As we wrap up our three-part series with Ken Brophy, we conclude our interview with a discussion about testing and tuning of DDS systems. We learn why testing and tuning is important and which tools are best if you’re a new Connext Tools user. Also, Ken shares what’s on the horizon for the Connext Tools product suite.

In Episode 27 of The Connext Podcast:

  • [0:28] How can RTI Shapes Demo be used for debugging?
  • [4:25] How does a tool like Admin Console support the configuration and management of DDS Security in system development?
  • [6:22] What's on the horizon for Connext Tools?
  • [8:14] The value of Admin Console for new Tools users.
  • [9:54] Getting started - links to Connext Tools

Related Content:

  • [Blog] Implementing Simple Introspection with Connext DDS in C++14
  • [Datasheet] RTI Connext Tools
  • [Podcast] Connext Tools for IIoT System Development, Part 1
  • [Podcast] Connext Tools for IIoT System Development, Part 2
  • [Webinar] Accelerate Distributed Systems Development using Connext Tools
  • [Webpage] RTI Labs

Podcast Transcription

Steven Onzo: Hello everybody and thanks for joining us for another episode of The Connext Podcast. In today's podcast, we wrap up our three part interview series with RTI Connext Tools technical lead Ken Brophy. Today, Ken explains the importance of testing and tuning your DDS system, and provides suggestions for first time Connext Tools users. Once again, welcome back, Ken.

[0:28] How can the RTI Shapes Demo be used for debugging?

Lee Johnson: Jumping back to the beginning of the podcast series, as you were listing out some of the tools that are available as part of the Connext suite, you mentioned the Shapes Demo, and described it as a learning tool, which is certainly true. But it also serves an important role as a debugging tool. It's sort of a ready to go test client that can be plugged into just about anything to be able to very quickly understand QoS mismatches and things like that. Can you comment more on how Shapes - beyond being an educational tool -can actually be used in the context of development?

Ken Brophy: Yeah, absolutely. It's a favorite of mine as well. It's one of those kind of go to applications where you have this idea, and I want to try something and you can often get it done with Shapes. So I mentioned Ping earlier for a kind of activity check like ‘Is this mic on’, kind of checks. I use Shapes demo for that. I'd like to be able to see that my data is making it there. So I use it for that all the time. But you can do things like understand how the history depth, right, how that works and what it means and transient local, right. If you're thinking, Geez, do I want to try transient local in my application, would that solve my use case that I have? Well, you can very easily pull up Shapes demo and turn it on and see if you can see what the behavior is and decide if, that might solve my late joiner problem. So it's one of these go-to-apps that it's small and kind of unassuming, but it's very versatile.

Lee Johnson: Yeah. While similarly with Ping and Spy, small and unassuming but very, very easy to get running as a sniff test to see if as you put it, ‘is this mic on’-

Ken Brophy: Right.

Lee Johnson: Am I seeing data? Am I talking to these other systems? And it's not just restricted to the large platforms we support but also can be deployed on the resource-constrained environments through the Connext Micro.

Ken Brophy: And that's a huge help if you're running on an embedded board, you're not going to want to run a UI or anything like that on it. So you want to be able to run something on it to just check, am I getting any data at all? So I would bring up Spy and does anything come out? Do I discover anything? Do I start seeing samples coming my way? And you can configure it on the command line very flexibly to see if I do need to change the initial peers or if I need to turn off a multicast and just use unicast for this node, because there's some issue with the multicast driver on the nick-card or whatever. So these small tools are terrific on the embedded platforms because it saves you from having to read it yourself, and it's kind of a RTI product. It's not my own thing that I wrote up which may have a bug in it. So you know that it works and it's just easy to fire up and use.

[4:25] How does a tool like Admin Console support the configuration and management of DDS Security in system development?

Lee Johnson: Yeah, very good. More and more customers are getting interested in DDS Security, having that fine grain control over data with that flows within their system. How does a tool like Admin Console support that configuration and management of DDS Security for our system?

