Library Isolation

Norman Feske norman.feske at ...1...
Tue Mar 13 10:33:26 CET 2018

Hi Ben,

On 11.03.2018 05:00, Nobody III wrote:
> For method calls, one option would be to generate an RPC interface for
> each library. This seems doable, but methods involving pointers to large
> amounts of data may be an issue. I could wrap pointers in buffers, but
> dynamic argument sizes and limits on RPC argument sizes could be an issue.
> ...

whereas I definitely see the appeal of sandboxing libraries, I think
that the attempt to achieve it transparently is futile. There are many
arguments against it. Just from the top of my head:

* Since inter-component communication is expensive, RPC interfaces are
  designed to decouple client and server as far as possible. This is
  not the case for the design of library interfaces. A good library
  interfaces does not make a good RPC interface.

* When using a library, the control flow can go back-and-forth between
  the library and the caller. Think about callback functions. This is
  not (easily) possible with RPC.

* Genode's RPC mechanism does only support POD types as arguments.
  That means, a passed argument must not contain any pointer to another
  object. Most libraries use opaque pointers to library-internal objects
  as API arguments. This common pattern directly contradicts with
  Genode's RPC mechanism.

* The memory touched by a library is not disjoint from the memory used
  by the library-using code. E.g., an inline function defined in a
  library header becomes part of the calling program when compiled but
  may operate on library data structures. Therefore, the line between
  library-owned memory and caller-owned memory cannot be drawn in a
  general way.

* The magic needed to overcome these complicated problems is complex.
  Even if succeeding, this complexity inflates the trusted computing
  base of the library-using program.

* We try to avoid the proliferation of RPC interfaces to foster the
  composability of components. Your idea goes into the opposite

In summary, I feel that this idea creates more problems than it solves.
>From my perspective it is more practical to manually wrap libraries into
components - just as I did with libarchive (extract component) or GnuPG
(verify) component.

Btw, if you are interested in the isolation of libraries from an
academic perspective, you may find it worthwhile to study tagged-memory
CPU architecture like CHERI.


Dr.-Ing. Norman Feske
Genode Labs ·

Genode Labs GmbH · Amtsgericht Dresden · HRB 28424 · Sitz Dresden
Geschäftsführer: Dr.-Ing. Norman Feske, Christian Helmuth

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