EclipseIoT

A lot of fun with … AMQP, Spark, Kafka, EnMasse, MQTT, Vert.x & IoT

When I say to someone that I work for Red Hat they say me “Ah ! Are you working on Linux ?” … No, no, no and … no ! I’m not a Linux guy, I’m not a fan boy but I’m just a daily user 🙂

All people know that Red Hat is THE company which provides the best enterprise Linux distribution well known as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) but Red Hat is not only Linux today. Its portfolio is huge : the cloud and containers business with the OpenShift effort, the microservices offer with Vert.x, Wildfly Swarm, Spring Boot, the IoT world with the involvement in the main Eclipse Foundation projects.

The objective of this blog is just showing briefly the projects I worked (or I’m working) on since last year when I was hired on March 1st. They are not “my” projects, they are projects I’m involved because the entire team is working on them … collaboration, you know 🙂

You could be surprised about that but … there is no Linux ! I’m on the messaging & IoT team, so you will see only projects about this stuff 🙂

AMQP – Apache Spark connector

This “little” component is strictly related to the “big” radanalytics.io project which takes the powerful of Apache Spark for analytics (batch, real-time, machine learning, …) running on OpenShift.

Because the messaging team works mainly on projects like ActiveMQ Artemis and the Qpid Dispatch Router, where the main protocol is AMQP 1.0, the idea was developing a connector for Spark Streaming in order to ingest data through this protocol so from queues/topics on a broker or through the router in a direct messaging fashion.

You can find the component here and even an IoT demo here which shows how it’s possible to ingest data through AMQP 1.0 using the EnMasse project (see below) and then executing a real time streaming analytics with Spark Streaming, all running on Kubernetes and OpenShift.

AMQP – Apache Kafka bridge

Apache Kafka is one of the best technologies used today for ingesting data (i.e. IoT related scenarios) with an high throughput. Even in this case, the idea was providing a way for having AMQP 1.0 clients and JMS clients pushing messages to Apache Kafka topics without knowing the related custom protocol.

In this way, if you have such clients because you are already using a broker technology but then you need some specific Kafka features (i.e. re-reading streams), you can just switch the messaging system (from the broker to Kafka) and using the bridge you don’t need to update or modify clients. I showed how this is possible at the Red Hat summit as well and the related demo is available here.

MQTT on EnMasse

EnMasse is an open source messaging platform, with focus on scalability and performance. It can run on your own infrastructure (on premise) or in the cloud, and simplifies the deployment of messaging infrastructure.

It’s based on other open source projects like ActiveMQ Artemis and Qpid Dispatch Router supporting the AMQP 1.0 protocol natively.

In order to provide support for the MQTT protocol, we designed how to take “MQTT over AMQP” so having MQTT features on the AMQP protocol. From the design we moved to develop two main components :

  • the MQTT gateway which handles connections with remote MQTT clients translating all messages from MQTT to AMQP and vice versa;
  • the MQTT LWT (Last and Will Testament) service which provides a way for notifying all clients connected to EnMasse that another client is suddenly died sending them its “will message”. The great thing about this service, is that it works with pure AMQP 1.0 clients so bringing the LWT feature on AMQP as well : for this reason the team is thinking to change its name just in AMQP LWT service.

EnMasse is great for IoT scenarios in order to handle a huge number of connections and ingesting a lot of data using AMQP and MQTT as protocols. I used it in all my IoT demos for showing how it’s possible to integrate it with streaming and analytics frameworks. It’s also the main choice as messaging infrastructure in the cloud for the Eclipse Hono project.

Vert.x and the IoT components

Vert.x is a great toolkit for developing reactive applications running on a JVM.

The reactive applications manifesto fits really well for IoT scenarios where responsiveness, resiliency, elasticity and the communication driven by messages are the pillars of all the IoT solutions.

Starting to work on the MQTT gateway for EnMasse using Vert.x for that, I decided to develop an MQTT server that was just able to handle communication with remote clients providing an API for interacting with them : this component was used for bridging MQTT to AMQP (in EnMasse) but can be used for any scenario where a sort of protocol translation or integration is needed (i.e. MQTT to Vert.x Event Bus, to Kafka, …). Pay attention, it’s not a full broker !

The other component was the Apache Kafka client, mainly developed by Julien Viet (lead on Vert.x) and then passed to me as maintainer for improving it and adding new features from the first release.

Finally, thanks to the Google Summer of Code, during the last 2 months I have been mentoring a student who is working on developing a Vert.x native MQTT client.

