Software Systems Laboratory Wins Best Paper Award at OSDI 2022

Members of the Software Systems Laboratory
Members of the Software Systems Laboratory

Researchers from the Software Systems Laboratory bagged a Best Paper Award at the 16th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 2021). OSDI is “a premier forum for discussing the design, implementation, and implications of systems software.” A total of six research papers from the department were accepted to the conference.


Jay Lepreau Best Paper Award, OSDI’22

XRP: In-Kernel Storage Functions with eBPF
Yuhong Zhong Columbia University, Haoyu Li Columbia University, Yu Jian Wu Columbia University, Ioannis Zarkadas Columbia University, Jeffrey Tao Columbia University, Evan Mesterhazy Columbia University, Michael Makris Columbia University, Junfeng Yang Columbia University, Amy Tai Google, Ryan Stutsman University of Utah; Asaf Cidon Columbia University

With the emergence of microsecond-scale NVMe storage devices, the Linux kernel storage stack overhead has become significant, almost doubling access times. We present XRP, a framework that allows applications to execute user-defined storage functions, such as index lookups or aggregations, from an eBPF hook in the NVMe driver, safely bypassing most of the kernel’s storage stack. To preserve file system semantics, XRP propagates a small amount of kernel state to its NVMe driver hook where the user-registered eBPF functions are called. We show how two key-value stores, BPF-KV, a simple B+-tree key-value store, and WiredTiger, a popular log-structured merge tree storage engine, can leverage XRP to significantly improve throughput and latency.


ROLLER: Fast and Efficient Tensor Compilation for Deep Learning
Hongyu Zhu University of Toronto and Microsoft Research; Ruofan Wu Renmin University of China and Microsoft Research; Yijia Diao Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Microsoft Research, Shanbin Ke UCSD and Microsoft Research, Haoyu Li Columbia University and Microsoft Research; Chen Zhang Tsinghua University and Microsoft Research; Jilong Xue Microsoft Research, Lingxiao Ma Microsoft Research, Yuqing Xia Microsoft Research, Wei Cui Microsoft Research, Fan Yang Microsoft Research, Mao Yang Microsoft Research, Lidong Zhou Microsoft Research, Asaf Cidon Columbia University, Gennady Pekhimenko University of Toronto

Despite recent advances in tensor compilers, it often costs hours to generate an efficient kernel for an operator, a compute-intensive sub-task in a deep neural network (DNN), on various accelerators (e.g., GPUs). This significantly slows down DNN development cycles and incurs heavy burdens on the development of general kernel libraries and custom kernels, especially for new hardware vendors. The slow compilation process is due to the large search space formulated by existing DNN compilers, which have to use machine learning algorithms to find good solutions.

In this paper, we present ROLLER, which takes a different construction-based approach to generate kernels. At the core of ROLLER is rTile, a new tile abstraction that encapsulates tensor shapes that align with the key features of the underlying accelerator, thus achieving efficient execution by limiting the shape choices. ROLLER then adopts a recursive rTile-based construction algorithm to generate rTile-based programs (rProgram), whose performance can be evaluated efficiently with a micro-performance model without being evaluated in a real device. As a result, ROLLER can generate efficient kernels in seconds, with comparable performance to the state-of-the-art solutions on popular accelerators like GPUs, while offering better kernels on less mature accelerators like IPUs.


Design and Verification of the Arm Confidential Compute Architecture
Xupeng Li Columbia University, Xuheng Li Columbia University, Christoffer Dall Arm Ltd, Ronghui Gu Columbia University, Jason Nieh Columbia University, Yousuf Sait Arm Ltd, Gareth Stockwell Arm Ltd

The increasing use of sensitive private data in computing is matched by a growing concern regarding data privacy. System software such as hypervisors and operating systems are supposed to protect and isolate applications and their private data, but their large codebases contain many vulnerabilities that can risk data confidentiality and integrity. We introduce Realms, a new abstraction for confidential computing to protect the data confidentiality and integrity of virtual machines. Hardware creates and enforces Realm world, a new physical address space for Realms. Firmware controls the hardware to secure Realms and handles requests from untrusted system software to manage Realms, including creating and running them. Untrusted system software retains control of the dynamic allocation of memory to Realms, but cannot access Realm memory contents, even if run at a higher privileged level. To guarantee the security of Realms, we verified the firmware, introducing novel verification techniques that enable us to prove, for the first time, the security and correctness of concurrent software with hand-over-hand locking and dynamically allocated shared page tables, data races in kernel code running on relaxed memory hardware, integrated C and Arm assembly code calling one another, and untrusted software being in full control of allocating system resources. Realms are included in the Arm Confidential Compute Architecture.


