Publications related to Genode

The following list of publications offers a selection of research results in the area of operating system architecture as well as articles and slides related to Genode.

Virtualization Dungeon on ARM - Hands on experience talk about virtualization experiments

Slides, FOSDEM 2014, Brussels, February 2014

The talk introduces ARM's security extensions called TrustZone, and how they are used to run a guest OS on top of Genode's native ARM kernel. It is a hands on experience talk covering pitfalls and blind alleys on the road to success.

The Genode OS framework, which generally runs on top of various kernels, also contains a kernel library that allows Genode to run directly on bare ARM hardware. Therefore, the so called hw-kernel provides exactly the mechanisms required by Genode, making it in particular low-complex and at large understandable. This makes this kernel the ideal playground to do various experiments, including testing new hardware features. In this talk, the kernel will be briefly described, followed by an adventure report about our experiments with TrustZone support in Genode. The hw-kernel is used to executed an almost fully featured Genode system within the "secure world", while Android is executed concurrently in the "non-secure world" of TrustZone. The talk will include a short demo showing the results of these experiments.

Genode as general-purpose OS - progress report and demonstration

Slides, FOSDEM 2014, Brussels, February 2014

The Genode OS project started 2006 as tool kit for building microkernel-based special-purpose operating systems. Over the course of the past years, it has grown to a state where it becomes feasible to be used as general-purpose OS for daily computing needs. This talk will present the many challenges that we faced on our way during the past year.

The topics range from making microkernels such as NOVA fit for highly dynamic workloads, over the creation of low-level OS infrastructure and the porting of existing software stacks, to the question of how the user interacts with a system that that largely deviates from the classical path of Unix-like OSes. In the line of the presentations of the past years, the talk will be garnished with various demonstrations.

Video recording of the presentation...

A Genode-based Environment for Hardware-Software Co-Design

Diploma thesis, Ilmenau, April 2013

In his (German language) work "Ausbau einer Umgebung für das Co-Design von Hardware und Software", Martin Stein extends his microkernel-based emulation framework, introduced in an earlier student research project, to develop a new approach to hardware-software co-design. His solution facilitates Genode to seamlessly integrate HDL designs with complex real-world software systems. It enables driver software to interact with individual HDL designs as well as HDL components to interact with each other.

Reaching puberty - How Genode is becoming a general-purpose OS

Slides, FOSDEM 2013, Brussels, February 2013

The Genode OS Framework is a tool kit for composing special-purpose OSes out of a growing number of ready-to-use components such as device drivers, protocol stacks, runtimes, and in particular microkernels. At FOSDEM 2012, we declared our goal to bring the framework to a level where its developers can use it as day-to-day OS. Our talk at FOSDEM in 2013 follows up on this undertaking by presenting corner-stone for pursuing our goal to run GNU on Genode, namely the Noux runtime environment. Growing up is not easy. Hence, the second part of the presentation contains an experience report on the challenges we encountered at various levels of the software stack and the ways of how we overcame them.

Interview in issue 36 of the Revista Espírito Livre

Portuguese language manazine, Brazil, 2012

The Brazilian Revista Espírito Livre is a magazine dedicated to Free and Open-Source software. With current issue 36, the (Portuguese language) magazine explores controversial questions about Internet freedom, privacy, neutrality among others. Genode seemingly represents a possible technical answer to some of these questions. In the comprehensive interview starting at page 35, co-founder of Genode Norman Feske talks about the background and motivation behind the project, describes the current structure of the community, and outlines his vision of the next generation of operating systems.

English version...

Introducing Genode

Slides, FOSDEM 2012, Brussels, February 2012

Today's operating systems try to find a balance between seemingly conflicting goals. Ease of use is traded against security, resource utilization is traded against resource accountability, and system complexity is traded against scalability. For example, SELinux is ill famed as hard to use and consequently remains widely unused. As another example, isolation kernels minimize the complexity of critical system software but at the cost of limiting these solutions to static applications.

The Genode OS architecture shows how these apparently inherent conflicts can be solved by operating-system design. By combining a recursive system structure with capability-based security, mandatory access control becomes easy to deploy. At the same time, the trusted computing base can be minimized for each application individually such that the attack surface for security-critical system functions gets reduced by orders of magnitude compared to existing approaches. Furthermore, a concept for trading physical resources among processes allows for dynamic workloads while maintaining quality of service. That is not just theory - the system is ready for demonstration and its developers are planning to use it as development environment by the end of 2012.

The talk is focused on the OS architecture and gives a glimpse at the implementation via live demonstrations. Finally, it briefly discusses the planned steps towards using Genode as general-purpose OS.

The agony of choice - the diversity of microkernels in Genode

Slides, FOSDEM 2012, Brussels, February 2012

One shiny aspect of the Genode OS framework is its diversity with respect to microkernels and hardware platforms it's running on top of. Although primarily of interest to clients and users, this property provides some hidden benefits to the system-developer itself. This talk is an experience report. It gives you an insight into the benefits and troubles of developing on a diverse biotope, the strength and weaknesses of the available platforms, how Genode gets ported to a kernel, and what is basically necessary from the kernel's perspective to drive Genode.