As you can see the Vert.x toolkit is really growing from an IoT perspective other then providing a lot of components useful for developing pure microservices based solutions.

Eclipse Hono

Eclipse Hono is a project under the big Eclipse IoT umbrealla in the Eclipse Foundation. It provides a service interfaces for connecting large numbers of IoT devices to a back end and interacting with them in a uniform way regardless of the device communication protocol.

It supports scalable and secure ingestion of large volumes of sensor data by means of its Telemetry API. The Command & Control API allows for sending commands (request messages) to devices and receive a reply to such a command from a device asynchronously in a reliable way.

This project is mainly developed by Red Hat and Bosch and I gave my support on designing all the API other then implementing the MQTT adapter even in this case using the Vert.x MQTT server component.

Because Eclipse Hono works on top of a messaging infrastructure for allowing messages exchange, the main choice was using ActiveMQ Artemis and the Qpid Dispatch Router even running them using Kubernetes and OpenShift with EnMasse.

Apache Kafka

Finally, I was involved to develop a POC named “barnabas” (a messenger character from a Frank Kafka novel :-)) in order to take Apache Kafka running on OpenShift.

Considering the stetaful nature of a project like Kafka, I started when Kubernetes didn’t offer the StatefulSets feature doing something similar by myself. Today, the available deploy is based on StatefulSets and it’s a work in progress on which I’ll continue to work for pushing the POC to the next level.

Apache Kafka is a really great project which has its own use cases in the messaging world; today it’s more powerful thanks to the new Streams API which allows to execute a real time streaming analytics using topics from your cluster and running simple applications. My next step is to move my EnMasse + Spark demo to an EnMasse + Kafka (and streaming) deployment. I’m also giving my support on the Apache Kafka code.

Conclusion

The variety and heterogeneity of all the above projects is giving me a lot of fun in my day by day work even collaborating with different people with different knowledge. I like learning new stuff and the great thing is that … things to learn are endless ! 🙂

 

IoT developer survey : my 2 cents one year later …

As last year, I have decided to write a blog post about my point of view on the IoT developer survey from the Eclipse Foundation (IoT Working Group) with IEEE, Agile IoT and the IoT Council.

From my point of view, the final report gives always interesting insights on where the IoT business is going and about that, Ian Skerrett (Vice President of Marketing at Eclipse Foundation) has already analyzed the results, available here, writing a great blog post.

I want just to add 2 more cents on that …

Industry adoption …

It’s clear that industries are adopting IoT and there is a big increment for industrial automation, smart cities, energy management, building automation, transportation, healthcare and so on. IoT is becoming “real” even if, as we will see in the next paragraphs, it seems that we are still in a prototyping stage. A lot of companies are investing on that but few of them have real solutions running in the field. Finally, from my point of view, it could be great to add more information about countries because I think that there is a big difference on how and where every country is investing for IoT.

The concerns …

Security is always the big concern but, as Ian said, interoperability and connectivity are on a downward trend; I agree with him saying that all the available middleware solutions and the IoT connectivity platforms are solving these problems. The great news is that all of them support different open and standard protocols (MQTT, AMQP but even HTTP) that is the way to go for having interoperability; at same time we are able to connect a lot of different devices, supporting different protocols, so the connectivity problem is addressed as well.

Coming back to security, the survey shows that much more software developers are involved on building IoT solutions even because all the stuff they mostly use are SSL/TLS and data encryption so at software level. From my point of view, some security concerns should be addressed at hardware level (using crypto-chip, TPM and so on) but this is an area where software developers have a lack of knowledge. It’s not a surprise because we know that IoT needs a lot of different knowledge from different people but the survey shows that in some cases not the “right” people are involved on developing IoT solution. Too much web and mobile developers are working on that, too few embedded developer with a real hardware knowledge.

Languages : finally a distinction !

Last year, in my 2 cents, I asked for having a distinction on which side of an IoT solution we consider the most used programming languages. I’m happy to know that Eclipse Foundation got this suggestion so this year survey asked about languages used on constrained devices, gateway and cloud.

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The results don’t surprise me : C is the most used language on “real” low constrained devices and all the other languages from Java to Python are mostly used on gateways; JavaScript fits in the cloud mainly with NodeJS. In any case, NodeJS is not a language so my idea is that providing only JavaScript as possible answer was enough even because other than using a server-side framework like NodeJS the other possibility is using JavaScript in “function as a service” platforms (i.e. Lambda from AWS, Azure Functions and so on) that are mostly based on NodeJS. Of course, the most used language in the cloud is Java.

