Understanding and Detecting On-the-Fly Configuration Bugs (awarded Distinguished Paper)


Software systems introduce an increasing number of configuration options to provide flexibility, and support updating the options on the fly to provide persistent services. This mechanism, however, may affect the system reliability, leading to unexpected results like software crashes or functional errors. In this paper, we refer to the bugs caused by on-the-fly configuration updates as on-the-fly configuration bugs, or OCBugs for short.

In this paper, we conducted the first in-depth study on 75 real-world OCBugs from 5 widely used systems to understand the symptoms, root causes, and triggering conditions of OCBugs. Based on our study, we designed and implemented PARACHUTE, an automated testing framework to detect OCBugs. Our key insight is that the value of one configuration option, either loaded at the startup phase or updated on the fly, should have the same effects on the target program. PARACHUTE generates tests for on-the-fly configuration updates by mutating the existing tests and conducts differential analysis to identify OCBugs. We evaluated PARACHUTE on 7 real-world software systems. The results show that PARACHUTE detected 75% (42/56) of the known OCBugs, and reported 13 unknown bugs, 11 of which have been confirmed or fixed by developers until the time of writing.

2023 IEEE/ACM 45th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE)