techniques employed in total compilation (Kiel, INRIA, Bath, Southampton). Dropped in 1996 due to incompatibility with changed research focus at partners involved.
  4. Parallel Models and systems: Investigation of the requirements for the construction of a real-time implementation of EuLisp for use in the control of autonomous agents (Bath, VUB, Southampton). Dropped in 1996 due to partners' commitments to other aspects of the project receiving priority and an expectation that the results would not be significantly superior to existing tools.
  5. Parallel Applications: Development of a concurrent implementation of LINNEO+ in EuLisp (UPC, Bath) and its application to the classification of marine sponges. Dropped in 1996 because it was concluded that although such an application in EuLisp would be a useful test-bed the amount of time and effort involved would not be worth the return. Furthermore, no suitable manpower was available to undertake the work.
  6. Parallel Applications: Integration of LINNEO+ with the LATIDO (intensive care monitoring) project (UPC, URV, IIIA) as a distributed application. Dropped in 1996 due to the work on both LINNEO+ and LATIDO coming to an end and personnel involved focussing on other projects (specifically, agent-based work which is discussed later).

It is appropriate at this point to note that the one industrial partner, ILOG s.a., did not participate in any way in the activities of the network. Fortunately, being concerned that commercial imperatives might have unforeseen effects on the programme, no tasks depended entirely on ILOG for their completion and all those that had involved ILOG were completed satisfactorily. With the agreement of all the partners, ILOG's budget was redistributed.

Changes in emphasis

In the 1994 report, we noted that a) the static analysis programme is likely to be seriously affected by changes at GMD FIRST, where the original group was disbanded leaving just one individual; b) there was reorganization and loss of personnel at GMD FIT.KI which will affect some of the AI work (knowledge representation, items 4 (Development and application of an object-oriented knowledge representation formalismApplication of new forms of knowledge representation in intelligent tutoring systems)) and some of the object-oriented work (reflective architectures, items 1 (Analysis of the reflective aspects of Omega (Pisa), KRS (VUB), Babylon (GMD-FIT.KI) to find out the differences and commonalities and subsequently to synthesize a requirements definition for a new reflective architecture (Warwick)) and 3 (Development of the EuLisp object system and its meta-object protocol through experience of a wider variety of applications)) in the original workplan. However, in 1995's report, we noted a positive new development as a result of discussions between GMD-FIRST and URV (Tarragona) where work on fuzzy-matching in rule systems was applied to process placement in distributed systems. As a result of this and continuing work at CAU Kiel, most of the objectives under Static Analysis were achieved, even if not in the ways originally envisaged.

In 1995's report, we noted that the changes at GMD FIT.KI had more far-reaching effects than foreseen at the time of the previous report. However, URV continued independently in the direction of multi-agent systems instead of object-oriented modelling. In a further loss, Juergen Kopp left GMD FIT.KI at the end of 1995, which was a major contributing factor to dropping item 1 under Reflective Architectures. However, the shift in personnel at GMD to staff involved in the GEOMED project, which also included VUB as a partner, and with experience in CSCW and distributed AI, eventually proved very beneficial.

The impact of the WWW and agent technology development began to have a deeper effect on the overall thrust of the network in 1995, starting under our headings of Reflective Architectures and of Knowledge Representation, where there was a shift towards multi-agent systems which fitted well with the developments on distributed programming systems also being developed within the network.

In 1996, we reported that a particularly strong collaboratory theme in the past year had been the modelling of the Spanish fish-market as a multi-agent system. The first version of this was developed between CNR Naples and IIIA Bellaterra and reported in publication [3] below. Subsequently, young researchers from IIIA came to Bath to develop further versions - using the EuLisp distributed programming environment developed at Bath. This theme continued to provide a fruitful line of development as we explored formalization of different bidding protocols for electronic auction houses and several further publications have resulted. We mention this as a significant instance of work that was not foreseen when the project plan was put forward, but which evolved out of the interactions of the partners and yet also satisfied the objectives of the plan. The agent perspective has also been pursued in a novel direction in a collaboration between UPC and Salerno for the development of intelligent museum guides, growing out of past work in intelligent tutoring systems.

Thus it is that, the three topics identified at the outset have largely been unified under the subject of agents. In consequence, the individual foci of the partner's research interests can now also been viewed as contributing to a common goal. Reflecting this theme, two workshops were held in 1997 with the title "Collaboration between human and artificial societies" and the papers from these are expected to be published in 1998. Meanwhile, two papers on agent interaction for electronic commerce are to appear in the journal AI Communications.

