Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Overall Objectives

Software verification

We have already mentioned the importance of formal verification to achieve the highest levels of software quality. One of our major contributions to this field has been the verification of programming tools, namely the CompCert optimizing compiler for the C language [8] and the Verasco abstract interpretation-based static analyzer [6]. Technically, this is deductive verification of purely functional programs, using the Coq proof assistant both as the prover and the programming language. Scientifically, CompCert and Verasco are milestones in the area of program proof, due to the complexity and realism of the code generation, optimization, and static analysis techniques that are verified. Practically, these formally-verified tools strengthen the guarantees that can be obtained by formal verification of critical software and reduce the need for other verification activities, attracting the interest of Airbus and other companies that develop critical embedded software.

CompCert is implemented almost entirely in Gallina, the purely functional programming language that lies at the heart of Coq. Extraction, a whole-program translation from Gallina to OCaml, allows Gallina programs to be compiled to native code and efficiently executed. Unfortunately, Gallina is a very restrictive language: it rules out all side effects, including nontermination, mutable state, exceptions, delimited control, nondeterminism, input/output, and concurrency. In comparison, most industrial programming languages, including OCaml, are vastly more expressive and convenient. Thus, there is a clear need for us to also be able to verify software components that are written in OCaml and exploit side effects.

To reason about the behavior of effectful programs, one typically uses a “program logic”, that is, a system of deduction rules that are tailor-made for this purpose, and can be built into a verification tool. Since the late 1960s, program logics for imperative programming languages with global mutable state have been in wide use. A key advance was made in the 2000s with the appearance of Separation Logic, which emphasizes local reasoning and thereby allows reasoning about a callee independently of its caller, about one heap fragment independently of the rest of the heap, about one thread independently of all other threads, and so on. Today, this field is extremely active: the development of powerful program logics for rich effectful programming languages, such as OCaml or Multicore OCaml, is a thriving and challenging research area.

Our team has expertise in this field. For several years, François Pottier has been investigating the theoretical foundations and applications of several features of modern Separation Logics, such as “hidden state” and “monotonic state”. Jean-Marie Madiot has contributed to the Verified Software Toolchain, which includes a version of Concurrent Separation Logic for a subset of C. Arthur Charguéraud (Formerly a PhD student in our team, today a researcher at Inria Nancy Grand-Est, team Camus.) has developed CFML, an implementation of Separation Logic for a subset of OCaml. Armaël Guéneau has extended CFML with the ability to simultaneously verify the correctness and the time complexity of an OCaml component. Glen Mével and Paulo de Vilhena are currently investigating the use of Iris, a descendant of Concurrent Separation Logic, to carry out proofs of Multicore OCaml programs.

We envision several ways of using OCaml components that have been verified using a program logic. In the simplest scenario, some key OCaml components, such as the standard library, are verified, and are distributed for use in unverified applications. This increases the general trustworthiness of the OCaml system, but does not yield strong guarantees of correctness. In a second scenario, a fully verified application is built out of verified OCaml components, therefore it comes with an end-to-end correctness guarantee. In a third scenario, while some components are written and verified directly at the level of OCaml, others are first written and verified in Gallina, then translated down to verified OCaml components by an improved version of Coq's extraction mechanism. In this scenario, it is possible to fully verify an application that combines effectful OCaml code and side-effect-free Gallina code. This scenario represents an improvement over the current state of the art. Today, CompCert includes several OCaml components, which cannot be verified in Coq. As a result, the data produced by these components must be validated by verified checkers.