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LISA '06 Abstract

Pp. 161173 of the Proceedings

SUEZ: A Distributed Safe Execution Environment for System Administration Trials

Doo San Sim and V.N. Venkatakrishnan, University of Illinois, Chicago

Abstract

In this paper, we address the problem of safely and conveniently performing ``trial'' experiments in system administration tasks. System administrators often perform such trial executions that involve installing new software or experimenting with features of existing software. Often such trials require testing of software that run on multiple hosts. For instance, experimenting with a typical client-server application requires understanding the effect of the actions of the client program on the server. We propose a distributed safe execution environment (DSEE) where such tasks can be performed safely and conveniently. A DSEE performs one-way isolation of the tasks run inside it: the effects of the client and the server are prevented from escaping outside the DSEE, and therefore are prevented from interfering with the processes running outside the DSEE. At the end of the trial execution, a DSEE allows clear inspection of the effects of running the task on all the hosts that are involved in the task execution. Also, a DSEE allows the changes to the ``committed,'' in which case the actions become visible outside the DSEE. Otherwise, they can be ``aborted'' without affecting the system in any way. A DSEE is an ideal platform through which a system administrator can perform such trials without the fear of damaging the system in any manner. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of a tool called SUEZ that allows a system administrator to create and use distributed safe execution environments. We have experimented with several client-server applications using our tool. By performing these trials in a DSEE, we have found configuration vulnerabilities in our trials that involve some commonly used client-server applications.
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Last changed: 19 April 2007 ac