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Synthesis of Extremely Large Time-Triggered Network Schedules
1  School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden

Published: 09 June 2017 by MDPI in DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY session Doctoral Symposium


Time-Triggered switched Ethernet networks are increasing in size and complexity as they are planning to be deployed in large industrial networks such as mega-factories, and projected to be used in the future in smart cities. Traffic in time-triggered networks follows an offline schedule designed before hand that contains the transmission times of all the time-triggered frames through the links in the network. However, synthesizing this schedule means a major challenge when adapting time-triggered network in a larger scale. Schedule synthesis is a well known NP-complete problem with complexity driven by the network size and the number of frames it contains. State-of-the-art schedulers have been capable of synthesizing such schedules in a reasonable amount of time, but, they start to present scalability issues and are not able to cope with the size and complexity introduced by future applications.

In addition, applications are starting to require wireless capabilities in some areas of its networks, introducing a mixture of wired and wireless communication in the same network. Wireless communication also increases the complexity in schedule synthesis as the difference in transmission speeds between wired and wireless links is too significant to apply typical complexity reduction techniques, such as raster [1].

Research Goals

The goal of this research is to provide a new approach that is able to overcome the scalability issues of current schedule synthesis approaches before the deployment of the network. In general, a good strategy in engineering to cope with large problems is to use divide and conquer approach. In the case of schedule synthesis, we divide the schedule in smaller schedules, called segments, in which every segment will be a non-overlapping time interval of the complete schedule. Once all segments are defined, we allocate as many frames as we can using a state-of-the-art scheduler and concatenate them to obtain the final schedule. In our case, we apply Satisfiability Modulo Theories (SMT) solvers [3], that are able to find the satisfiability of a set of constraints and, if exists, provide an example of such satisfiability, in our case, frames allocated in a segment. However, some of the frames are dependent between them, and present inter-segment constraint that go beyond single segments. These inter-segment constraints bring a challenge to our approach as each segment is scheduled independently and there are no mechanism to satisfy constraints outside the segment being scheduled. To overcome this limitation, we release the SMT solver of such constraints, and handle them in our algorithms with the selection of frames and the addition of some extra constraints in each segment in order for the inter-segment constraints to be satisfied.

Results Obtained

We evaluated our approach using the topology of a network deployed to provide free Internet to a large touristic area and creating synthetic time-triggered traffic. This network, that we call Actual, consist in 81 end systems that exchange information between them through 44 switches and 248 links. Then, we created two new larger networks, Large, that consists is 5 times bigger than the Actual network, and Very Large, which is 11 times bigger. We provided between 5.000 and 50.000 synthetic frames to these networks and synthesize its schedules with our approach using the SMT solver Yices 2.4 [2] to allocate frames into the segments.

For the Actual size network we can schedule 5.000 frames in one minute and up to 50.000 frames in less than one hour. This is a huge performance and scalability improvement, as state of-the-art synthesizers could only schedule up to 1.000 frames in 20 minutes for smaller networks that the used in our evaluation. The synthesis time for Large and Very Large networks increases due to its larger complexity, but the synthesizer is still able to find valid schedules. It is important to note that the increase in synthesis time for networks with more frames is almost linear instead of exponential. This allows us to, if it is needed, to schedule networks with even more frames without experiencing scalability issues, which was the main problem of previous approaches.

Next Steps

Instead of keep pursuing an increase of performance in the schedule synthesis, we would like to abstract and automatize the process of constraint selection for the segments. In our research, we found that the selection of constraints, the number and how to add extra constraints in every segment has a great impact in the performance of the synthesizer. We would like to automatize this problem with the use of machine learning to find better segments and constraints division. This may allow us to use our approach to solve scheduling problem outside Time-Triggered networks if they are formulated as SMT constrained problems. It also have a good impact in our performance, as it could allow us to find segments that can be scheduled in parallel.


[1] Mok, A. and Wang, W., Window Constrained Real-Time Periodic Task Scheduling, in the IEEE 22nd Proceedings in Real-Time Systems Symposium (RTSS), 2001.

[2] B. Dutertre, Yices 2.2, in the Springer Computer Aided Verification, 2014. [3] Ranise, S., and Tinelli, C. Satisfiability modulo theories. Trends and Controversies in the IEEE Intelligent Systems Magazine, 2006.

[3] Ranise, S., and Tinelli, C. Satisfiability modulo theories. Trends and Controversies in the IEEE Intelligent Systems Magazine, 2006.

Keywords: Real-Time Networks, Time-Triggered, SMT, Scheduling