Benefits of collaboration and training

Our assessment under this heading falls into two categories: on the VIM network itself and on the nature of the HCM programme.

Regarding the network itself, it is clear from looking at the records of secondments, additional staff and meetings over the years that it took some time for the network to gather momentum - indeed, this was the basis of our argument for the extension - with most of the interaction taking place in the second two years. The explosion of activity can also be linked to the unification of activities under the topic of agents, as noted earlier. Thus, although we started as a disparate group of laboratories with existing acquaintances and interests, a subset of the partners became quite closely integrated, with frequent visits and exchanges of personnel.

In consequence, several of the partners, plus three new organizations made bids proposing electronic commerce projects, first to the last TMR round of framework four and second under the electronic commerce thematic call in June 1997. Unfortunately, neither was successful, but we do not intend to let our relationships languish and will seek to continue our collaborations in the future.

Regarding the HCM programme, the partners particularly appreciated the flexibility and freedom it permitted to pursue ideas without the relatively rigid project plans imposed by national funding or as is the case (by comparison) in the TMR programme. Furthermore, the flexibility in funding facilitated attending conferences when it was appropriate rather then having to plan 2-3 years ahead and simplified organizing meetings with partners. However, the outstanding benefit was the ability to take on young researchers from other partners or elsewhere in the EU, either to enhance the collaboration between partners (for example, sending a young researcher to familiarize him/herself with techniques developed at another partner and transfer that expertise) or to provide/take manpower when needed/offered - in a word, responsiveness. This last has led to new partnerships being signed under the Socrates/Erasmus programme.

To summarize: the partners leave this project with a positive perspective on European-level rather than national collaboration, having enjoyed the means to share knowledge and skills both more widely and with more like-minded groups than in their own countries. We have also created another group of young researchers who regard Europe as their space of interaction rather than their home country.

Facts and figures

Number of research staff working in each team of the network

The data in this section are abstracted from the respective annual reports and which, in turn, were compiled from the individual annex B forms completed by the partners and submitted with the annual reports. Errors and omissions excepted.

1994

1995

1996

1997

Names and nationalities of staff seconded from one partner to another during the reporting period and the duration of their secondments;

The data in this section are abstracted from the respective annual reports and which, in turn, were compiled from the individual annex B forms completed by the partners and submitted with the annual reports. Errors and omissions excepted.

Names and nationalities of additional staff in each team (visiting scientists, fellows) financed by the network contract and the duration of their stays;

The data in this section are abstracted from the respective annual reports and which, in turn, were compiled from the individual annex B forms completed by the partners and submitted with the annual reports. Errors and omissions excepted.

For each scientific meeting for which mobility was financed by the contract, date, location, purpose and nature of the meeting, and names of the scientists attending with the name of the team they represented;

The data in this section are abstracted from the respective annual reports and which, in turn, were compiled from the individual annex B forms completed by the partners and submitted with the annual reports. When it is known for certain that a paper was presented, this is indicated by the annotation "(presentation)". Errors and omissions excepted.

1994 Meetings

03-05 March 1994, GMD, Sankt Augustin. Purpose: Get to know each other and each others work; reports about current work related to VIM-Net; identification of common goals and methods; a complete list of speakers and talk titles can be accessed via the VIM WWW home page: http://www.maths.bath.ac.uk/~jap/VIM.   Nature: The meeting was organized as a workshop, with oral presentations and time for discussion. Participants: Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Hua Bi (GMD Berlin), Harry Bretthauer (GMD Bonn), Thomas Christaller (GMD Bonn), Ulises Cortes (UPC, Barcelona), Iain Craig (Warwick), David DeRoure (Southampton), Hugh Glaser (Southampton), Maurizio Giordano (CNR, Naples), Wolfgang Goerigk (CAU, Kiel), Andreas Kind (Bath), Juergen Kopp (GMD Bonn), Vincenzo Loia (Salerno), Julian Padget (Bath), David Pritchard (Southampton), Christian Queinnec (INRIA), David Riaño (URV, Tarragona), Josep Roure (UPC, Barcelona), Miquel Sanchez (UPC, Barcelona), Carles Sierra (IIIA, Blanes), Friedemann Simon (CAU, Kiel), Angela Sodan (GMD Berlin), Luc Steels (VUB), Vicenç Torra (URV, Tarragona), Walter Van de Velde (VUB), Hans Voss (GMD Bonn).

