PUMP: A Programmable Unit for Metadata Processing

By Udit Dhawan, Nikos Vasilakis, Raphael Rubin, Silviu Chiricescu, Jonathan M. Smith, Thomas F. Knight, Jr., Benjamin C. Pierce, and André DeHon
Date: June 15, 2014

Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Hardware and Architectural Support for Security and Privacy, June 15, 2014, Minneapolis, MN USA.

We introduce the Programmable Unit for Metadata Processing (PUMP), a novel software-hardware element that allows flexible computation with uninterpreted metadata alongside the main computation with modest impact on runtime performance (typically 10–40% for single policies, compared to metadata-free computation on 28 SPEC CPU2006 C, C++, and Fortran programs). While a host of prior work has illustrated the value of ad hoc metadata processing for specific policies, we introduce an architectural model for extensible, programmable metadata processing that can handle arbitrary metadata and arbitrary sets of software-defined rules in the spirit of the time-honored 0-1-infinity rule. Our results show that we can match or exceed the performance of dedicated hardware solutions that use metadata to enforce a single policy, while adding the ability to enforce multiple policies simultaneously and achieving flexibility comparable to software solutions for metadata processing. We demonstrate the PUMP by using it to support four diverse safety and security policies—spatial and temporal memory safety, code and data taint tracking, control-flow integrity including return-oriented-programming protection, and instruction / data separation–and quantify the performance they achieve, both singly and in combination.