Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Computer and Information Science

First Advisor

Boon Loo

Second Advisor

Steve Zdancewic


Today’s distributed systems are becoming increasingly complex, due to the ever-growing number of network devices and their variety. The complexity makes it hard for system administrators to correctly configure distributed systems. This motivates the need for effective analytic tools that can help ensure correctness of distributed systems.

One challenge in ensuring correctness is that there does not exist one solution that works for all properties. One type of properties, such as security properties, are so critical that they demand pre-deployment verification (i.e., static analysis) which, though time-consuming, explores the whole execution space. However, due to the potential problem of state explosion, static verification of all properties is not practical, and not necessary. Violation of non-critical properties, such as correct routing with shortest paths, is tolerable during execution and can be diagnosed after errors occur (i.e., runtime analysis), a more light-weight approach compared to verification.

This dissertation presents STRANDS, a declarative framework that enables users to perform both pre-deployment verification and post-deployment diagnostics on top of declarative specification of distributed systems. STRANDS uses Network Datalog (NDlog), a distributed variant of Datalog query language, to specify network protocols and services. STRANDS has two components: a system verifier and a system debugger. The verifier allows the user to rigorously prove safety properties of network protocols and services, using either the program logic or symbolic execution we develop for NDlog programs. The debugger, on the other hand, facilitates diagnosis of system errors by allowing for querying of the structured history of network execution (i.e., network provenance) that is maintained in a storage-efficient manner.

We show the effectiveness of STRANDS by evaluating both the verifier and the debugger. Using the verifier, we prove path authenticity of secure routing protocols, and verify a number of safety properties in software-defined networking (SDN). Also, we demonstrate that our provenance maintenance algorithm achieves significant storage reduction, while incurring negligible network overhead.

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