04-06 July, Pisa. Purpose: Reflection in programming languages and in AI. Nature: Small workshop with presentations, discussions and tutorials. Participants: Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Iain Craig (Warwick), David DeRoure (Southampton), Mario Mango Furnari (Naples), Maurizio Giordano (Naples) Julian Padget (Bath), Enric Plaza (Blanes), David Riaño (Tarragona), Carles Sierra (Blanes), Maria Simi (Pisa), Luc Steels (VUB), Vicenç Torra (Tarragona).

04-05 August, Southampton. Purpose: Compilation and Mapping. Nature: Short presentations and informal discussion. Participants: Neil Berrington (Southampton), Hua Bi (GMD FIRST), Russell Bradford (Bath), David DeRoure (Southampton), Hugh Glaser (Southampton), Benôit Lanaspre (Southampton), Danius Michaelides (Southampton), Angela Sodan (GMD FIRST).

13-17 September, Salerno. Purpose: Issues in classification in multimedia. Nature: Informal discussion. Participants: Ulises Cortes (UPC), Antonina Dattolo, Enrico Fischetti, Antonio Gisolfi, Vincenzo Loia (Salerno).

04-07 October, Brussels. Purpose: Comparison of COMMET and MILORD II. Nature: Informal discussion. Participants: Lluis Godo (IIIA), Carles Sierra (IIIA), Luc Steels (VUB), Walter van de Velde (VUB).

22-24 November, Pisa. Purpose: Interoperability of Lisp and C. Nature: Informal discussion. Participants: Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Christian Queinnec (INRIA).

15-17 December, Barcelona. Purpose: Distributed processing. Nature: Small workshop with tutorials, presentations and discussions; a complete list of speakers and talk titles can be accessed via the VIM WWW home page: http://www.maths.bath.ac.uk/~jap/VIM.   Participants: Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Duncan Batey (Bath), Ulises Cortes (UPC), Antonina Dattolo (Salerno), David DeRoure (Southampton), Mario Mango Furnari (Naples), Maurizio Giordano (Naples), Hugh Glaser (Southampton), Wolfgang Goerigk (Kiel), Thomas Gordon (GMD Bonn), Vincenzo Loia (Salerno), Danius Michaelides (Southampton), Antonio Moreno (UPC), Claudia di Napoli (Naples), Julian Padget (Bath), Enric Plaza (IIIA), Carles Sierra (IIIA), Maria Simi (Pisa), Angela Sodan (GMD Berlin), Vicenç Torra (Tarragona), Walter van de Velde (VUB), Hans Voss (GMD Bonn).

1995 Conferences

1995 Meetings

21-25 January 1995, Barcelona Purpose: discussion of parallel and distributed systems, parallelisation of classification, input to the ISO process (joint with ISO working group meeting). Nature: informal discussions Participants: Ulises Cortes (UPC), David DeRoure (Southampton), Julian Padget (Bath), Christian Queinnec (INRIA),

6-8 February 1995, Paris Purpose: discussion of distributed information systems and distributed multi-media. Nature: informal discussions Participants: Les Carr (Southampton), David DeRoure (Southampton), Hugh Glaser (Southampton), Christian Queinnec (INRIA).

14-24 September 1995, Pisa Purpose: discussion of reflection and its application in blackboard architectures Nature: informal discussion Participants: Iain Craig (Warwick), Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Maria Simi (Pisa)

21-23 June 1995, Naples Purpose: discussion of distributed systems design and multimedia Nature: informal discussion Participants: Les Carr (Southampton), David DeRoure (Southampton), Mario Mango Furnari (CNR), Maurizio Giordano (CNR), Claudia di Napoli (CNR)

1-8 July, Naples Purpose: discussion of multi-agents and MILORD II Nature: informal discussion Participants: Mario Mango Furnari (CNR), Maurizio Giordano (CNR), Claudia di Napoli (CNR), Carles Sierra (IIIA)

14-15 September 1995, Paris Purpose: discussion of first class environments Nature: informal discussion Participants: David DeRoure (Southampton), Christian Queinnec (INRIA).

27-28 September, Berlin Purpose: discussion of the application of fuzzy inference to mapping parallel programs to parallel architectures Nature: informal discussion Participants: Angela Sodan (GMD FIRST), Viçenc Torra (URV)

27-29 November, Southampton Purpose: discussion of distributed garbage collection and applications program interfaces for distributed systems Nature: informal discussion Participants: David DeRoure (Southampton), Hugh Glaser (Southampton), Luc Moreau (Southampton), Christian Queinnec (INRIA)

1996 Conferences

1996 Meetings

8-9 February, Berlin Purpose: compilation for parallel execution Nature: technical discussion Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), Angela Sodan (GMD-FIRST).

