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Speed and security – with a small footprint

Published: 29 May 2018 - Sarah Mead

The use of communications middleware is not a new concept; however, the latest implementations offer a host of additional benefits, not least reducing risk and cost. NICK PRIDHAM, of Hamersham Automation Software, discusses how such systems can save businesses time, money and resources through streamlining the communications process across a range of applications.

The concept of communications middleware is not a new one. In essence, its purpose is to enable two or more otherwise separate software devices to exchange information securely and reliably.

Data Distribution Service – or DDS – technology may not be as widely understood as some established middleware services; however, its flexibility and configurability make it the ideal solution for use in a wide variety of industries, from materials handling and agriculture to aerospace, mining and military.

DDS middleware simplifies the transfer of information from one source to another, streamlining the way that applications receive and process data, whether they be mobile phones, remote sensors or PCs. This high-performance peer-to-peer communication can take place without the need to connect to a remote server on the cloud, resulting in swifter – and more cost-effective – transfer of information.

It’s good to talk

DDS can be used in a vast range of software systems. These include mobile devices such as Android and IOS to enterprise and database systems. The DDS API supports a wide range of language bindings including C, C++, C#, and Java. This means DDS has the flexibility to be integrated into any embedded system regardless of whether it is operating at the edge or in the cloud.

In the current software market, there is a wide range of operating systems in use – Windows, Android, Linux and so on – that communicate data differently, in the same way that different types of hardware store and retrieve information in diverse ways. This can become very costly in terms of both time and money when organisations want to integrate legacy, previously stand-alone applications and technologies in order to allow them to exchange information.

DDS has build integrations for a vast range of different operating systems including IOS and Windows. This means that, for instance, an iPhone and a PC can still ‘talk’ to each other when DDS is in place despite using different operating systems.

The size of the different software systems, the number of hardware devices and the distance over which they need to communicate all affect the complexity of the challenge and the resulting cost, timeframe and risk involved.

Employing middleware such as DDS diminishes this complexity while providing additional benefits, including improving system security. DDS is an established technology and an open standard managed by the Object Management Group.

How does DDS work?

DDS handles the transfer of information between publishers – producers and senders of messages – to subscribers, or those who consume and read messages, regardless of whether they are using different operating platforms or operating systems.

A system participant with information to offer publishes information on request via a data writer. A system participant requiring information subscribes to information via a data reader. A data writer and data reader exchange information on a TOPIC. The discovery of publishers and subscriber is automatic meaning IP addresses and port number configuration is not required.

The capacity to scale such exchanges is substantial – tens of thousands of devices can be connected at the same time without impacting on the speed at which messages are sent.

DDS automatically knows how to send and receive messages between users, concluding which should receive messages, where they are located and how to proceed if the receiver is unavailable. This simplifies data distribution, reducing the code required to deliver messages, which in turn makes delivery faster and more efficient.

Systems that communicate through DDS do so independently of each other, in real time. With highly efficient processing, messages are sent within microseconds and with a scalable architecture, enabling both large and small amounts of data to be processed without a delay.

As an open standard, DDS middleware provided by different manufacturers can take over and work with new systems, saving costs and eradicating the danger of users being vendor ‘locked in’.

Secure and cost-effective

Using DDS middleware reduces risk, as well as saving organisations time, money and resources.

While today’s IoT systems can enjoy tremendous benefits from connected components, additional network connections can increase security risks. Leading DDS implementations such as CoreDX DDS, delivered by Hamersham and produced by its partner company Twin Oaks Computing, provide a state-of-the-art, end to end security solution that meets the requirements of all military and industrial IOT systems.

This covers all aspects of security, including identification and authorisation, access control, integrity and confidentiality.

In addition, users can be on the same machine or operating across a network. There is no requirement to configure different IP addresses, while specification instructions keep data copies to a minimum, therefore this streamlined transfer process is high performance and operates in real time, reducing the deployment timeline.

DDS is truly P2P and operates on a publish subscribe principle. Neither a message broker nor a cloud server is needed for information to be exchanged, vastly reducing service costs.

DDS is suitable for use in a vast range of applications, from safety-critical environments such as unmanned armed vehicles, to renewable energy smart grids. CoreDX DDS has been used to control the opening and closing of a rear ramp on a prototype military vehicle, as well as in machine control software for energy applications.

CoreDX DDS provides further benefits over similar implementations. These include a small footprint – a mere 500 KB including standard and additional QoS policies – with the ability to run on machines with less than 250KB of memory.

While performance of most DDS implementations is good, particularly when compared with other XML-based middleware technology, CoreDX DDS takes this to the next level, providing, for example, throughputs over 900 Mbps with latencies of just 60 microseconds.

While DDS technology has been available for several years, until recently new and sophisticated resources such as dynamic type technology, which eases system challenges, were not available. Embedded application designers can now enjoy benefits such as this with a significantly smaller footprint perfect not only for embedded environments but safety critical applications that must certify every line of code.

Hamersham Automotive Expertise is the UK and European distribution partner for Twin Oaks Computing.

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