Skip to main content


Supporting undoability in systems operations


Ingo Weber, Hiroshi Wada, Alan Fekete, Anna Liu and Len Bass

NICTA, Sydney, Australia
UNSW, Australia


When managing cloud resources, many administrators operate without a safety net. For instance, inadvertently deleting a virtual disk results in the complete loss of the contained data. The facility to undo a collection of changes, reverting to a previous acceptable state, is widely recognized as valuable support for dependability. In this paper, we consider the particular needs of the system administrators managing API-controlled resources, such as cloud resources on the IaaS level. n particular, we propose an approach which is based on an abstract model of the effects of each available operation. Using this model, we check to which degree each operation is undoable. A positive outcome of this check means a formal guarantee that any sequence of calls to such operations can be undone. A negative outcome contains information on the properties preventing undoability, e.g., which operations are not undoable and why. At runtime we can then warn the user intending to use an irreversible operation; if undo is possible and desired, we apply an AI planning technique to automatically create a workflow that takes the system back to the desired earlier state. We demonstrate the feasibility and applicability of the approach with a prototypical implementation and a number of experiments.

BibTeX Entry

    author           = {Weber, Ingo and Wada, Hiroshi and Fekete, Alan and Liu, Anna and Bass, Len},
    month            = nov,
    year             = {2013},
    keywords         = {cloud computing, undo, rollback},
    title            = {Supporting Undoability in Systems Operations},
    booktitle        = {USENIX Large Installation System Administration Conference (LISA)},
    pages            = {75--88},
    address          = {Washington, DC, USA}


Served by Apache on Linux on seL4.