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Any App, Any Time

Whether posting on Facebook, finding the closest cappuccino or checking the weather, smart phone applications are trusted tools in modern life. Consumers want them working all the time and have little patience for the failures that can happen in both the application and the server.

Ferhat Khendek, a professor with Concordia’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, helps companies meet these high expectations. His team focuses on a technology known as “middleware.” When asked to characterize the role it plays, Dr. Khendek compares it to a stockbroker—someone who knows your goals, looks after your assets and searches for the best deal to get you what you want.

The servers that host software applications, like most computers, will experience glitches that prevent applications from running properly. If the first server your phone tries to connect to fails, middleware spots the potential problem and brokers a solution by finding another node that gets you what you want: service availability and continuity. In other words, your Facebook application opens the moment you need to check in—without delay.

Dr. Khendek’s team worked to make standard middleware possible through a project known as “Modeling and Automatic Generation of Information and upgrade Campaigns” (MAGIC). Funded by Ericsson and NSERC, the project further increases the availability of applications.

“I’m very proud of the MAGIC team’s work—the students were phenomenal: we called them ‘the MAGICians,’” says Dr. Khendek. “Many have now been hired by Ericsson and by other companies to build on the work they did and that's the most important thing to come out of this.”

Supported by an NSERC Industrial Research Chair, MAGIC is now developing ways of upgrading applications without any service downtime, further meeting the expectations of wireless customers for applications that always work.