25-26 March, Paris Purpose: ISO WG16 working group held at ILOG s.a. Nature: standards meeting Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), David DeRoure (Southampton), Pierre Parquier (ILOG), Bruno Haible (ILOG), Ulises Cortes (UPC)

22-27 June, Barcelona Purpose: preparation of joint paper Nature: technical discussion Participants: Antonio Gisolfi (Salerno), Vincenzo Loia (Salerno), Ulises Cortes (UPC), Ramon Sangüesa (UPC).

1-2 July, Kiel Purpose: Compiler correctness and staging transformations Nature: technical discussion Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), Wolfgang Goerigk (Kiel), Friedemann Simon (Kiel), Hans Langmaack (Kiel).

23-25 September, Tarragona Purpose: Fuzzy inference Nature: technical discussion Participants: Angela Sodan (GMD-FIRST), Vicenç Torra (URV).

26-28 September, Barcelona Purpose: project workshop Nature: workshop Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), David Riaño (URV), Antonio Moreno (URV), Vicenç Torra (URV), Carles Sierra (IIIA), Pablo Noriega (IIIA), Ramon Lopez de Manataras (IIIA), Joan Rodriguez (IIIA), Franciso Martín (IIIA), Angela Sodan (GMD-FIRST), Hans Voss (GMD-FIT.KI), Nikos Karacapilidis (GMD-FIT.KI), Markus Mueller Ulm (Kiel), Edwin de Jong (VUB), Mario Mango Furnari (CNR Naples), Maurizio Giordano (CNR Naples), Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa).

30 September-2 October, Salerno Purpose: planning for exchanges later in the year Nature: technical discussion Participants: Ulises Cortes (UPC), Ramon Sangüesa (UPC), Antonio Gisolfi (Salerno), Vincenzo Loia (Salerno).

1-4 November, Paris Purpose: preparation of joint paper Nature: technical discussion Participants: Luc Moreau (Southampton) and Christian Queinnec (INRIA)

5-6 December, Barcelona Purpose: planning of Emporium TMR proposal Nature: technical discussion Participants: Ulises Cortes (UPC), Carles Sierra (IIIA), Julian Padget (Bath), Tom Gordon (GMD), Hans Voss (GMD), Pablo Noriega (IIIA).

1997 Conferences

1997 Meetings

10-11 January, Barcelona Purpose: planning for TMR application Nature: technical discussions Participants: Tom Gordon (GMD FIT.KI), Hans Voss (GMD FIT.KI), Julian Padget (Bath), Carles Sierra (IIIA), Enric Plaza (IIIA), Ulises Cortes (UPC).

23-25 January, Cambridge Purpose: planning TMR application Nature: technical discussions Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), Carles Sierra, Pablo Noriega (IIIA)

13-14 February, Berlin Purpose: mapping work to processors in distributed systems Nature: technical discussion Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), Angela Sodan (GMD-FIRST)

13-14 March, Pisa Purpose: (de)serialization of Java/EuLisp objects and EuLisp/Java interoperability Nature: technical discussion Participants: Julian Padget (Bath), Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Maria Simi (Pisa), Andreas Kind (Pisa)

7-11 April, Naples/Milan Purpose: shared distributed memory Nature: technical discussion Participants: Mario Mango Furnari (CNR), Christian Queinnec (INRIA)

1-3 May, Lanjarón Purpose: project workshop Nature: workshop with invited speakers: Nick Jennings (Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London) Henry Prakken (Vrije Universitet, Amsterdam), Jean-Pierre Briot (Université Paris 6) Participants: all partners - full programme available at http://www.maths.bath.ac.uk/~jap/VIM   37 people in total.