Design of the Bastei OS Architecture

TU Dresden technical report TUD-FI06-07, Dresden, Germany, December 2006

Genode's ancestor is the Bastei experiment. This paper depicts the challenges and the architectural design of Bastei, as well as the basic building blocks (e.g., RPC, heap partitioning). We also emphasis the importance of a small application-specific Trusted Computing Base (TCB) and its positive impact on system security and reliability. An updated version of this document is available from the documentation section on this webpage.

System-bus-level device emulation on Genode

Student research project, TU Ilmenau, December 2011

In this (German language) work, Martin Stein introduces an emulation framework based on Genode concepts. It enables the integration of any number of individual hardware-component emulators into a Genode system. Those emulators are interfacing with regular user-level device drivers while the security of the Genode system is maintained. Furthermore it is possible to easily mix in real hardware instances.


First release March 2006

The demo CD was our effort to give the public an understanding of more than a decade of OS research at TU Dresden. The interactive demos are executable on any standard PC.

Security Policies in Nizza on top of L4.sec

Diploma thesis, Dresden, October 2006

In his thesis, Stefan Kalkowski brings together the abstract Nizza ideas, the experimental L4.sec microkernel, and the Bastei OS architecture. He describes how hierarchical security policies can be implemented leveraging Bastei's system structure. The example use case is a consolidated server for a small company with internal CMS with some public objects, mailing, and web server.

The Nizza Secure-System Architecture

CollaborateCom 2005, San Jose, California, USA, December 2005

The Nizza architecture aims at systems with a drastically reduced TCB for security-sensitive applications. The basic building blocks are microkernels, kernelization and legacy software reuse via trusted wrappers.

Mikro-SINA - Hands-on Experiences with the Nizza Security Architecture

Proceedings of the D.A.CH Security 2005, Darmstadt, Germany, March 2005

During Mikro-SINA project, our group implemented a microkernel-based VPN gateway and made first experiences with kernelization and trusted wrappers. At the bottom line, the TCB of our IPSec ESP implementation comprises about 50,000 lines of code and, thus, it is at least one magnitude lower than comparable solutions based on, e.g., Linux.

A Case Study on the Cost and Benefit of Dynamic RPC Marshalling for Low-Level System Components

SIGOPS OSR Special Issue on Secure Small-Kernel Systems, 2007

The TCB concept only covers code that is executed on the target platform, but programmers also trust their programming tools, e.g., compilers. In our microkernel-based research project, a significant amount of complexity derived from our custom IDL compiler, which was reflected in additional maintenance costs and IDL-specific bugs. This paper raises and answers the questions if an IDL compiler can be removed from the set of required tools.

Empirical Comparison of SCons and GNU Make

Student research project, 2008

For many non-trivial software projects, the build infrastructure is an important concern. In his paper, Ludwig Hähne pursues the question of which build system to choose for an operating-system project such as ours. For his study, he took the Genode build system as a real-world use case. His results are not only valuable for our particular project but for everyone with an interest in build systems.

In addition to the operating-system architecture research, the following papers cover specific aspects in the area of Graphical User Interfaces, and thus, are the foundation for Genode's GUI components.

Securing Graphical User Interfaces

Dissertation, TU Dresden, February 2009

Malware such as Trojan Horses and spyware remain to be persistent security threats that exploit the overly complex graphical user interfaces of today's commodity operating systems. Current GUI architectures have to find a balance between the four conflicting goals of maintaining compatibility to existing applications, providing quality of service, operating at high performance, and of being secure, whereby the latter goal still remains widely disregarded by mainstream GUI architectures. The challenge of Norman Feske's work was to resolve the conflict. He developed key techniques and substantiated the concepts by a number of exhaustive experiments. The resulting architecture consolidates the advantages of extremely low source-code complexity, full client isolation, protection against spyware and Trojan Horses, bounded output latency, and compatibility to existing applications into one GUI-server design.

A Nitpicker’s guide to a minimal-complexity secure GUI

Proceedings of ACSAC 2005, Tucson, Arizona, USA, December 2005

Nitpicker applies the concept of minimal TCBs to GUIs and does to legacy GUIs what a hypervisor does to legacy operating systems. It virtualizes the frame buffer output and user input in a way that enables the user to execute any number of windowing systems at the same time, displayed on one and the same screen while keeping those windowing systems completely isolated from each other.

Demonstration of DOpE — a Window Server for Real-Time and Embedded Systems

Proceedings of RTSS 2003, Cancun, Mexico, December 2003

The Desktop Operating Environment (DOpE) is a window server with sophisticated local scheduling of drawing operations and, therefore, any output on screen as well as user interactions have a bounded latency. Furthermore, graphical hard-real-time applications are able to reserve a fixed amount of bus bandwidth to the graphics hardware. This paper is an extended abstract of the original technical report.

Overlay Window Management: User interaction with multiple security domains

TU Dresden technical report TUD-FI04-02, Dresden, Germany, March 2004

This paper details the integration of multiple isolated legacy window systems against the background of security-sensitive applications, e.g., compartmented workstations.