Virtual timeline: A formal abstraction for verifying preemptive schedulers with temporal isolation

Mengqi Liu, Lionel Rieg, Zhong Shao, Ronghui Gu, David Costanzo, Jung Eun Kim, Man Ki Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The reliability and security of safety-critical real-time systems are of utmost importance because the failure of these systems could incur severe consequences (e.g., loss of lives or failure of a mission). Such properties require strong isolation between components and they rely on enforcement mechanisms provided by the underlying operating system (OS) kernel. In addition to spatial isolation which is commonly provided by OS kernels to various extents, it also requires temporal isolation, that is, properties on the schedule of one component (e.g., schedulability) are independent of behaviors of other components. The strict isolation between components relies critically on algorithmic properties of the concrete implementation of the scheduler, such as timely provision of time slots, obliviousness to preemption, etc. However, existing work either only reasons about an abstract model of the scheduler, or proves properties of the scheduler implementation that are not rich enough to establish the isolation between different components. In this paper, we present a novel compositional framework for reasoning about algorithmic properties of the concrete implementation of preemptive schedulers. In particular, we use virtual timeline, a variant of the supply bound function used in real-time scheduling analysis, to specify and reason about the scheduling of each component in isolation. We show that the properties proved on this abstraction carry down to the generated assembly code of the OS kernel. Using this framework, we successfully verify a real-time OS kernel, which extends mCertiKOS, a single-processor non-preemptive kernel, with user-level preemption, a verified timer interrupt handler, and a verified real-time scheduler. We prove that in the absence of microarchitectural-level timing channels, this new kernel enjoys temporal and spatial isolation on top of the functional correctness guarantee. All the proofs are implemented in the Coq proof assistant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Issue numberPOPL
StatePublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Fixed-priority scheduling
  • Formal verification
  • Mechanized proof
  • Partitioned scheduling
  • Preemptive scheduler
  • Temporal isolation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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