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Title: Monotonicity in shared-memory program verification
Author: Kaiser, Alexander
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Predicate abstraction is a key enabling technology for applying model checkers to programs written in mainstream languages. It has been used very successfully for debugging sequential system-level C code. Although model checking was originally designed for analysing concurrent systems, there is little evidence of fruitful applications of predicate abstraction to shared-variable concurrent software. The goal of the present thesis is to close this gap. We propose an algorithmic solution implementing predicate abstraction that targets safety properties in non-recursive programs executed by an unbounded number of threads, which communicate via shared memory or higher-level mechanisms, such as mutexes and broadcasts. As system-level code makes frequent use of such primitives, their correct usage is critical to ensure reliability. Monotonicity - the property that thread actions remain executable when other threads are added to the current global state - is a natural and common feature of human-written concurrent software. It is also useful: if every thread’s memory is finite, monotonicity often guarantees the decidability of safety properties even when the number of running threads is unspecified. In this thesis, we show that the process of obtaining finite-data thread abstrac tions for model checking is not always compatible with monotonicity. Predicate-abstracting certain mainstream asynchronous software such as the ticket busy-wait lock algorithm results in non-monotone multi-threaded Boolean programs, despite the monotonicity of the input program: the monotonicity is lost in the abstraction. As a result, the unbounded thread Boolean programs do not give rise to well quasi-ordered systems [1], for which sound and complete safety checking algorithms are available. In fact, safety checking turns out to be undecidable for the obtained class of abstract programs, despite the finiteness of the individual threads’ state spaces. Our solution is to restore the monotonicity in the abstract program, using an inexpensive closure operator that precisely preserves all safety properties from the (non-monotone) abstract program without the closure. As a second contribution, we present a novel, sound and complete, yet empirically much improved algorithm for verifying abstractions, applicable to general well quasi-ordered systems. Our approach is to gradually widen the set of safety queries during the search by program states that involve fewer threads and are thus easier to decide, and are likely to finalise the decision on earlier queries. To counter the negative impact of "bad guesses", i.e. program states that turn out feasible, the search is supported by a parallel engine that generates such states; these are never selected for widening. We present an implementation of our techniques and extensive experiments on multi-threaded C programs, including device driver code from FreeBSD and Solaris. The experiments demonstrate that by exploiting monotonicity, model checking techniques - enabled by predicate abstraction - scale to realistic programs even of a few thousands of multi-threaded C code lines.
Supervisor: Kroening, Daniel Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Program development and tools ; Scalable systems ; Theory and automated verification ; Computer science (mathematics) ; concurrency ; parameterized model checking ; predicate abstraction ; monotonicity ; well quasi-ordered systems