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Understanding Code Mobility
May 1998 (vol. 24 no. 5)
pp. 342-361

Abstract—The technologies, architectures, and methodologies traditionally used to develop distributed applications exhibit a variety of limitations and drawbacks when applied to large scale distributed settings (e.g., the Internet). In particular, they fail in providing the desired degree of configurability, scalability, and customizability. To address these issues, researchers are investigating a variety of innovative approaches. The most promising and intriguing ones are those based on the ability of moving code across the nodes of a network, exploiting the notion of mobile code. As an emerging research field, code mobility is generating a growing body of scientific literature and industrial developments. Nevertheless, the field is still characterized by the lack of a sound and comprehensive body of concepts and terms. As a consequence, it is rather difficult to understand, assess, and compare the existing approaches. In turn, this limits our ability to fully exploit them in practice, and to further promote the research work on mobile code. Indeed, a significant symptom of this situation is the lack of a commonly accepted and sound definition of the term "mobile code" itself.

This paper presents a conceptual framework for understanding code mobility. The framework is centered around a classification that introduces three dimensions: technologies, design paradigms, and applications. The contribution of the paper is two-fold. First, it provides a set of terms and concepts to understand and compare the approaches based on the notion of mobile code. Second, it introduces criteria and guidelines that support the developer in the identification of the classes of applications that can leverage off of mobile code, in the design of these applications, and, finally, in the selection of the most appropriate implementation technologies. The presentation of the classification is intertwined with a review of state-of-the-art in the field. Finally, the use of the classification is exemplified in a case study.

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Index Terms:
Mobile code, mobile agent, distributed application, design paradigm.
Citation:
Alfonso Fuggetta, Gian Pietro Picco, Giovanni Vigna, "Understanding Code Mobility," IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 342-361, May 1998, doi:10.1109/32.685258
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