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

Device Drivers

Device drivers are essential to modern computing, to provide applications with access, via the operating system, to physical devices such as keyboards, disks, networks, and cameras. Development of new computing paradigms, such as the internet of things, is hampered because device driver development is challenging and error-prone, requiring a high level of expertise in both the targeted OS and the specific device. Furthermore, implementing just one driver is often not sufficient; today's computing landscape is characterized by a number of OSes, e.g., Linux, Windows, MacOS, BSD and many real time OSes, and each is found in a wide range of variants and versions. All of these factors make the development, porting, backporting, and maintenance of device drivers a critical problem for device manufacturers, industry that requires specific devices, and even for ordinary users.

The last fifteen years have seen a number of approaches directed towards easing device driver development. Réveillère, who was supervised by G. Muller, proposes Devil [8], a domain-specific language for describing the low-level interface of a device. Chipounov et al. propose RevNic, [34] a template-based approach for porting device drivers from one OS to another. Ryzhyk et al. propose Termite, [68], [69] an approach for synthesizing device driver code from a specification of an OS and a device. Currently, these approaches have been successfully applied to only a small number of toy drivers. Indeed, Kadav and Swift [47] observe that these approaches make assumptions that are not satisfied by many drivers; for example, the assumption that a driver involves little computation other than the direct interaction between the OS and the device. At the same time, a number of tools have been developed for finding bugs in driver code. These tools include SDV [25], Coverity [41], CP-Miner, [56] PR-Miner [57], and Coccinelle [9]. These approaches, however, focus on analyzing existing code, and do not provide guidelines on structuring drivers.

In summary, there is still a need for a methodology that first helps the developer understand the software architecture of drivers for commonly used operating systems, and then provides tools for the maintenance of existing drivers.