IVy is a tool for specifying, modeling, implementing and verifying protcols. IVy is intended to allow interactive development of protocols and their proofs of correctness and to provide a platform for developing and experimenting with automated proof techniques. In particular, IVy provides interactive visualization of automated proofs, and supports a use model in which the human protocol designer and the automated tool interact to expose errors and prove correctness.

IVy has two primary design goals: to be as transparent as possible, and to produce design artifacts that are useful even to engineers who may lack the skills or resources needed to construct formal proofs.


The research community has developed many impressive automated tools for formal proof. For example, SMT solvers such as Microsoft’s Z3 can check the validity of formulas in various logics and can even generate inductive invariants. Because these tools are heuristic in nature, however, they fail in ways that are unpredictable and often not understandable by a human user. To reduce this problem, Ivy relies on interactive visualization, decidable logics and modularity

Interactive visualization

Ivy constructs inductive invariants interactively, using visualization techniques. When there is a problem in the proof, it searches for a simple scenario to explain the problem and displays it graphically, highlighting possibly relevant facts. Users can combine their intuition with automated generalization techniques to refine the proof. This approach can greatly reduce the human time needed to construct a proof.

Decidable logics and modularity

A logic is decidable if there is a algorithm that can determine the truth of any formula. In practice, using decidable logics makes proof automation more reliable and repeatable. It also makes it possible to give transparent explanations of proof failures.

IVy’s language is designed to make it practical to reduce all proof obligations to statements in decidable logics. It provides primitives to support modeling in decidable logics, and also modular refinement techniques the makes it possible to separate the verification effort into local, decidable problems. For example, we can verify a protocol at a high level assuming that a given abstract type is totally ordered, then implement that abstract type using bit vectors or integers.

Design artifacts

Another key focus of Ivy is to produce composable specifications that can be used as a reference by designers and for rigorous testing of designs. Ivy supports specifications that are both composable and temporal. This means that if all components locally satisfy their specifications, we know that the system as a whole correctly implements its high-level semantics. Moreover, each component’s specification can be used independently to test and verify that component.

From composable specifications, Ivy can generate test benches and tests oracles that can be used to test design components rigorously against their specifications. Such testers can reveal latent bugs in component implementations that do not appear in integration tests or ad-hoc unit testing.

Getting Ivy

Ivy is an open source tool. For more information on Ivy, see the Ivy github repository and the Ivy web site.


Formal specification and testing of QUIC (Kenneth L. McMillan and Lenore D. Zuck), In Proceedings of ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM’19), ACM, 2019. [bibtex] [pdf] [slides]

Deductive Verification in Decidable Fragments with Ivy
 (Kenneth L. McMillan and Oded Padon), In Static Analysis – 25th International Symposium, SAS 2018, Freiburg, Germany, August 29-31, 2018, Proceedings (Andreas Podelski, ed.), Springer, volume 11002, 2018. [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]

Modularity for decidability of deductive verification with applications to distributed systems
 (Marcelo Taube and Giuliano Losa and Kenneth L. McMillan and Oded Padon and Mooly Sagiv and Sharon Shoham and James R. Wilcox and Doug Woos), In Proceedings of the 39th ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation, PLDI 2018, Philadelphia, PA, USA, June 18-22, 2018, 2018. [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]

Temporal Prophecy for Proving Temporal Properties of Infinite-State Systems (Oded Padon and Jochen Hoenicke and Kenneth L. McMillan and Andreas Podelski and Mooly Sagiv and Sharon Shoham), In 2018 Formal Methods in Computer Aided Design, FMCAD 2018, Austin, TX, USA, October 30 – November 2, 2018 (Nikolaj Bjørner, Arie Gurfinkel, eds.), IEEE, 2018. [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]

Ivy: safety verification by interactive generalization (Oded Padon and Kenneth L. McMillan and Aurojit Panda and Mooly Sagiv and Sharon Shoham), In Proceedings of the 37th ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation, PLDI 2016, Santa Barbara, CA, USA, June 13-17, 2016, 2016. [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]

Modular specification and verification of a cache-coherent interface
 (Kenneth L. McMillan), In 2016 Formal Methods in Computer-Aided Design, FMCAD 2016, Mountain View, CA, USA, October 3-6, 2016, 2016. [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]

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