Tortoise: Interactive System Configuration Repair

Aaron Weiss, Arjun Guha, and Yuriy Brun
IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering (ASE), 2017

System configuration languages provide powerful abstractions that simplify managing large-scale, networked systems. Thousands of organizations now use configuration languages, such as Puppet. However, specifications written in configuration languages can have bugs and the shell remains the simplest way to debug a misconfigured system. Unfortunately, it is unsafe to use the shell to fix problems when a system configuration language is in use: a fix applied from the shell may cause the system to drift from the state specified by the configuration language. Thus, despite their advantages, configuration languages force system administrators to give up the simplicity and familiarity of the shell.

This paper presents a synthesis-based technique that allows administrators to use configuration languages and the shell in harmony. Administrators can fix errors using the shell and the technique automatically repairs the higher-level specification written in the configuration language. The approach (1) produces repairs that are consistent with the fix made using the shell; (2) produces repairs that are maintainable by minimizing edits made to the original specification; (3) ranks and presents multiple repairs when relevant; and (4) supports all shells the administrator may wish to use. We implement our technique for Puppet, a widely used system configuration language, and evaluate it on a suite of benchmarks under 42 repair scenarios. The top-ranked repair is selected by humans 76% of the time and the human-equivalent repair is ranked 1.31 on average.


PDF available on arXiv

    author = "Aaron Weiss and Arjun Guha and Yuriy Brun",
    title = "Tortoise: Interactive System Configuration Repair",
    year = 2017,
    booktitle = "IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering (ASE)"