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Bill St. Arnaud is a consultant and research engineer who works with clients around the world on a variety of subjects such as next generation Internet networks and developing practical solutions to reduce CO2 emissions such as free broadband and dynamic charging of eVehicles. He is an author of many papers and articles on these topics and is a frequent guest speaker. For more details on my research interests see

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Cyber-infrastructure for undersea instruments

[Excellent example of the use of cyber-infrastructure Service Oriented Architecture using web services and workflow for management and control of undersea instruments and networks. Of particular note is that Alcatel who is building the Neptune undersea backbone fiber network will also be using SOA for the management and control of the network facilities. Because both the network and the instruments can now be represented as web services various exciting new possibilities are possible in terms of providing user control of both data, instruments and networks. For more examples please see and for commercial products please see BSA]

In September 2005, DMAS was awarded a grant from the CANARIE Intelligent Infrastructure Program (CIIP) for a project called: “Toward a Service Oriented Architecture and Workflow Management for VENUS and NEPTUNE”. The goals of this project were to provide these two high profile Canadian Cabled Ocean Observatories with an integrated scientific instruments management system, the capability to deliver event information to users, as well as integrated access to distributed compute and data resources through the use of innovative technologies.

The initial draft of the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) was proposed by IBM Canada, one of the largest R&D investors in Canada. This architecture was later refined by the Data Management Archive System (DMAS) team. It is worth mentioning that this is also the approach taken by Alcatel for the interaction with the NEPTUNE backbone.

This style of information systems architecture enables the NEPTUNE Canada and VENUS DMAS to be built by combining loosely coupled and interoperable services. The IBM Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) with its underlying message system WebSphere MQ provides the features such as point-to-point data delivery and message publish-and subscribe to implement the DMAS SOA.

A wide range of Web Services has been developed by the DMAS team and it will continue to add more, especially in the area of instrument control and monitoring. One of the most interesting Web Services offered is the device service which allows remote interaction with the instruments under water using either a web page on the NEPTUNE Canada web site or custom applications written by scientists or engineers. The Science Instrument Interface Modules (SIIM) - now called Junction Boxes- can be controlled from a simple web interface allowing authorized engineers to open or close a port to which instruments are connected. Other Web Services deliver observatory metadata or sample data to users.

Over the last few months, the DMAS team has developed a number of new features, some of which are already in production while others are still in the ‘incubator’ and will be released in the coming weeks. Karen Tang, one of the DMAS developers, has built an example of scientific workflow using the Kepler software, a product built on top of the Ptolemy II system of the University of California, Berkeley. The example, illustrated below, performs an oxygen sensor data analysis using DMAS Web Services. Darry Bidulock, another team member, has just completed the new gallery to show the VENUS camera images and the hydrophone data. This allows scientists around the world to view pictures, movies and spectra, or listen to sound taken by instruments with a delay of just a few minutes. The user interface ‘à la You tube’ is very easy to use and will be the basis for all displayable products of NEPTUNE Canada and VENUS. These products will also soon be available using RSS feeds.

Yigal Rachman, our data acquisition developer, is now working on a top of the line data acquisition framework (DAF) which should be in place this summer. The DAF presents a range of new challenges such as the support for thousands of sensors and the direct access by engineers and scientists using Web Services.

All these new features would not have been possible without the support of the CANARIE project, which helped us build the underlying infrastructure. As a result of CANARIE’s support, the newest technologies available in the IT world, and the work accomplished in 2005–06 NEPTUNE Canada will establish a leading position in the Big Science