Ken Brophy: Right. So Admin Console has a set of preferences that allows you to plug in to your security configuration. The really interesting thing for me when we first looked at integrating DDS Secure with Admin Console was I was thinking, I might have to do a whole lot of changes and this and that. But really, DDS Secure when it's doing its job, you don't notice it. We have a panel, you can put in your various security files and preferences and you okay it. And then it just runs like it always had. There's really, you just kind of forget that it's even there. Which is a testimony to the architects of DDS and security - which is not me by the way. I'm not scratching my own back here. It is really just seamless, you're running in security, you're not running in with secure. You don't know the difference unless you went and looked at the panel. "Did I turn on security?" But well, everything works the same as it did before. So it's hard to know, which is just fantastic as a distributed system developer because security is one of those really difficult problems to solve and having an out-of-the-box solution reach really just involves configuration, It's just so helpful.

[6:22] What's on the horizon for Connext Tools?

Lee Johnson: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. What's on the horizon for Connext Tools in terms of developments? We have a major release that will be announced to the world here in the latter part of 2018. What are some of the new features, new functionalities that we can expect to see in Admin Console?

Ken Brophy: Well, Admin Console is getting a brand new user interface for the routing service. I for one - I'm very excited about it. We're investing a lot of time and energy into making a much more usable or pretty interface to interact with the routing service to actually see what's going on. And when I say see what's going on, I mean that literally. You'll be able to see the data flows, and you'll be able to picture what is actually happening. It looks more like a PowerPoint slide than our traditional trees and tables and stuff that we've usually had in Admin Console. Underneath that is a whole new integration because Routing Service has just gotten a big refresh, has a lot more features. It has multi input, multi output. Connections, it's got a lot of great new features including a whole new monitoring and administration interface. And so it's all new, top to bottom in there, mostly in Admin Console you're just going to see the pretty pictures. But underneath it's a whole new architecture, and it's a much lighter weight and more efficient architecture underneath.

[8:14] The value of Admin Console for new Tools users.

Lee Johnson: The work that we're doing in Routing Service is sort of indicative of the future in the sense that through our tools, we're helping our customers to design, manage, debug systems at scale that follow adhere to layer data bus architectures. And so having that ability to actually visualize in more of a, as you mentioned, diagram form, the construction of these systems and services like what we're doing for Routing Service is going to up being a really, really powerful capability in Admin Console.

Ken Brophy: Another feature that is shipping with our latest release in Admin Console is that the recording service has had a major refresh as well. It is also using this newly designed and much more efficient administration and monitoring technology. It is actually built on the Routing Service platform now versus being its own separate product. And it has a much more modular architecture. But as part of that, we also integrated with all those great new features for the monitoring administration. So you won't notice a lot at the graphical level, but underneath the data exchanges are much more efficient use for a fewer topics.

[9:54] Getting started - links to Connext Tools.

Lee Johnson: Okay, grea. So I'm a new user to Connext. Where should I start with Connext Tools? What would you recommend as sort of a godfather of the Connext Tools as we know them today?

Ken Brophy: Are you a new user to DDS or just other tools?

Lee Johnson: Oh, good one. A new user to the tools.

Ken Brophy: Okay. I would start with Admin Console. It's quick to bring up, it auto configures, you don't have to worry about joining the right domains. It will-

Lee Johnson: So it detects your system that's running and automatically connects in to it and starts feeding you data about that system.

Ken Brophy: Exactly. Yeah. So you start it up and it just starts filling data in, and it will just present it to you so you can then poke around and see who's running what, how many topics there are, what domains they're in. If you have RTI services running, that sort of thing. You'll see them all in the graphical interface and you'll gain an appreciation for system awareness. That's one of the things that I found really limiting when I was developing these systems is that you walk into a room and there's a rack of servers and "Hey, we're not getting data, what's going on?"

