Event Based Real Time Analysis Tools

Each real-time design concern for software must be applied in the context of system performance. In most cases, the performance of a real-time system is measured as one or more time-related characteristics, but other measures such as fault-tolerance may also be used.

Some real-time systems are designed for applications in which only the response time or the data transfer rate is critical. Other real-time applications require optimization of both parameters under peak loading conditions. What’s more, real-time systems must handle their peak loads while performing a number of simultaneous tasks.

Since the performance of a real-time system is determined primarily by the system response time and its data transfer rate, it is important to understand these two parameters. System response time is the time within which a system must detect an internal or external event and respond with an action. Often, event detection and response generation are simple. It is the processing of the information about the event to determine the appropriate response that may involve complex, time-consuming algorithms.

Among the key parameters that affect the response time are context switching and interrupt latency.Context switching involves the time and overhead to switch among tasks, and interrupt latency is the time lag before the switch is actually possible. Other parameters that affect response time are the speed of computation and of access to mass storage.

The data transfer rate indicates how fast serial or parallel, as well as analog or digital data must be moved into or out of the system. Hardware vendors often quote timing and capacity values for performance characteristics. However, hardware specifications for performance are usually measured in isolation and are often of little value in determining overall real-time system performance. Therefore, I/O device performance, bus latency, buffer size, disk performance, and a host of other factors, although important, are only part of the story of real-time system design.

Real-time systems are often required to process a continuous stream of incoming data. Design must assure that data are not missed. In addition, a real-time system must respond to events that are asynchronous. Therefore, the arrival sequence and data volume cannot be easily predicted in advance.

Although all software applications must be reliable, real-time systems make special demands on reliability, restart, and fault recovery. Because the real-world is being monitored and controlled, loss of monitoring or control (or both) is intolerable in many circumstances (e.g., an air traffic control system). Consequently, real-time systems contain restart and fault-recovery mechanisms and frequently have built-in redundancy to insure backup.

The need for reliability, however, has spurred an on-going debate about whether on-line systems, such as airline reservation systems and automatic bank tellers, also qualify as real-time. On one hand, such on-line systems must respond to external interrupts within prescribed response times on the order of one second. On the other hand, nothing catastrophic occurs if an on-line system fails to meet response requirements; instead, only system degradation results.

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