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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X037142/1
Title: SACRED-MA: Safe And seCure REmote Direct Memory Access
Principal Investigator: Dongol, Professor B
Other Investigators:
Chockler, Professor G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ARM Ltd Cornell University Max Planck Institutes
nVIDIA Tel Aviv University University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Computing Science
Organisation: University of Surrey
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2023 Ends: 31 August 2026 Value (£): 466,480
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Computer Sys. & Architecture Fundamentals of Computing
Networks & Distributed Systems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
20 Feb 2023 Cybersecurity Research Institutes Research Projects Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Modern society depends on accessing and transferring vast quantities of data, at ever-increasing speeds. Technology giants such as Google invest billions of dollars every year into data centres across the world. Replicated data systems form the backbone of all cloud services; improving their reliability and performance impacts all cloud and big data services. The UK is currently the largest cloud market in Europe, with over £17 billion in cloud investment in 2020.

To meet our ever-growing need for rapid data transfer, RDMA (remote direct memory access) technologies enable next-generation infrastructures by allowing a machine to access (read/write) directly the memory of another machine across a network. Unlike traditional network protocol stacks such as TCP/IP, RDMA-enabled network interface cards (NICs) can bypass' an operating system kernel, ans are thus capable of wire-speed data transmission. RDMA technology has been available in supercomputing clusters since the mid 2000s, but had until recently remained an experimental feature in consumer and enterprise systems due to its cost. However, this changed recently with the availability of affordable NICs (e.g. those developed by our partner NVIDIA), and it is now possible to build distributed applications that challenge conventional design paradigms. For instance, one can leverage the additional throughput of RDMA to support concurrent front-end applications, surpassing sequential state-machine replication services used today. There is already a shift towards consumer-grade devices through the development of wireless RDMA and RDMA over 6G.

To unlock the potential of RDMA in enterprise and consumer systems, we must enable programmers to write safe and secure programs. However, the RDMA behaviour is currently documented through informal plain-text manuals [22] and examples, making its semantics vague and ambiguous. The programming models for RDMA are poorly understood, and there is no support for formal verification. This carries significant risks since RDMA enables writing directly into the memory of a remote machine. Moreover, RDMA programming is inherently challenging as it requires an understanding of the interaction between remote communication and local computation, i.e. how remote memory writes interact with the local memory writes of a given machine, potentially leading to data races and increasing the risk of safety and security bugs.
Key Findings
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