What about OS ?

Linux is the most used OS for both constrained devices and IoT gateways but … here a strange thing comes in my mind. On “real” constrained devices that are based on MCUs (i.e. Cortex-Mx) you can run few specific Linux distros (i.e. uCLinux) and not a full Linux distro so it’s strange that Linux wins on constrained devices but then when the survey shows what distros are used, uCLinux has a very low percentage. My guess is that a lot of software developers don’t know what a constrained device is 🙂

On constrained devices I expect that developers uses “no OS” (programming on bare metal) or a really tiny RTOS but not something closed to Linux.

On gateways I totally agree with Linux but Windows is growing from last year.

Regarding the most used distros, the Raspbian victory shows that we are still in a prototyping stage. I can’t believe that developers are using Raspbian so the related Raspberry Pi hardware in production ! If it’s true … I’m scared about that ! If you know what are the planes, trains, building automation systems which are using something like that, please tell me … I have to avoid them 🙂

Regarding the protocols …

From my point of view, the presence of TCP/IP in the connectivity protocols results is misleading. TCP/IP is a protocol used on top of Ethernet and Wi-Fi that are in the same results and we can’t compare them.

Regarding communication protocols, the current know-how is still leading; this is the reason why HTTP 1.1 is still on the top and HTTP 2.0 is growing. MQTT is there followed by CoAP, which is surprising me considering the necessity to have an HTTP proxy for exporting local traffic outside of a local devices network. AMQP is finding its own way and I think that in the medium/long term it will become a big player on that.

Cloud services

In this area we should have a distinction because the question is pretty general but we know that you can use Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure for IoT in two ways :

  • as IaaS hosting your own solution or an open source one for IoT (i.e. just using provided virtual machines for running an IoT software stack)
  • as PaaS using the managed IoT platforms (i.e. AWS IoT, Azure IoT Hub, …)

Having Amazon AWS on the top doesn’t surprise me but we could have more details on how it is used by the IoT developers.

Conclusion

The IoT business is growing and its adoption as well but looking at these survey results, most of the companies are still in a prototyping stage and few of them have a real IoT solution in the field.

It means that there is a lot of space for all to be invited to the party ! 😀

 

Vert.x and IoT in Rome : what a meetup !

Yesterday I had a great day in Rome for a meetup hosted by Meet{cast} (powered by dotnetpodcast community) and Codemotion, speaking about Vert.x and how we can use it for developing “end to end” Internet of Things solutions.

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I started with an high level introduction on Vert.x and how it works, its internals and its main usage then I moved to dig into some specific components useful for developing IoT applications like the MQTT server, AMQP Proton and Kafka client.

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It was interesting to know that even in Italy a lot of developers and companies are moving to use Vert.x for developing microservices based solutions. A lot of interesting questions came out … people seem to like it !

Finally, in order to prove the Vert.x usage in enterprise applications I showed two real use cases that today work thanks to the above components : Eclipse Hono and EnMasse. I had few time to explain better how EnMasse works in details, the Qpid Dispatch Router component in particular and for this reason I hope to have a future meetup on that, the AMQP router concept is quite new today ! In any case, knowing that such a scalable platform is based (even) on Vert.x was a great news for the attendees.

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If you are interested to know more about that, you can take a look to the slides and the demo. Following the link to the video of the meetup but only in Italian (my apologies for my English friends :-)). Hope you’ll enjoy the content !

Of course, I had some networking with attendees after the meetup and … with some beer 🙂

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Eclipse Hono : “Connect. Command. Control” … even on OpenShift !

The Eclipse Foundation is the main open source community which has a great focus on the Internet of Things world and the related Eclipse IoT ecosystem involves a lot of different projects and partners like Red Hat, Bosch, Eurotech, IBM and many more. Recently, publishing this white paper, they showed a full stack with all the available tools for building a complete IoT solution from devices to the Cloud through the gateways.

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In relation to the Cloud side, one of the main problems in the IoT world is the ability to handle millions of connections from devices (and gateways) in the field, their registration for managing authentication and authorisation and, last but not least, the ingestion of the data received from them like telemetry or events. Finally, the last point is related to control these devices sending them commands in order to execute actions in the environment around them or upgrading their software and configuration.

The Eclipse Hono™ project is the answer to these problem !

The APIs

From the official web site, we can read :

Eclipse Hono™ provides remote service interfaces for connecting large numbers of IoT devices to a back end and interacting with them in a uniform way regardless of the device communication protocol.

