Dynamic software updating

TitleDynamic software updating
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsHicks MW, Nettles S
JournalACM Trans. Program. Lang. Syst.
Pagination1049 - 1096
Date Published2005/11//
ISBN Number0164-0925
Keywordsdynamic software updating, typed assembly language

Many important applications must run continuously and without interruption, and yet also must be changed to fix bugs or upgrade functionality. No prior general-purpose methodology for dynamic updating achieves a practical balance between flexibility, robustness, low overhead, ease of use, and low cost.We present an approach for C-like languages that provides type-safe dynamic updating of native code in an extremely flexible manner---code, data, and types may be updated, at programmer-determined times---and permits the use of automated tools to aid the programmer in the updating process. Our system is based on dynamic patches that contain both the updated code and the code needed to transition from the old version to the new. A novel aspect of our patches is that they consist of verifiable native code (e.g. Proof-Carrying Code or Typed Assembly Language), which is native code accompanied by annotations that allow online verification of the code's safety. We discuss how patches are generated mostly automatically, how they are applied using dynamic-linking technology, and how code is compiled to make it updateable.To concretely illustrate our system, we have implemented a dynamically updateable web server, FlashEd. We discuss our experience building and maintaining FlashEd, and generalize to present observations about updateable software development. Performance experiments show that for FlashEd, the overhead due to updating is low: typically less than 1 percent.