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Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 151–177 | Cite as

Evaluating fault tolerance approaches in multi-agent systems

Article

Abstract

A multi-agent system (MAS) is a distributed system that consists of multiple agents working together to solve mutual problems. Even though MASs are well suited for the development of complex distributed systems, the number of real-world usages is still small. One of the main reasons for this is that MASs are very fragile. In a typical, large-scale MAS, the rate of failure grows with the number of hosts, the number of deployed agents, and the duration of the agent’s task execution. For this reason, numerous approaches have been introduced to deal with aspects of failure handling. However, the absence of centralized control and a large number of individual intelligent components makes it difficult to detect and treat errors. The risk of uncontrollable fault propagation is high and can seriously impact on system performance. There are two important factors that limit the usage of MASs: (1) existing fault tolerance (FT) approaches are not generic, as they focus on and improve specific issues of FT; and (2) despite the plethora of available FT approaches and theories, there is a remarkable lack of general metrics, tools, benchmarks, and experimental methods for formal validation and comparison of existing or newly developed FT approaches. As FT approaches in MASs become a well-established field, the need for generalized, standardized evaluation of FT approaches emerges as imperative. In this paper, we first present a detailed overview of existing FT solutions, approaches, and techniques in agent platform hosted MASs. From that overview, we derive the commonalities in existing research. Next, we present the main contribution of our paper: an evaluation methodology, with a set of metrics, for comparing FT approaches in MASs. We adopt an engineering perspective on the problem, defining a methodology and metrics that are both implementation- and domain-independent. The metrics are formalized with an acyclic directed graph. By using our methodology, evaluators can select an appropriate FT approach for targeted MAS application, thus improving MAS usability, stability, and development speed. In order to show the viability of our approach, a case study that compares two FT approaches for a targeted MAS is presented. The case study results show that our methodology can be used for selecting an appropriate FT approach for the targeted MAS.

Keywords

Fault tolerance Multi-agent systems Metrics Methodology Fault tolerance approach evaluation 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Siemens CVCSplitCroatia
  2. 2.Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, FESBUniversity of SplitSplitCroatia

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