"Symbolic Model Checking with and without BDDs"

Dr. Edmund Clarke
FORE Systems Professor of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, April 20

Recept: 3:30-4 p.m.
Talk: 4-5:00 p.m.
Room 2135, Engineering Building


Host: K. Stirewalt

Abstract: Logical errors in finite-state concurrent systems such as sequential circuit designs and communication protocols are an important problem for computer scientists. They can delay getting a new product on the market or cause the failure of some critical device that is already in use. My research group has developed a verification method called temporal logic model checking for this class of systems. In this approach specifications are expressed in a propositional temporal logic, while circuits and protocols are modeled as state--transition systems. An efficient search procedure is used to determine automatically if a specification is satisfied by some transition system. The technique has been used in the past to find subtle errors in a number of non-trivial examples.

During the past decade, the size of the state-transition systems that can be verified by model checking techniques has increased dramatically. By representing transition relations implicitly using Binary Decision Diagrams (BDDs), we have been able to check some examples that would have required 10^{20} states with the original algorithm. Various refinements of the BDD-based techniques have pushed the state count up to 10^{100}. By combining model checking with various abstraction techniques, we have been able to handle even larger systems. For example, we have used this technique to verify the cache coherence protocol in the IEEE Futurebus+ Standard. We found several errors that had been previously undetected. Apparently, this is the first time that formal methods have been used to find nontrivial errors in an IEEE standard.

Although we believe that model checking is already useful for verifying many circuit and protocol designs that arise in industry, additional research is needed to exploit the full power of this method. We have recently developed a new technique called {\em bounded model checking} that uses fast propositional decision procedures like Stahlmarck's algorithm instead of BDDs to handle even larger examples. We have evaluated the new technique by verifying twenty one complex circuits from the Power PC Microprocessor. Traditional model checking techniques based on BDDs were only able to handle one of the circuits we tried.

Biography: Edmund M. Clarke received a B.A. degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, in 1967, an M.A. degree in mathematics from Duke University, Durham NC, in 1968, and a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Cornell University, Ithaca NY, in 1976.

After receiving his Ph.D., he taught in the Department of Computer Science, Duke University, for two years. In 1978 he moved to Harvard University, Cambridge, MA where he was an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in the Division of Applied Sciences. He left Harvard in 1982 to join the faculty in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. He was appointed Full Professor in 1989. In 1995 he became the first recipient of the FORE Systems Professorship, an endowed chair in the School of Computer Science.

Dr. Clarke's interests include software and hardware verification and automatic theorem proving. In his Ph.D. thesis he proved that certain programming language control structures did not have good Hoare style proof systems. In 1981 he and his Ph.D. student Allen Emerson first proposed the use of Model Checking as a verification technique for finite state concurrent systems. His research group pioneered the use of Model Checking for hardware verification. Symbolic Model Checking using BDDs was also developed by his group. This important technique was the subject of Kenneth McMillan's Ph.D. thesis, which received an ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award. In addition, his resarch group developed the first parallel resolution theorem prover (Parthenon) and the first theorem prover to be based on a symbolic computation system (Analytica).

Dr. Clarke has served on the editorial boards of Distributed Computing and Logic and Computation and is currently an editor-in-chief of Formal Methods in Systems Design. He is on the steering committees of Logic in Computer Science and Computer-Aided Verification. He was a cowinner along with Randy Bryant, Allen Emerson, and Kenneth McMillan of the ACM Kanellakis Award in 1999 for the development of Symbolic Model Checking. For this work he also received a Technical Excellence Award from the Semiconductor Research Corporation in 1995 and an Allen Newell Award for Excellence in Research from the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Department in 1999. Dr. Clarke is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, a member of the IEEE Computer Society, Sigma Xi, and Phi Beta Kappa.