Safe Software Updates via Multi-version Execution


Software systems are constantly evolving, with new versions and patches being released on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, software updates present a high risk, with many releases introducing new bugs and security vulnerabilities. We tackle this problem using a simple but effective multi-version based approach. Whenever a new update becomes available, instead of upgrading the software to the new version, we run the new version in parallel with the old one; by carefully coordinating their executions and selecting the behavior of the more reliable version when they diverge, we create a more secure and dependable multi-version application. We implemented this technique in Mx, a system targeting Linux applications running on multi-core processors, and show that it can be applied successfully to several real applications, such as Lighttpd and Redis.

Talk given at the Stanford Software Seminar series.