Everything Old is New Again: Virtualizing Firmware on RISC-V

Main Room,

The concept of virtualization is almost as old as computer science itself, with a rich history of intertwined software and hardware evolution. Today virtualization is ubiquitous, and serves as the building block of software deployment and isolation.

This talk explores a wild idea: what if we tried to virtualize the firmware? Is it possible? What does virtualizing the firmware even mean? How can it be useful?

While we walk down the memory lane answering those questions, we will rediscover old theorems, clever software tricks, and the limitations of hardware. We will explore the virtualization of M-mode firmware on RISC-V, and present the design of Mirage, a security monitor that virtualizes RISC-V firmware.