16-18 May, Southampton Purpose: multi-energy programming Nature: technical discussion Participants: Luc Moreau (Southampton), Christian Queinnec (INRIA)

25 May, Lausanne Purpose: argumentation-based and decision making support system (Hermes) for preventive medicine Nature: technical discussion Participants: Nikos Karacapilidis (INRIA), Brigitte Trousse (INRIA)

23-30 July, Barcelona Purpose: preparation of joint papers Nature: technical discussion Participants: Antonio Gisolfi (Salerno), Ulises Cortes (UPC), Ramon Sangüesa (UPC)

21 August-12 September, Paris Purpose: object serialization, origins of language Nature: technical discussion Participants: Luc Steels (VUB), Christian Queinnec (INRIA), Giuseppe Attardi (Pisa), Maria Simi (Pisa)

5 November, Rocquencourt Purpose: argumentation-based and decision making support system (Hermes) for complex software engeneering Nature: technical discussion Participants: Brigitte Trousse (INRIA), Psycho-ERGO members (Detienne, Visser) (INRIA)

28 November, Berlin Purpose: total compilation techniques Nature: technical discussion Participants: Wolfgang Goerigk (Kiel), Angela Sodan (GMD-FIRST)

4-6 December, Ravello Purpose: project workshop Nature: workshop with invited speakers: Stefano Cerri (Universitá degli Studi di Milano), François Pachet (Sony CSL, Paris) Participants: all partners - full programme available at http://www.maths.bath.ac.uk/~jap/VIM   29 people in total.

April, May, September, December, IIIA Bellaterra Purpose: knowledge representation Nature: one day technical discussions Participants: Vicenç Torra (URV), Lluis Godo (IIIA)

Joint publications authored by scientists from more than one of the participating teams;

The data in this section are abstracted from the respective annual reports and which, in turn, were compiled from the individual annex B forms completed by the partners and submitted with the annual reports. Errors and omissions excepted.

  1. Torra, V., Cortes, U., Towards an automatic consensus generator tool: EGAC, IEEE SMC, 1995.
  2. German National Research Center for Information Technology (GMD), TNO Building and Construction Research (Holland), University Joseph Fourier, LIFIA-IMAG (France), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Geographical Mediation Systems GEOMED-F Final Report, 273 p., 1995.
  3. Napoli, C., Giordano, M., Furnari, M., Sierra, C., and Noriega, P. A PVM Implementation of the Fishmarket Multiagent System in the proceedings of ISAI/IFIS 1996, Cancún, Maxico, Nov. 12-15 1996, pp. 68-76
  4. Torra V. and Sodan A., A multi-stage system in compilation environments, Report de Recerca, DEI-RR-97-001, Universidad Rovira i Virgili, 1997.
  5. Sodan A. and Torra V., Configuration Decisions for Mapping by Fuzzy Inference, Technical Report, GMD-FIRST, Berlin.
  6. Queinnec C. and DeRoure D., Sharing code through first-class environments, Proceedings of 1996 ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming, pp251-261., ACM Press, New York.
  7. Queinnec C. and Moreau L., On the Finiteness of Resources in Distributed Computing, INRIA Research Report 3147, 1997.
  8. Moreau L. and Queinnec C., On the Finiteness of Resources in Distributed Computing, INRIA Research Report 3147, April 1997.
  9. Moreau L. and Queinnec C., Design and Semantics of Quantum: a Language to Control Resource Consumption in Distributed Computing published in proceedings of Usenix Conference on Domain Specific Language, DSL'97, pp183-197.
  10. Moreau L. and Queinnec C., Distributed Computations Driven by Resource Consumption, In IEEE International Conference on Computer Languages (ICCL'98), Chicago, USA, May 1998. Also University of Southampton Technical Report, April 1997.
  11. Riaño D., Cortes U., Rule generation from real data: GAR meets LINNEO+, Research report LSI-97-17-R, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 1997.
  12. Riaño D., Cortes U., Rule generation and compactation in the WWTP problem. Computacion y Sistemas v1 n2. 1997
  13. Torra V.,Godo L., On defuzzification with continuous WOWA operators, Report de Recerca, DEI-RR-97-006, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 1997.
  14. Torra V.,Godo L., On defuzzification with continuous WOWA operators, Actas del VII Congreso Espanol sobre Tecnologias y Logica Fuzzy (ESTYLF'97), 227-232, Tarragona, 1997.
  15. Torra V., Godo L., Averaging continuous distributions with the WOWA operator proceedings of the Second European Workshop on Fuzzy Decision Analysis and Neural Networks for Management, Planning and Optimization (EDFAN'97), Dortmund, 1997.
  16. Sodan A. and Torra V., A multi-stage system in compilation environment, Fuzzy Sets and Systems Journal, accepted for publication.
  17. Sodan A. and Torra V., Mapping Decisions by Fuzzy Inference, proceedings of ICA3PP'97, Melbourne/Australia, December 1997.
  18. A. Kind, G. Attardi, Interoperability between the EuLisp and Java Programming Languages, Technical Report, Dipartimento di Informatica, Universitá di Pisa.

END OF GENERAL REPORT