Programming is glamorous; everyone has ideas for how it should be done better. System configuration, in contrast, lacks panache; it seems to consist mainly of fiddling with lots of little settings across devices. However, configuration actually performs a very difficult task: the devices are heterogenous, they work at different levels of abstraction (databases, servers, networks), and they form a distributed system that must act in concert to achieve a subtle (often unstated) goal. Indeed, many security and correctness problems stem not from incorrect programs (for which people constantly produce new verifiers) but rather from subtle configuration errors.
There are several modalities of action: e.g., verification (given a configuration and a property, does the configuration match the property?); differential analysis (given two configurations, how are they different?); and synthesis (given a specification, can we generate a configuration?). All these can be unified under the rubric of mathematical logic. We will see how the tools of logic can address several of these problems in a somewhat uniform way.
The talk will be self-contained, but does expect that the listener has a basic knowledge of logic (namely that the upside-down A is for-all and the backward E is there-exists).
Shriram Krishnamurthi is a Professor of Computer Science and an Associate Director of the Executive Master in Cybersecurity at Brown University. With collaborators and students, he has created several influential systems and written multiple widely-used books. He also co-directs the Bootstrap math-and-computing outreach program. For his work he has received SIGPLAN’s Robin Milner Young Researcher Award, SIGSOFT’s Influential Educator Award, SIGPLAN’s Software Award, and Brown’s Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship for distinguished contribution to undergraduate education. He has authored over a dozen papers recognized for honors by program committees. He has an honorary doctorate from the Università della Svizzera Italiana.