EPK: Scalable and Efficient Memory Protection Keys


Jinyu Gu, Hao Li, Wentai Li, Yubin Xia, and Haibo Chen, Shanghai Jiao Tong University


As a hardware mechanism for facilitating intra-process memory isolation, Intel Memory Protection Keys (MPK) has been leveraged to efficiently improve the isolation, security, or performance of the software. However, it can only support 16 isolated memory domains, which significantly limits its applicability in many scenarios.

In this paper, we present EPK which leverages off-the-shelf virtualization hardware features to extend the number of available protection domains in MPK. To demonstrate the effectiveness of EPK, we apply it in three scenarios, including better memory isolation for server applications as well as Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) applications, and a fast InterProcess Communication (IPC) mechanism for microkernels. The evaluation results show that EPK can scale to provide hundreds of isolated domains. It can outperform the state-of-the-art (libmpk) by up to two orders of magnitude and usually achieve 95% of the performance of the system with no memory isolation.

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@inproceedings {280734,
author = {Jinyu Gu and Hao Li and Wentai Li and Yubin Xia and Haibo Chen},
title = {{EPK}: Scalable and Efficient Memory Protection Keys},
booktitle = {2022 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-29-36},
address = {Carlsbad, CA},
pages = {609--624},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/atc22/presentation/gu-jinyu},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul,

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