Improving the reliability of commodity operating systems

Michael M. Swift, Brian N. Bershad, Henry M. Levy
<span title="">2003</span> <i title="ACM Press"> Proceedings of the nineteenth ACM symposium on Operating systems principles - SOSP &#39;03 </i> &nbsp;
Despite decades of research in extensible operating system technology, extensions such as device drivers remain a significant cause of system failures. In Windows XP, for example, drivers account for 85% of recently reported failures. This article describes Nooks, a reliability subsystem that seeks to greatly enhance operating system (OS) reliability by isolating the OS from driver failures. The Nooks approach is practical: rather than guaranteeing complete fault tolerance through a new (and
more &raquo; ... ompatible) OS or driver architecture, our goal is to prevent the vast majority of driver-caused crashes with little or no change to the existing driver and system code. Nooks isolates drivers within lightweight protection domains inside the kernel address space, where hardware and software prevent them from corrupting the kernel. Nooks also tracks a driver's use of kernel resources to facilitate automatic cleanup during recovery. To prove the viability of our approach, we implemented Nooks in the Linux operating system and used it to fault-isolate several device drivers. Our results show that Nooks offers a substantial increase in the reliability of operating systems, catching and quickly recovering from many faults that would otherwise crash the system. Under a wide range and number of fault conditions, we show that Nooks recovers automatically from 99% of the faults that otherwise cause Linux to crash. While Nooks was designed for drivers, our techniques generalize to other kernel extensions. We demonstrate this by isolating a kernel-mode file system and an in-kernel Internet service. Overall, because Nooks supports existing C-language extensions, runs on a commodity operating system and hardware, and enables automated recovery, it represents a substantial step beyond the specialized architectures and type-safe languages required by previous efforts directed at safe extensibility.
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