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USENIX 2004 Annual Technical Conference, General Track — Abstract

Pp. 29–44 of the Proceedings

Flashback: A Lightweight Extension for Rollback and Deterministic Replay for Software Debugging

Sudarshan M. Srinivasan, Srikanth Kandula, Christopher R. Andrews, and Yuanyuan Zhou, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Software robustness has significant impact on system availability. Unfortunately, finding software bugs is a very challenging task because many bugs are hard to reproduce. While debugging a program, it would be very useful to rollback a crashed program to a previous execution point and deterministically re-execute the ``buggy'' code region. However, most previous work on rollback and replay support was designed to survive hardware or operating system failures, and is therefore too heavy-weight for the fine-grained rollback and replay needed for software debugging.

This paper presents Flashback, a lightweight OS extension that provides fine-grained rollback and replay to help debug software. Flashback uses shadow processes to efficiently roll back in-memory state of a process, and logs a process' interactions with the system to support deterministic replay. Both shadow processes and logging of system calls are implemented in a lightweight fashion specifically designed for the purpose of software debugging.

We have implemented a prototype of Flashback in the Linux operating system. Our experimental results with micro-benchmarks and real applications show that Flashback adds little overhead and can quickly roll back a debugged program to a previous execution point and deterministically replay from that point.

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