Finding Network Misconfigurations by Automatic Template Inference

17th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 2020), Santa Clara, CA, February 25-27, 2020.
Siva Kesava Reddy Kakarla, Alan Tang, Ryan Beckett, Karthick Jayaraman, Todd Millstein, Yuval Tamir, George Varghese
Network verification to detect router configuration errors typically requires an explicit correctness specification. Unfortunately, specifications often either do not exist, are incomplete, or are written informally in English. We describe an approach to infer likely network configuration errors without a specification through a form of automated outlier detection. Unlike prior techniques, our approach can identify outliers even for complex, structured configuration elements that have a variety of intentional differences across nodes, like access-control lists, prefix lists, and route policies.

Given a collection of configuration elements, our algorithm automatically infers a set of parameterized templates, modeling the (likely) intentional differences as variations within a template while modeling the (likely) erroneous differences as variations across templates. We have implemented our algorithm, which we call structured generalization, in a tool called SelfStarter and used it to automatically identify configuration outliers in a collection of datacenter networks from a large cloud provider, the wide-area network from the same cloud provider, and the campus network of a large university. SelfStarter found misconfigurations in all three networks, including 43 previously unknown bugs, and is in the process of adoption in the configuration management system of a major cloud provider.

[PDF | Implementation]