InternetOfThings

Yesterday DevDay meetup : “messaging” in Naples !

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Yesterday evening I had the session titled “Messaging as a Service : building a scalable messaging service” during a meetup here in Naples speaking about the EnMasse project. The event was organized by the DevDay community which is active in my region in order to get in touch with developers who work with different technologies. I was very pleased to tell my experience (as a contributor) on developing a messaging service running “on premise” or in the cloud.

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Following you can find the resources for this session :

  • the video published in the DevDay official YouTube channel
  • the slides and the demo code

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Davice Cerbo (from DevDay) who invited me to join the co-working space as guest during the day and setting up this meetup in the best way. Davide … keep up this great work for next events ! 😉

Let’s talk about EnMasse : the open source “Messaging as a Service”

After the Red Hat Summit speaking about JBoss AMQ and Apache Kafka using the EnMasse project, the coming weeks will be rich of sessions about this “Messaging as a Service” platform.

First of all, I’ll have a meetup on May 22nd in Naples organized by the DevDay community. It will be all around messaging (and I’m not going to speak about Whatsapp, Hangout, … :-)) and how we are developing a “Messaging as a Service” solution running on Kubernetes and OpenShift : it’s name is EnMasse.

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The other session will be on June 5th in Milan during an IoT meetup organized by the AgileIoT community in the Microsoft House. There, I’ll always speak about EnMasse and how it “democratizes” the IoT giving you a full open source solution for that : in this case I’ll show how this “Messaging as a Service” platform can run in the Azure cloud as well.

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So … if you want to know more about EnMasse just pick one of this events … or both ! 🙂

 

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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“Reactive Internet of Things : the Vert.x way” … meetup in Rome !

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On March 16th I’ll be guest of the Meet{cast} and Codemotion community for a meetup in Rome speaking about … “Reactive Internet of Things : the Vert.x way”.

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It’s a pleasure for me showing how the Vert.x toolkit can be used for developing Internet of Things solutions leveraging on the pillars of the reactive manifesto (responsive, elastic, resilient and asynchronous).

Starting from an introduction on what Vert.x is, what it provides and its main features, I’ll move to the messaging and IoT focused components that the toolkit offers. So we’ll see the new MQTT server and Kafka client (officially in the latest 3.4.0 Beta 1 release) and the well know AMQP Proton and Bridge components. Of course …. demos around them !

Finally, I’ll show how these components are already used today for enterprise IoT solutions introducing the Eclipse Hono project, for handling IoT connectivity, and the EnMasse which provides a Message as a Service platform. The great thing is that we’ll have the chance to see the code because … they are open source of course !

So … what are you waiting for … register for the meetup here ! See you in Rome 😉

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 ! 😉

 

Designing MQTT over AMQP

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Let’s think about what we can consider some weaknesses of the MQTT protocol …

  • it provides native publish/subscribe pattern only; having request/reply is quite cumbersome with “correlation injection” inside topics and payload messages;
  • it doesn’t provide flow control;
  • it doesn’t have metadata information inside messages (i.e. content type);
  • it’s fully broker centric;

but there are some unique features that we have to consider as strengths for this protocol as well …

  • retain message also known as “last well known” message;
  • last will testament (LWT);
  • session handling;

Now, let’s think about the main features that fill the gap for the MQTT protocol but provided by AMQP …

  • native support for both publish/subscribe and request/reply patterns (correlation for free);
  • flow control at different levels (with max window size and message credits);
  • a full type system and metadata information on each message;
  • peer-to-peer model (the broker is just a peer);

but it lacks of the above three MQTT features !

So how greater could be AMQP protocol having such features on top of it ?

Under the open source EnMasse project, I have been working on having a design (so a kind of “specification”) for having retain message, last will testament and session handling over AMQP. At same time I have been developing an MQTT “gateway” in order to allow remote MQTT clients to connect to an AMQP based “Message as a Service” like EnMasse.

Having such a design means that not only an MQTT client can leverage on receiving retain message after subscribing to a topic, sending its LWT on connection or receiving messages for a topic when it was offline; it means having the above features for native AMQP clients as well.

Each feature is made by a well defined AMQP message using specific subject, annotations and payload in order to bring all MQTT related information like retain flag, will QoS, will topic and so on but using AMQP semantic.

This sort of “specification” doesn’t force to use a specific implementation; the EnMasse project leverages on the Qpid Dispatch Router for connections and Apache Artemis brokers where state is needed (but other implementations could use something different like a simple file system or a database). Of course, some additional services are needed in order to handle LWT and subscriptions (we called them just “Will Service” and “Subscription Service”).

If you are so curious and want to give some feedback on that, you can find all the open source stuff on GitHub in the MQTT over AMQP documentation section.

Feel free to enjoy the related EnMasse implementation ! 😉