Debugging multi-agent systems with design documents

Poutakidis, D 2008, Debugging multi-agent systems with design documents, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Computer Science and Information Technology, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Debugging multi-agent systems with design documents
Author(s) Poutakidis, D
Year 2008
Abstract Debugging multi-agent systems, which are concurrent, distributed, and consist of complex components is difficult, yet crucial. The development of these complex systems is supported by agent-oriented software engineering methodologies which utilise agents as the central design metaphor. The systems that are developed are inherently complex since the components of these systems may interact in flexible and sophisticated ways and traditional debugging techniques are not appropriate. Despite this, very little effort has been applied to developing appropriate debugging tools and techniques. Debugging multi-agent systems without good debugging tools is highly impractical and without suitable debugging support developing and maintaining multi-agent systems will be more difficult than it need be.

In this thesis we propose that the debugging process can be supported by following an agent-oriented design methodology, and then using the developed design artifacts in the debugging phase. We propose a domain independent debugging framework which comprises the developed processes and components that are necessary in using design artifacts as debugging artifacts. Our approach is to take a non-formal design artifact, such as an AUML protocol design, and encode it in a machine interpretable manner such that the design can be used as a model of correct system behaviour. These models are used by a run-time debugging system to compare observed behaviour against specified behaviour. We provide details for transforming two design artifact types into equivalent debugging artifacts and show how these can be used to detect bugs.

During a debugging episode in which a bug has been identified our debugging approach can provide detailed information about the possible reason for the bug occurring. To determine if this information was useful in helping to debug programs we undertook a thorough empirical study and identified that use of the debugging tool translated to an improvement in debugging performance. We conclude that the debugging techniques developed in this thesis provide effective debugging support for multi-agent systems and by having an extensible framework new design artifacts can be explored and as translations are developed they can be added to the debugging system.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Computer Science and Information Technology
Keyword(s) Multi-Agent Systems
Agent Oriented Software Engineering
Debugging
Agent UML
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