DuoAI: Fast, Automated Inference of Inductive Invariants for Verifying Distributed Protocols
Jianan Yao Columbia University, Runzhou Tao Columbia University, Ronghui Gu Columbia University, Jason Nieh Columbia University

Distributed systems are complex and difficult to build correctly. Formal verification can provably rule out bugs in such systems, but finding an inductive invariant that implies the safety property of the system is often the hardest part of the proof. We present DuoAI, an automated system that quickly finds inductive invariants for verifying distributed protocols by reducing SMT query costs in checking invariants with existential quantifiers. DuoAI enumerates the strongest candidate invariants that hold on validate states from protocol simulations, then applies two methods in parallel, returning the result from the method that succeeds first. One checks all candidate invariants and weakens them as needed until it finds an inductive invariant that implies the safety property. Another checks invariants without existential quantifiers to find an inductive invariant without the safety property, then adds candidate invariants with existential quantifiers to strengthen it until the safety property holds. Both methods are guaranteed to find an inductive invariant that proves desired safety properties, if one exists, but the first reduces SMT query costs when more candidate invariants with existential quantifiers are needed, while the second reduces SMT query costs when few candidate invariants with existential quantifiers suffice. We show that DuoAI verifies more than two dozen common distributed protocols automatically, including various versions of Paxos, and outperforms alternative methods both in the number of protocols it verifies and the speed at which it does so, including solving Paxos more than two orders of magnitude faster than previous methods.


BlackBox: A Container Security Monitor for Protecting Containers on Untrusted Operating Systems
Alexander Van’t Hof Columbia University, Jason Nieh Columbia University

Containers are widely deployed to package, isolate, and multiplex applications on shared computing infrastructure, but rely on the operating system to enforce their security guarantees. This poses a significant security risk as large operating system codebases contain many vulnerabilities. We have created BlackBox, a new container architecture that provides fine-grain protection of application data confidentiality and integrity without trusting the operating system. BlackBox introduces a container security monitor, a small trusted computing base that creates protected physical address spaces (PPASes) for each container such that there is no direct information flow from container to operating system or other container PPASes. Indirect information flow can only happen through the monitor, which only copies data between container PPASes and the operating system as system call arguments, encrypting data as needed to protect interprocess communication through the operating system. Containerized applications do not need to be modified, can still make use of operating system services via system calls, yet their CPU and memory state are isolated and protected from other containers and the operating system. We have implemented BlackBox by leveraging Arm hardware virtualization support, using nested paging to enforce PPASes. The trusted computing base is a few thousand lines of code, many orders of magnitude less than Linux, yet supports widely-used Linux containers with only modest modifications to the Linux kernel. We show that BlackBox provides superior security guarantees over traditional hypervisor and container architectures with only modest performance overhead on real application workloads.


UPGRADVISOR: Early Adopting Dependency Updates Using Hybrid Program Analysis and Hardware Tracing
Yaniv David Columbia University, Xudong Sun Nanjing University, Raphael J. Sofaer Columbia University, Aditya Senthilnathan IIT, Delhi, Junfeng Yang Columbia University, Zhiqiang Zuo Nanjing University, Guoqing Harry Xu UCLA, Jason Nieh Columbia University, Ronghui Gu Columbia University

Applications often have fast-paced release schedules, but adoption of software dependency updates can lag by years, leaving applications susceptible to security risks and unexpected breakage. To address this problem, we present UPGRADVISOR, a system that reduces developer effort in evaluating dependency updates and can, in many cases, automatically determine which updates are backward-compatible versus API-breaking. UPGRADVISOR introduces a novel co-designed static analysis and dynamic tracing mechanism to gauge the scope and effect of dependency updates on an application. Static analysis prunes changes irrelevant to an application and clusters relevant ones into targets. Dynamic tracing needs to focus only on whether targets affect an application, making it fast and accurate. UPGRADVISOR handles dynamic interpreted languages and introduces call graph over-approximation to account for their lack of type information and selective hardware tracing to capture program execution while ignoring interpreter machinery.

We have implemented UPGRADVISOR for Python and evaluated it on 172 dependency updates previously blocked from being adopted in widely-used open-source software, including Django, aws-cli, tfx, and Celery. UPGRADVISOR automatically determined that 56% of dependencies were safe to update and reduced by more than an order of magnitude the number of code changes that needed to be considered by dynamic tracing. Evaluating UPGRADVISOR’s tracer in a production-like environment incurred only 3% overhead on average, making it fast enough to deploy in practice. We submitted safe updates that were previously blocked as pull requests for nine projects, and their developers have already merged most of them.