Live Patching on Linux

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To satisfy high-availability requirements, special-purpose operating systems, sometimes proprietary or self-developed operating system, were used in telecom systems. As the telecommunication world is now moving towards using the Linux operating system on mission-critical systems, new high requirements are imposed on the operating systems. However, Linux is designed to work best on desktop and enterprise systems, and it doesn't have the mechanisms and capabilities needed for mission-critical system with an intense and complex workload that must also handle very confidential information. The OSDL Carrier-Grade Linux (CGL) working group is looking at filling these gaps by creating the CGL requirement definition documents and supporting the creation of Open Source projects to fill these gaps.

Live patching is one of the capabilities in version 3.1 of the CGL requirement definition document released in June 2005. This feature enables a process to modify its functions without restarting, a very needed capability for telecommunication systems that are expected be continuously in service.

One approach to achieving live patching is overwriting the "jmp" assembly code to the entry point of function, which is the method applied by the PANNUS project. PANNUS enables the replacement of a function without restarting a process. This approach is very practical because many software programs are usually implemented with various functions.

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