An Efficient Procedure to Develop, Deploy and Monitor Iterative Performance Tests for IoT-FOTA Platform

IoT Devices and The World’s Population

We live in a time where having a machine to merely perform a basic task, for an instance brewing a coffee,  heating water is not enough. We want a smart solution which is user-friendly, intuitive and equipped with modern communication technologies e.g. Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC etc. We are surrounded by smart devices in home, office, train and city.These smart connected devices are a small part of Internet of Things. We have seen an exponential growth of connected devices in recent years and it is going to shoot up the sky in coming years. To put this into perspective , IoT Analytics estimated that there were 7 billion connected devices in 2017 and predicts, the number will rise to 22 billion by 2025. That will be almost 3 times the current world’s population.
Number of IoT devices worldwide 2015 - 2025

Security Threats and Firmware Updates

With the growth of IoT devices, security threats and attacks associated with them have also increased multifold. Most of the IoT devices are deployed in the market on the principle of set and forget. The IoT vendors and manufactures do not facilitate a secure and seamless firmware update mechanism for the connected devices. asvin provides a platform powered by Hyperledger Fabric DLT technology to distribute security patches and software updates for IoT devices.

Iterative Performance Tests

Since the first demonstration, the prototype has contributed hugely in understanding of asvin platform and helped in gain immense  insights about the used technologies and their interaction with each other. It offered an opportunity to bring the idea of asvin to life. It has been among the top most performer in tech meetups, security conferences, pitch events, tech demos etc. over a year now and asvin has expanded its horizon since then. asvin has received awards and garnered support from tech reviewers from Financial Innovation Business Conference (FIBC) 2019 in Tokyo, Japan to COHORT 5 in Dubai, United Arab of Emirates. We have been able to leave our footprints in major the cities of Asia and Europe. 

It is paramount to stress test any IoT platform for performance and asvin is not an exception. The performance of the platform has been a critical aspect for asvin since the inception. Having done with the prototyping phase the next logical step for asvin was to stress test its platform for performance, scalability and resilience. From prototyping, we got the confidence that what we drew on whiteboard one day works well today, but a question was lingering in front of us, ‘is asvin’s platform capable enough to operate efficiently in the midst of exponentially growing number of IoT devices?’. To validate the platform and clear all the doubts, we ran iterative experiments on asvin using Fed4FIRE+ testbeds. The experiments were conducted to evaluated and improve performance of asvin’s platform over a period of 3 months.

Test Setup

 We used multiple tools and technology to perform a highly advanced, efficient and sophisticated experiments using Fed4FIRE testbed, Virtual Wall. The following sections details the test setup.

jFed

JFed is a computer application which provides user friendly interface to interact with remote testbeds hosted by Fed4FIRE. The resources available on multiple testbeds can be provisioned and managed by it efficiently.

The requested resources can be configured using Resource Specification(RSpec). These configurations mainly fall in 3 categories.  

  • Disk images  
    • Operating systems e.g. Windows, Ubuntu, Debian etc.  
  • Network  
    • Public Internet access, network impairment (latency, delay, bandwidth)  
  • Storage  
    • Permanent storage, increase root partition, extra disk space etc. 

An Experiment specification(ESpec) is an extension of RSpec format. It can be utilized to bootstrap an experiment, for an example automatically run commands, transfer files to and from nodes.   

ESPec Generator   

The Espec file format is used to automate Kubernetes cluster installation on testbed nodes. It is possible to generate ESpec file format which contains information such as upload and run a script file on master node and worker nodes, dependency installation with sudo access etc. We used a program written in python to generate ESpec file format for a desired cluster configuration. It has multiple options to set properties in a cluster, for example number of worker nodes, target Virtual Wall testbed etc. It gives the output as a tar file, which consists ESpec file format, scripts and other configuration files to develop Kubernetes cluster. From here on jFed experimenter can be utilized to load the tar file and provision required resources to build Kubernetes cluster.

Kubernetes Cluster   

We needed an efficient production grade container orchestration system which can be utilized to deploy, scale and manage container applications. The Kubernetes was the best fit for the solution. Kubernetes cluster is a collection of two types of nodes. These nodes are characterized as following  

  1. Master node 
  2. Worker node

A worker node can be a virtual or physical machine. Each worker node is comprised of multiple services for instance kubelet, kube-proxy etc., which are essential to run container application (pods).  A high-level view of the architecture is illustrated in the following diagram.  


A Kubernetes master is a controller node. It manages all the worker nodes in a cluster. A master node makes use of kubelet service running on each worker node to manage pods. An end user is provided command line interface named, kubectl to manage Kubernetes cluster. A Kubernetes user always communicates with master node which in the background executes commands and tasks on worker nodes.  

Control Server

At this stage, we have a Kubernetes cluster running on desired testbed. As mentioned earlier kubectl tool can be used to schedule a task on worker nodes, but it is not scalable for a large experiment. On top of that Kubernetes cluster can only pull images from Docker registry, but to test asvin.io we need a custom docker image. To solve both the problems, we used a Control server with a web interface. 
   

It performs three important tasks.  

1. Build Docker Images  

The server hosts a private Docker registry where user’s custom docker images are stored. The Docker program is installed on the server and the Docker Registry 2.0 image is run. The port 5000 on the container is exposed so that a user can build, and store a docker image and all Kubernetes worker nodes can access custom images from the private registry. A user can use the web interface of the control server to upload, build and store a custom image. It lets a user upload an image as gzipped tarball file. 

2. Control Experiment  

To schedule a task on Kubernetes cluster a user can start an experiment on control server. This experiment is comprised of following properties.

  • A name tag of a docker image 
  • Parameters to pass to the command running in a container  
  • Number of containers  
  • Number of threads in a container  

The aforementioned parameters are taken in to account to create and run a Kubernetes job on the cluster.  

3. Monitor Experiment  

An experiment without some findings is not useful at all. It is important to rate an experiment on some performance metrics. These metrics are decided before the start of an experiment. It is very important to gather data while performing experiment to take effective decisions. For asvin.io experiment, we used influxDB and Grafana to monitor and induce some insights. Both  the programs were installed on the control server using the ESpec file format. The output of the experiment was time series. All pods running on the Kubernetes cluster stored result in influxDB database. Grafana was used to query the database and visualize the results in graphs format.