FlexOS: making OS isolation flexible

Hugo Lefeuvre, Vlad-Andrei Bădoiu, Stefan Lucian Teodorescu, Tiberiu Mosnoi, Costin Raiciu, Pierre Olivier, Răzvan Deaconescu, Felipe Huici

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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OS design is traditionally heavily intertwined with protection mechanisms. OSes statically commit to one or a combination of (1) hardware isolation, (2) runtime checking, and (3) software verification early at design time. Changes after deployment require major refactoring; as such, they are rare and costly. In this paper, we argue that this strategy is at odds with recent hardware and software trends: protections break (Meltdown), hardware becomes heterogeneous (Memory Protection Keys, CHERI), and multiple mechanisms can now be used for the same task (software hardening, verification, HW isolation, etc). In short, the choice of isolation strategy and primitives should be postponed to deployment time.

We present FlexOS, a novel, modular OS design whose compartmentalization and protection profile can seamlessly be tailored towards a specific application or use-case at build time. FlexOS offers a language to describe components' security needs/behavior, and to automatically derive from it a compartmentalization strategy. We implement an early proto-type of FlexOS that can automatically generate a large array of different OSes implementing different security strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHotOS 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems
Place of PublicationNew York, United States
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-8438-4
ISBN (Print)9781450384384
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021
EventHotOS '21: Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems - Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Duration: 31 May 20212 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameHotOS 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems


ConferenceHotOS '21: Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnn Arbor, Michigan


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