SOSP 2023
Conference paper

Acto: Automatic End-to-End Testing for Operation Correctness of Cloud System Management

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Cloud systems are increasingly being managed by operation programs termed operators, which automate tedious, human-based operations. Operators of modern management platforms like Kubernetes, Twine, and ECS implement declarative interfaces based on the state-reconciliation principle. An operation declares a desired system state and the operator automatically reconciles the system to that declared state. Operator correctness is critical, given the impacts on system operations---bugs in operator code put systems in un-desired or error states, with severe consequences. However, validating operator correctness is challenging due to the enormous system-state space and complex operation interface. A correct operator must not only satisfy correctness properties of its own code, but it must also maintain managed systems in desired states. Unfortunately, end-to-end testing of operators significantly falls short. We present Acto, the first automatic end-to-end testing technique for cloud system operators. Acto uses a state-centric approach to test an operator together with a managed system. Acto continuously instructs an operator to reconcile a system to different states and checks if the system successfully reaches those desired states. Acto models operations as state transitions and systematically realizes state-transition sequences to exercise supported operations in different scenarios. Acto's oracles automatically check whether a system's state is as desired. To date, Acto has helped find 56 serious new bugs (42 were confirmed and 30 have been fixed) in eleven Kubernetes operators with few false alarms.