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Reliable, Secure and Scalable Software Systems (RS4)

Friday 1st September 2017

University of Glasgow

We had a very productive workshop with 7 talks and some plenary discussion. The workshop was attended by some 50 people with a good mix of industrial and academic speakers and participants. There were presentations from high profile industrialists: Alastair Reid (ARM), Alastair Murray (Codeplay Software), Michele Weiland (EPCC), David Irvine (Maidsafe) and Tony Printezis (Twitter), and participation from leading universities: including Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Heriot-Watt.

We discussed the challenges of engineering reliable scalable and secure software (RS4), and some possible approaches to solving them. Some key outcomes and ongoing activities include:

(1) Identification of good research ideas and strategies that address modern software and systems engineering problems;

(2) Using RS4 as a platform to capture some software and systems engineering success stories and challenges from industry and academic viewpoints;

(3) The identification of complementarities and synergies, as well as possibilities for collaboration/results adoptions between industry and academic participants;

(4) More broadly, RS4 was aimed at identifying new challenges and trends to influence the UK and European research agenda, e.g. via the EPSRC MaRIONet and EU HiPEAC Networks. We note that the topic is closely aligned with the EPSRC’s newly launched “Safe and Secure ICT” priority.


Talk 1 Alastair Reid - ARM
Can you trust formally verified software?
A recent, important advance in improving security is that formal verification of system software has finally started to become viable: we have examples of formally verified microkernels, realistic compilers, hypervisors etc. These are huge achievements and we can expect to see even more impressive results in the future but the correctness proofs depend on a number of assumptions about the Trusted Computing Base that the software depends on. Two key questions to ask are: Are the specifications of the Trusted Computing Base correct? And do the implementations match the specifications? I will explore the philosophical challenges and practical steps you can take in answering that question for one of the major dependencies: the hardware your software runs on. I will describe the combination of formal verification and testing that ARM uses to verify theprocessor specification and I will talk about our current challenge: getting the specification down to zero bugs while the architecture continues to evolve.
Talk 2 Jonathan Woodruff - Cambridge Computer Laboratory
The Security and Scalability of Capability Memory Protection
New, stronger security mechanisms must also scale with system size in order to be useful in today's ecosystems. Leading security proposals for fine-grained isolation add TLB-like mechanisms that require system-wide shoot-downs, and others recommend parallel memory hierarchies for tags. CHERI capability protection enables both fine-grained memory safety and strong intra-program isolation without adding any scaling challenges to our existing consistency mechanisms. Today's large systems must devote significant resources to preserve consistency in memory, and CHERI capabilities exploit the existing memory-consistency mechanisms by placing all protection primitives into physical memory, with capabilities and their tags atomically joined as 257-bit words. As a result we have found there to be no significant barrier to adoption to the CHERI model, not only in software infrastructure including LLVM and FreeBSD, but also for large-scale hardware design.
Talk 3 Tony Printezis - Twitter
Life of a Twitter JVM engineer
Twitter runs a swarm of services executing on several different managed runtimes. The services have migrated from mainly Ruby in the past to mostly Scala today. Targeting the JVM allows developers to quickly write and deploy scalable and reliable code. Automated memory management, in particular, improves productivity of teams in a fast paced environment. But with these benefits also come challenges. The way code is executed on the JVM makes trouble-shooting quite tricky, especially in production, as it is often difficult for developers to understand what has gone wrong and how to fix it. To make matters even more challenging, the sheer volume of data that flows through these services, and their stringent latency requirements, stress the JVM in different and novel ways. The talk will cover:
- how services are deployed and monitored at Twitter,
- why Twitter has a #TwitterVMTeam, and
- what are the benefits of using a custom JVM and JDK with in-house features.
Talk 4Dimitrios Pezaros - University of Glasgow
Infrastructure support for future resilient networked systems
Recent major cyber-security incidents (e.g., the NHS ransomware incident in 2017) and high-profile Distributed Denial of Service attacks (e.g., the Mirai botnet attack in 2016) have demonstrated that the current, context-agnostic (inter-)network architecture is not sufficient to provide for resilient communications at the onset of adversarial events. The model of the un-intelligent, data-forwarding network where (security) services are solely provided by isolated end-systems is deemed to always be one-step behind the most recently-exploited software vulnerabilities. In this talk, we will discuss work conducted within a recent EPSRC-funded project that tries to introduce the concept of situational awareness for future, mission-critical networked systems. In particular, we will look athow recent advances in networking technology can be exploited to provide infrastructural support for the flexible deployment of proactive services such as, e.g., always-on traffic monitoring and infrastructure protection against attacks. This work constitutes a first step towards future, intelligent (and resilient) information infrastructures.
Talk 5 David Irvine- Maidsafe
Scalability of data networking
There are many advances in software distribution security, such as secure multi layer signing by disparate non local parties. This talk will not cover that area, but instead focus on secure data networking.