The mantra from the landing page of the web site project is “Connect. Command. Control” which is made a reality through a well defined API for :

  • Registration : for handling the requests related to the registration (so creation) of a new device so that it can be authorised to connect. It’s also possible retrieving information about registered devices or delete them;
  • Telemetry : for the ingestion of a large volume of data from devices (i.e sensors) available for analysis to the backend applications;
  • Event : for receiving specific events (i.e. alarms, notification, …) from devices for making decision on the Cloud side. This API is quite similar to a telemetry path but it uses a “different” channel in order to avoid such events going through the overwhelmed telemetry one;
  • Command & Control : for sending commands to the devices (from a backend application) for executing operations and actions on the field (receiving the related response) and/or upgrading local software and configuration;

All the above APIs are accessible through the AMQP 1.0 protocol (the only standardised AMQP version!) and it means that they are defined in terms of addresses on which devices need to connect for interacting with the system and the properties/content of the messages; of course, it’s true not only for devices but even for business and backend applications which can receive data from devices or send them commands. In any case, it doesn’t mean that devices which aren’t able to speak such protocol can’t connect but they can leverage on the protocol adapters provided by Hono; the current implementation provides an MQTT and HTTP REST adapter.

All these APIs are though in order to allow multi-tenancy so that using a single deployment, it’s possible to handle channels for different tenants so that each of them can’t see data or exchanged messages from the others.

The Architecture

The main components which build the Eclipse Hono™ architecture are :

  1. Protocol Adapters : these components adapt a device protocol to the first citizens protocol used in Hono, the AMQP 1.0. Today, an MQTT and HTT REST adapters are provided out of box but thanks to the available interfaces, the user can develop a new adapter even for some custom protocols;
  2. Hono Server : this is the main component to which devices can connect directly through AMQP 1.0 or through the protocol adapters. It’s in charge to expose the APIs in terms of endpoints and handling the authentication and authorisation of devices;
  3. Qpid Dispatch Router : this is an AMQP 1.0 router, part of the Apache Qpid project, which provides the underlying infrastructure for handling millions of connections from devices in the fields. The simpler deployment can use only one router but in order to guarantee reliability and high volume ingestion, a router network should be used;
  4. ActiveMQ Artemis : this is the broker mainly used for handling command and control API so for storing commands which have to be delivered to devices;

While the devices connect directly to the Hono Server (or through protocol adapters), the backend applications connect to the Qpid Dispatch Router leveraging on direct addressing for receiving telemetry data (if no application is online, no devices are able to send data) or sending commands (the queus backed in the broker are reachable through the router).

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The running environment

All the artifacts from the project are provided as Docker images for each of the above components that can run using Docker Compose (the Docker Swarm support will be available soon) or using a more focused Cloud platform like OpenShift (compatible with Kubernetes deployment as well).

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Regarding the OpenShift deployment, the building process of the Hono project provides a bunch of YAML files which describe the objects to deploy like deployment configurations, services, persistent volumes and related claims. All the need is having an OpenShift platform instance accessible and deploy such objects for having Eclipse Hono™ running in a full featured Cloud environment with all the related scaling capabilities.

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The example deployment is based on four pods, one for each of the main components so there is the router pod, the Hono Server pod and one pod for each protocol adapter; of course if you need the command & control path, even the broker pod need to be deployed.

In order to try it, an OpenShift Origin instance can be used on a local PC for deploying the entire Hono solution; for example, the above picture is related to my tests where you can see all the pods running on OpenShift (left side) with simulated devices that interact using MQTT and HTTP REST (on the right side).

The documentation which describes the steps for having such a deployment is available on the official web site here.

So what are you waiting for ? Give it a try !

Conclusion

In my mind every IoT solution should be made of three different layers (a little bit different from the Eclipse vision) : the devices/gateways, the connectivity layer and the service layer.

While the Eclipse Kura project fits in the gateways layer and the Eclipse Kapua in the service layer, Eclipse Hono is the glue between them in order to handle the connections from devices and making available their data to the backend services (and vice versa in the opposite direction for command and control). Thanks to the API standardisation  and the usage of a standard protocol like AMQP 1.0, Hono can be used for connecting any kind of devices with any kind of services; of course leveraging on a these three project has the big advantage of having big companies working on them, mainly Red Hat, Bosch and Eurotech.

Finally, the solution is always the same …. open source and collaboration ! 😉