The Challenge of Distributed Systems of Systems: Towards Emergent Middleware

Thursday 4th February 2010, 6.00 p.m.

The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2 7HA. The nearest underground stations are Covent Garden and Charing Cross.

Professor Gordon Blair, Lancaster University

Since their inception in the early 1980s, the pace of innovation in distributed systems has been quite extraordinary. For example, Internet-scale systems are now quite common-place and it could be argued that the challenge of scalability has (at least partially) been tamed. Other key developments include support for mobility, the emergence of ubiquitous computing and, more recently, the emergence of computing as a utility (or cloud computing).

Taken together, this presents a rather different architecture of a distributed system, perhaps best understood as a system of systems, where wireless sensor networks co-exist with cluster computers and other elements including support for mobile devices. In this talk, Professor Blair will argue that this poses a much greater challenge to distributed systems than the aforementioned challenge of scale.

For example, how do you achieve a relatively simple property such as interoperability in potentially complex systems of systems, and how can you guarantee the desired end to end quality of service such as dependability of security properties. More generally, what does middleware look like for such complex distributed systems?

Building on experience from work on environmental monitoring and management systems and also work in the European CONNECT FET project (, the speaker will postulate that we are moving towards an era of emergent middleware, that is middleware that emerges at run-time to match the current operational environment and application requirements.

Free, but to gain admission please e-mail your name to our Membership Secretary, Dr Frank Martin, at

CPD Value:
Half unit

View the slides for this event (PDF - 1.30 MB)

View the references for this event (PDF - 47KB)