Deterministic Automata Monitor Synthesis

The starting point for the application of runtime verification (RV) technics is the specification or modeling of the desired (or undesired) behavior of the system under scrutiny.

The formal representation needs to be then synthesized into a monitor that can then be used in the analysis of the trace of the system. The monitor connects to the system via an instrumentation that converts the events from the system to the events of the specification.

In Linux terms, the runtime verification monitors are encapsulated inside the RV monitor abstraction. The RV monitor includes a set of instances of the monitor (per-cpu monitor, per-task monitor, and so on), the helper functions that glue the monitor to the system reference model, and the trace output as a reaction to event parsing and exceptions, as depicted below:

Linux  +----- RV Monitor ----------------------------------+ Formal
 Realm |                                                   |  Realm
 +-------------------+     +----------------+     +-----------------+
 |   Linux kernel    |     |     Monitor    |     |     Reference   |
 |     Tracing       |  -> |   Instance(s)  | <-  |       Model     |
 | (instrumentation) |     | (verification) |     | (specification) |
 +-------------------+     +----------------+     +-----------------+
        |                          |                       |
        |                          V                       |
        |                     +----------+                 |
        |                     | Reaction |                 |
        |                     +--+--+--+-+                 |
        |                        |  |  |                   |
        |                        |  |  +-> trace output ?  |
                                 |  +----> panic ?
                                 +-------> <user-specified>

DA monitor synthesis

The synthesis of automata-based models into the Linux RV monitor abstraction is automated by the dot2k tool and the rv/da_monitor.h header file that contains a set of macros that automatically generate the monitor’s code.


The dot2k utility leverages dot2c by converting an automaton model in the DOT format into the C representation [1] and creating the skeleton of a kernel monitor in C.

For example, it is possible to transform the model present in [1] into a per-cpu monitor with the following command:

$ dot2k -d -t per_cpu

This will create a directory named wip/ with the following files:

  • wip.h: the wip model in C

  • wip.c: the RV monitor

The wip.c file contains the monitor declaration and the starting point for the system instrumentation.

Monitor macros

The rv/da_monitor.h enables automatic code generation for the Monitor Instance(s) using C macros.

The benefits of the usage of macro for monitor synthesis are 3-fold as it:

  • Reduces the code duplication;

  • Facilitates the bug fix/improvement;

  • Avoids the case of developers changing the core of the monitor code to manipulate the model in a (let’s say) non-standard way.

This initial implementation presents three different types of monitor instances:

  • #define DECLARE_DA_MON_GLOBAL(name, type)

  • #define DECLARE_DA_MON_PER_CPU(name, type)

  • #define DECLARE_DA_MON_PER_TASK(name, type)

The first declares the functions for a global deterministic automata monitor, the second for monitors with per-cpu instances, and the third with per-task instances.

In all cases, the ‘name’ argument is a string that identifies the monitor, and the ‘type’ argument is the data type used by dot2k on the representation of the model in C.

For example, the wip model with two states and three events can be stored in an ‘unsigned char’ type. Considering that the preemption control is a per-cpu behavior, the monitor declaration in the ‘wip.c’ file is:

DECLARE_DA_MON_PER_CPU(wip, unsigned char);

The monitor is executed by sending events to be processed via the functions presented below:

da_handle_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)($(event from event enum));
da_handle_start_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)($(event from event enum));
da_handle_start_run_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)($(event from event enum));

The function da_handle_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)() is the regular case where the event will be processed if the monitor is processing events.

When a monitor is enabled, it is placed in the initial state of the automata. However, the monitor does not know if the system is in the initial state.

The da_handle_start_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)() function is used to notify the monitor that the system is returning to the initial state, so the monitor can start monitoring the next event.

The da_handle_start_run_event_$(MONITOR_NAME)() function is used to notify the monitor that the system is known to be in the initial state, so the monitor can start monitoring and monitor the current event.

Using the wip model as example, the events “preempt_disable” and “sched_waking” should be sent to monitor, respectively, via [2]:


While the event “preempt_enabled” will use:


To notify the monitor that the system will be returning to the initial state, so the system and the monitor should be in sync.

Final remarks

With the monitor synthesis in place using the rv/da_monitor.h and dot2k, the developer’s work should be limited to the instrumentation of the system, increasing the confidence in the overall approach.

[1] For details about deterministic automata format and the translation from one representation to another, see:


[2] dot2k appends the monitor’s name suffix to the events enums to avoid conflicting variables when exporting the global vmlinux.h use by BPF programs.