Secure data networking has at it's core a major problem to overcome, should we be successful as a society. That is secured ownership of the data silo's or some mechanism to achieve trust of the owning party. In MaidSafe we have taken the approach that the answer to this question is nobody owns the data silo (network), but everyone owns their own data on it. This sounds confusing and complex, but in fact it is the most natural mechanism we know from our own history. Just as we shared written papers between parties in the past and sent these in encrypted form, or secured behind a seal, MaidSafe has designed a network that follows this natural paradigm. This means turning the Internet into a connected network of many nodes all provide resource, instead of the current mechanism of several "trusted" or "capable" entities holding our data within political borders behind pseudo regulated contracts.
The MaidSafe solution is an autonomous network of connected computers where the network, and access to it, belongs to nobody. The Secure Access For Everyone (SAFE) Network is without owners, requiring no trust between peers, and no intermediary to enable access, just as the free flow of data is supposed to be.
I hope this talk will be enlightening and at least leave the group with questions that will challenge the status quo.
Talk 6Grzegorz Pawelczak, Simon McIntosh-Smith - University of Bristol
Application-Based Fault Tolerance Techniques for Sparse Matrix Solvers
The Mean Time Between Failures is expected to decrease as the size and complexity highperformance computing systems continues to increase. With this increase in the number of components, Fault Tolerance (FT) has been identified as one of the major challenges for exascale computing. One source of faults in a system are soft errors caused by cosmic rays, which can cause single or multi bit corruptions to the data held in memory.
Current solutions for protection against soft errors include hardware Error Correcting Codes (ECC). These have some disadvantages, including that they consume more power, require extra memory bandwidth and storage, and they also introduce more complexity to the hardware. ApplicationBased Fault Tolerance (ABFT) allows us to adapt an Error Detection and Correction technique to the application and its data structure.In this presentation we demonstrate ABFT techniques for Sparse Matrix Solvers using TeaLeaf, a heat conducting miniapp from the Mantevo Project.
This software-based approach fully protects the sparse matrix stored in the compressed sparse row format and the dense floating point vectors from soft errors. To protect the data we compare different error detection and/or correction methods such as Hamming Codes and CRC, and identify the trade-offs between them. Our solution requires no extra memory storage as the redundant data for the error detection and correction is stored in the least significant bits of the mantissa or in the unused bits from the integer vectors.
We also investigate tradeoff between the error detection/correction interval and the accuracy of the linear solve - performing the test and correction only once per `n’ timesteps can significantly reduce the performance overhead of the approach, at the cost of potentially performing more redundant work after an error has occurred but before it is detected.
In this presentation we will explain the details of these Application-Based Fault Tolerance techniques and how they combat soft errors, as well as presenting performance results on different architectures including x86, ARM, Intel Xeon Phi (Knights Landing) and GPUs.
Talk 7 Alastair Murray - Codeplay Software
Implementing Heterogeneous Languages for Safety Critical Use-Cases
Until recently safety critical programmers have largely avoided parallel hardware. However, great advances in machine vision and deep learning have been made by exploiting the computational power of parallel devices such as GPUs or DSPs. These new technologies are now being used in safety critical contexts, for example self-driving cars, meaning that the heterogeneous language runtimes must be both reliable and predictable. This talk will discuss changes required to current parallel programming languages such as OpenCL so that they are both usable and implementable in a safety critical context, and some initial thoughts on actually implementing a safe heterogeneous language runtime.
Talk 8 Anna Lito Michala, Jeremy Singer -University of Glasgow
Scaling for the Future: AnyScale Apps
The Anyscale Apps project involves the development of tools that will enable the creation of software capable of running on any scale of device, from IoT wireless systems to large data centres. The project is funded by EPSRC and aims to cater for a heterogeneous future of versatile infrastructure. Automatic adapation of software to different underlying hardware will enable faster development cycles and support the next generation of computing systems. Two demonstrators were identified as case studies to test our tools.
The smart building demonstrator incorporates a network of commodity low cost hardware including sensors to monitor occupancy of meeting rooms in the University of Glasgow School of Computing Science. In this case, edge computing is utilised to exploit the computational capabilities of the underlying hardware while being low cost and easy to scale based on a modular software design.The second case is a robot demonstrator. The distribution of load is performed through a pack of robots in order to identify a specific person in a busy room. The robots are required to perform compute-intensive tasks on low capability hardware and thus rely on offloading to perform the required task within acceptable time frames.
Both these demonstrators identify the limitations of the developed tools as well as their advantages and usability.
Talk 9 Michele Weiland - EPCC
Automatically Deriving Cost Models for Structured Parallel Processes Using Hylomorphisms
This talk will give an overview of the different aspects of the Exascale challenge and assess the progress towards reaching this goal. EPCC, the supercomputing centre at the University of Edinburgh, is involved (and leading) a variety of efforts in the Exascale research programme, some of which will be presented here.