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Diagnosing Software Configuration Errors via Static Analysis

Dong, Zhen

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Software misconfiguration is responsible for a substantial part of today's system failures, causing about one quarter of all user-reported issues. Identifying their root causes can be costly in terms of time and human resources. To reduce the effort, researchers from industry and academia have developed many techniques to assist software engineers in troubleshooting software configuration.

Unfortunately, there exist some challenges in applying these techniques to diagnose software misconfigurations considering that data or operations they require are difficult to achieve in practice. For instance, some techniques rely on a data base of configuration data, which is often not publicly available for reasons of data privacy. Some techniques heavily rely on runtime information of a failure run, which requires to reproduce a configuration error and rerun misconfigured systems. Reproducing a configuration error is costly since misconfiguration is highly relevant to operating environment. Some other techniques need testing oracles, which challenges ordinary end users.

This thesis explores techniques for diagnosing configuration errors which can be deployed in practice. We develop techniques for troubleshooting software configuration, which rely on static analysis of a software system and do not need to execute the application. The source code and configuration documents of a system required by the techniques are often available, especially for open source software programs. Our techniques can be deployed as third-party services.

The first technique addresses configuration errors due to erroneous option values. Our technique analyzes software programs and infer whether there exists an possible execution path from where an option value is loaded to the code location where the failure becomes visible. Options whose values might flow into such a crashing site are considered possible root causes of the error. Finally, we compute the correlation degrees of these options with the error using stack traces information of the error and rank them. The top-ranked options are more likely to be the root cause of the error. Our evaluation shows the technique is highly effective in diagnosing the root causes of configuration errors.

The second technique automatically extracts names of options read by a program and their read points in the source code. We first identify statements loading option values, then infer which options are read by each statement, and finally output a map of these options and their read points. With the map, we are able to detect options in the documents which are not read by the corresponding version of the program. This allows locating configuration errors due to inconsistencies between configuration documents and source code. Our evaluation shows that the technique can precisely identify option read points and infer option names, and discovers multiple previously unknown inconsistencies between documented options and source code.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Andrzejak, Prof. Dr. Artur
Place of Publication: Heidelberg, Germany
Date of thesis defense: 25 January 2017
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2017 14:06
Date: 2017
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science > Department of Computer Science
Subjects: 004 Data processing Computer science
Controlled Keywords: Software configuration, Misconfiguration, Static analysis, Inconsistency detection, Automated debugging
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