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SubjectSome very thought-provoking ideas about OS architecture.
(Please copy any replies to me explicitly, as I'm not presently subscribed
to the linux-kernel list -- it's not practical when I'm spending so
much time on the road.)

Gents and ladies, I believe I have may have seen what comes after
Unix. Not a half-step like Plan 9, but an advance in OS architecture
as fundamental at Multics or Unix was in its day.

As an old Unix hand myself, I don't make this claim lightly; I've
been wrestling with it for a couple of weeks now. Nor am I suggesting
we ought to drop what we're doing and hare off in a new direction.
What I am suggesting is that Linus and the other kernel architects
should be taking a hard look at this stuff and thinking about it. It
may take a while for all the implications to sink in. They're huge.

What comes after Unix will, I now believe, probably resemble at least
in concept an experimental operating system called EROS. Full details
are available at <http://www.eros-os.org/>, but for the impatient I'll
review the high points here.

EROS is built around two fundamental and intertwined ideas. One is
that all data and code persistence is handled directly by the OS.
There is no file system. Yes, I said *no file system*. Instead,
everything is structures built in virtual memory and checkpointed out
to disk every so often (every five minutes in EROS). Want something?
Chase a pointer to it; EROS memory management does the rest.

The second fundamental idea is that of a pure capability architecture
with provably correct security. This is something like ACLs, except
that an OS with ACLs on a file system has a hole in it; programs can
communicate (in ways intended or unintended) through the file system
that everybody shares access to.

Capabilities plus checkpointing is a combination that turns out to
have huge synergies. Obviously programming is a lot simpler -- no
more hours and hours spent writing persistence/pickling/marshalling
code. The OS kernel is a lot simpler too; I can't find the figure to
be sure, but I believe EROS's is supposed to clock in at about 50K of code.

Here's another: All disk I/O is huge sequential BLTs done as part of
checkpoint operations. You can actually use close to 100% of your
controller's bandwidth, as opposed to the 30%-50% typical for
explicit-I/O operating systems that are doing seeks a lot of the time.
This means the maximum I/O throughput the OS can handle effectively
more than doubles. With simpler code. You could even afford the time
to verify each checkpoint write...

Here's a third: Had a crash or power-out? On reboot, the system
simply picks up pointers to the last checkpointed state. Your OS, and
all your applications, are back in thirty seconds. No fscks, ever
again!

And I haven't even talked about the advantages of capabilities over
userids yet. I would, but I just realized I'm running out of time --
gotta get ready to fly to Seattle tomorrow to upset some stomachs
at Microsoft.

www.eros-os.org. Eric sez check it out. Mind-blowing stuff once
you've had a few days to digest it.
--
<a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr">Eric S. Raymond</a>

The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never
give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.
-- Abraham Lincoln

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