Project Team Regal

Overall Objectives
Scientific Foundations
Application Domains
New Results
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Virtual machine (VM)

Participants : Harris Bakiras, Bertil Folliot, Gaël Thomas [correspondent] , Gilles Muller [correspondent] , Julia Lawall, Arie Middlekoop, Thomas Preud'homme, Suman Saha.

Our research interests are in improving the way systems software is developed. One theme of our research is the development of virtual machines with a specific focus on resource management, isolation and concurrency management. Another theme of our research is related to bug finding in systems software.

Virtual machines

Isolation in OSGi: The OSGi framework is a Java-based, centralized, component oriented platform. It is being widely adopted as an execution environment for the development of extensible applications. However, current Java Virtual Machines are unable to isolate components from each other's. By modifying shared variables or allocating too much memory, a malicious component can freeze the complete platform. We work on I-JVM, a Java Virtual Machines that provides a lightweight approach to isolation while preserving the compatibility with legacy OSGi applications. Our evaluation of I-JVM shows that it solves the 15 known OSGi vulnerabilities due to the Java Virtual Machine with an overhead below 20%. I-JVM has been presented in DSN 2009.

VMKit: Managed Runtime Environments (MREs), such as the JVM and the CLI, form an attractive environment for program execution, by providing portability and safety, via the use of a bytecode language and automatic memory management, as well as good performance, via just-in-time (JIT) compilation. Nevertheless, developing such a fully featured MRE, including features such as a garbage collector and JIT compiler, is a herculean task. As a result, new languages cannot easily take advantage of the benefits of MREs, and it is difficult to experiment with extensions of existing MRE based languages. VMKit is a first attempt to build a common substrate that eases the development of high-level MREs. We have successfully used VMKit to build two MREs: a Java Virtual Machine (J3) and a Common Language Runtime (N3). VMKit has performance comparable to the well established open source MREs Cacao, Apache Harmony and Mono. VMKit is freely distributed under the LLVM licence with the LLVM framework developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and now maintained by Apple.

A third MRE is being build in cooperation with the "Algorithms, Programmes and Resolution" team in LIP6. This integrates a functional machine (the Zinc Abstract Machine) in VMKit and show that the adataptation at the language level of our virtual machine. This project has been funded by the LIP6 in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Semantic patches

Open source infrastructure software, such as the Linux operating system, Web browsers and n-tier servers, has become a well-recognized solution for implementing critical functions of modern life. Furthermore, companies and local governments are finding that the use of open source software reduces costs and allows them to pool their resources to build and maintain infrastructure software in critical niche areas. Nevertheless, the increasing reliance on open source infrastructure software introduces new demands in terms of security and safety. In principle, infrastructure software contains security features that protect against data loss, data corruption, and inadvertent transmission of data to third parties. In practice, however, these security features are compromised by a simple fact: software contains bugs.

We are developing a comprehensive solution to the problem of finding bugs in API usage in open source infrastructure software based on our experience in using the Coccinelle code matching and transformation tool, and our interactions with the Linux community.

Coccinelle has been successfully used for finding and fixing bugs in systems code. One of our main recent results is an extensive study of bugs in Linux 2.6 [51] that has permitted us to demonstrate that the quality of code has been improving over the last six years, even though the code size has more than doubled.

We have used Coccinelle to generate traditional patches for improving the safety of Linux. Some Linux developers have also begun to use the tool. Over 800 patches developed using Coccinelle have been integrated into the mainline Linux kernel. As part of the ABL ANR project, we are building on the results of Coccinelle by designing semantic patches to identify API protocols and detect violations in their usage [24] .

Another work done as part of the ANR ABL project, and as the topic of Suman Saha's PhD thesis, is the improvement of error handling code in Linux. We developed a program analysis for identifying the code structures used to represent error handling code and a transformation to convert existing error handling code to use gotos to shared cleanup code, which is the style preferred by the Linux community [53] . We subsequently worked on finding bugs in error handling code, following an approach that focuses on local patterns, i.e., within the current function, rather than patterns occurring across the entire code base. This approach has a low rate of false positives and can find bugs in the use of rarely called functions [39] .