Tool to detect and fix Linux Kernel bugs wins EuroSys best paper

22 May 2023
New OFence tool fixes undetected Linux Kernel errors
New heuristic detects unknown concurrency bugs and unnecessary barriers to prevent data corruption and system crashes. The OFence tool outperforms existing software tools and has won best paper at EuroSys 2023.

Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

EuroSys is a leading European conference for computer systems researchers and practitioners. As the European chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Operating Systems, it promotes excellence in education, research, and industry, welcoming high-quality papers on various aspects of computer systems.

Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and his team have been honoured with the prestigious Best Paper Award at EuroSys 2023. The award-winning team is comprised of Dr Baptiste Lepers from Université de Neuchâtel, Mr Josselin Giet from École normale supérieure, and Dr Julia Lawall from INRIA Paris and Sorbonne University. While conducting the research, Dr Lepers and Mr Giet were affiliated with the University of Sydney as a research fellow and intern, respectively.

Their groundbreaking research focuses on introducing a novel heuristic approach to efficiently identify concurrency bugs in lockless code utilizing the power of memory barriers. By harnessing this innovative technique, they have successfully addressed the limitations of conventional methods, which have proven inadequate when finding approximate solutions.

Their evaluation of the Linux kernel that runs in 8 minutes, successfully identified and fixed 12 ordering bugs and 53 unnecessary barriers, preventing data corruption and crashes. Their tool, OFence, analysed the Linux kernel using static analysis. It pairs barriers and detects deviations from correct usage, outperforming existing techniques and tools.  

“This is a novel approach for effectively detecting and addressing critical errors within the Linux kernel, which have the potential to cause severe outcomes such as system crashes.”

“Linux is a prominent operating system kernel, widely utilized alongside Windows and MacOS,” said Professor Zwaenepoel.  

Professor Zwaenepoel is world renowned for his work in operating systems and distributed computing. He received the prestigious 2022 Outstanding Technical Achievement Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was formally recognised for foundational contributions to performance in computer clusters, shared memory, and distributed synchronisation.

Out of the 323 submissions, the paper received the top ranking based on its novelty, significance, correctness, and clarity.The EuroSys program committee evaluates papers addressing significant problems with interesting and compelling solutions with demonstrated validity and practicality. 

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