And I would look at the rack of servers and where do I start? Right. Well, "What do you guys have running?" "I don't know, they brought in a new box last week and we plugged it in and now things don't work." Well. Okay. “I don't know what's happening here. How can I know?" So either break out Wireshark, right? This was before we had the Admin Console, but now I would break out Admin Console, see what's actually happening, see if I can get a trail of breadcrumbs to follow to figure out what is actually going on.

Lee Johnson: Yeah. Now, I think it's important to point out for existing users, existing customers of Connext. I hope that they do all know this, but everybody should know that they have access to all of the Connext Tools. As a user, how do I actually start up, where do I find the tools and how do I start up something like Admin Console or Shapes or Wireshark or RTI Monitor.

Ken Brophy: Well, you would use our other tool, the Launcher. The Launcher is a little launchpad application, kind of like a start menu, only much better I think. And it lays out all the different products that we have. It has help information, if you're looking for a user's manual or you want to just see what products we actually ship, you can just poke around and look at the different categories and see the different products that we have. I use that every single day.

Lee Johnson: Yeah, it's, you can think of it as just a one stop shop for accessing all of our utilities, all of our tools, as you said, the help system, graphical interfaces for our runtime services, things like routing service, recording service, et cetera. As well as exposures and entry points to our Labs products and projects, things like RTI DDS Connector and System Designer as well as a third party integrations. So describe what Connext is without using the words DDS, protocol or middleware or anything else that would confuse the audience.

Ken Brophy: Well, to me, Connext too is a framework for communicating. It provides a way for you to have a system that shares information and it does so in a very flexible way. So that's the way I view it, it's a communications platform.

Lee Johnson: Great stuff. So pretend I'm five years old or maybe you already perceive me as being five years old. Explain what Connext is, give me a good example that a five year old brain could understand?

Ken Brophy: Oh, that's interesting. Connext allows devices to talk to each other. So if you were five years old, you'd of course have your own iPad.

Lee Johnson: Well no, my parents wouldn't have allowed that but...

Ken Brophy: Well, your things were different. But that device in itself doesn't have a lot of knowledge, a lot of information about the world, but it can get it. And it has to get it somehow, and that's what our technology does. It's a little bit different than just the iPad, but it does essentially that. It enables you to get information and share information.

Lee Johnson: Okay, very good. What gets you excited about DDS and Connext?

Ken Brophy: All the possibilities.

Lee Johnson: What do you mean by that?

Ken Brophy: Well, so I was a customer and when I started using the product, I just, I mean, I would have trouble sleeping some nights because of all the cool stuff I could do. This sounds really geeky. All the cool stuff I could do with it, and I was imagining new ways to use it and all the problems that we're solving for me that I had to write all this logic myself and then maintain and everything. But now with the kind of explosion that we're going through of internet connectivity and Internet of Things and Industrial IoT, just seeing the way that our products can get applied and solve these really difficult problems. It's just so inspiring, it's a great time to be at RTI. This is 12 and a half years for me now here and every year it just keeps getting better...the possibilities are really just limitless. We're solving problems that I couldn't have imagined when I was a customer. It's just awe inspiring.

Lee Johnson: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Ken I really want to thank you for sitting down and taking the time to go through these questions with us. We look forward to doing it again sometime soon, whether it's on the topic of tools or just generally about DDS systems and Connext.

Ken Brophy: It's my pleasure, and I look forward to the next time. Thank you.

Steven Onzo: Thank you everybody for tuning into this three-part series on Connext Tools for IIoT system development. Also a big thank you to Ken Brophy and Lee Johnson for explaining how Connext Tools can debug, test and design your system to help you meet your operational requirements. Please join us for our next episode when RTI autonomous systems expert Bob Leigh discusses what it takes to get an autonomous vehicle on the road. If you have suggestions or feedback on this or other episodes, please contact us at Thanks and have a great day.


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