OpenBSD 3.9 adds sensor framework

The upcoming version of OpenBSD has better buffer-overflow protection, and can ease the burden of systems monitoring through a new sensor interface framework
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

Open BSD 3.9 will include a new sensor framework to allow system administrators to monitor the environmental conditions of servers running OpenBSD.

At present, there are a number of commercial products that allow the environmental conditions of servers to be monitored, but different brands of server require different products. For example, Dell PowerEdge servers use the Embedded Server Management tool, while Sun Fire Servers use Sun's Remote System Control. This can make server management tricky when running a heterogenous architecture.

OpenBSD 3.9, which is scheduled for release on 1 May, includes support for the sensors and the sensor management tools used on a number of architectures, Theo de Raadt, the founder and lead developer of OpenBSD, told ZDNet UK earlier this week.

"There is a significant new sensor framework [in OpenBSD 3.9], which supports voltage sensors, fan sensors, temperature sensors, and so on," said de Raadt. "Such a feature is still missing in Linux and other major operating systems."

De Raadt has already been using the sensor framework to monitor the machines running in the project's server room. "I now get a call on my cell phone whenever something is wrong in the machine room," he said.

OpenBSD 3.9 includes support for Dell's ESM and the Intelligent Platform Management Interface, a standard that defines interfaces with hardware that system administrators can use to monitor system health. It also offers support for a number of sensors, including the Asus ASB 100 temperature sensor, the TAOS TSL2560/61 light-to-digital converter and the Analog Devices ADM1030 temperature sensor.

"Thousands of small changes" across the operating system have been made in version 3.9, said De Raadt, including the introduction of fully enabled randomised memory allocation. This feature ensures that when a program runs it does not always allocate memory in the same place, and therefore offers protection against buffer-overflow attacks.

"No other major commercial operating system has this feature," claimed de Raadt. "The Linux security patch PaX has some of this stuff, but it's not part of the default kernel."

Randomised memory allocation was initially added to OpenBSD two releases ago, but is fully enabled for the first time in version 3.9, according to de Raadt.

More details on the features in OpenBSD 3.9 can be found here.

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