O'Reilly logo

Mobile Agents by Wilhelm R. Rossak, Peter Braun

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Chapter
2
From Client-Server to
Mobile Agents
We start our exploration of mobile agents at the origin of the notion agent,
and we compare the already widespread term of intelligent agents to our
understanding of mobile agents. When looking at the history of mobile agents
we will learn that this research topic has its roots in distributed computing
rather than in artificial intelligence.
After reading this chapter, you will have a basic understanding of the most
important technical terms and will have a generalideaofthemainadvantages
of mobile agents compared with other, more traditional paradigms to design
distributed systems, such as client-server.
Contents
2.1 A First Look at Mobile Agents ........................................................... 7
2.2 A Short History of Mobile Agents ....................................................... 17
2.3 Similar but Different Concepts .......................................................... 24
2.4 Why Are Mobile Agents a Good Idea? ................................................. 26
2.5 Possible Application Domains of Mobile Agents ..................................... 27
2.1 A First Look at Mobile Agents
In this section we try to converge on the idea of mobile agents from two
sides. First, we discuss software agents as a concept developed in the area
of artificial intelligence in the mid-1970s. People from artificial intelligence
disciplines define software agents as having some mandatory features, which
do not include mobility. Sometimes, it is mentioned that there might ar ise
8 Chapter 2 From Client-Server to Mobile Agents
some benefits from using mobile agents in the future; otherwise it is claimed
that agent mobility is a pretty useless feature. This view can be best described
by the statement that mobile agents are a solution in search of a problem.
1
Second, we try to define mobile agents from the viewpoint of software
engineering and distributed systems. We will see that mobile agents in our
understanding do not have much to do with artificial intelligence but are
to be considered another design paradigm for a special type of distributed
systems. From this viewpoint, emphasis lies on research of the consequences
of the mobility of code, and it is these consequences that we focus on in
this book.
Naturally, both research communities can benefit from each other. Some
work has already been done to add intelligent agents with mobility as
a common feature, and recently people have begun to work to make mobile
agents more intelligent, for example, to help them plan their itineraries.
Hopefully, both branches of research will join each other eventually.
2.1.1 The Artificial Intelligence Point of View
Let’s start with the notion of software agents. The word agent derives from
the Latin word for actor, meaning a person who acts on behalf of another.
In different languages the notion agent is used with different meanings. In
English-speaking countries, for example, the word agent is often used in
a more general context, whereas in German-speaking countries an agent
mostly works for the secret service. Usually, a real estate agent is employed
to aid in renting or buying a house, and a travel agent is visited to aid in
planning a vacation. In physical science, an agent can be an active sub-
stance that causes a reaction. Other sciences also use the term agent.For
example, in legal sciences an agent provocateur is a person hired to incite
suspected persons to commit some illegal action that will make them liable
for punishment.
In computer science, the term agent has been used since the mid-1970s.
It was introduced to the area of artificial intelligence. Most authors refer to a
paper written by Hewitt [1977] as origin of the term agent. According to Foner
[1997], the first reference can be traced back to Vannevar Bush and Douglas
Engelbart in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
1. Stated by John Ousterhout during an interview that is published online [IEEE IC-Online, 1997].

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required