3. Operating Systems

by Ian Pratt and Steve Hand (University of Cambridge, UK)

Link to the SOTA Chapter

Ongoing Research

A number of researchers are continuing work on embedded operating systems, with a focus on support for real-time and fault-tolerance. One particularly interesting scheme is the Time-Triggered Architecture (TTA), a generic architecture for highly dependable real-time systems. The TTA is rapidly gaining support in industry, and hence considerable research effort is being devoted to validation and certification tasks.

Other research projects have focused on the soft real-time arena, such as the Nemesis Operating System [Leslie 1996] built at the University of Cambridge and, more recently, the Dresden Real-time Operating System (DROPS) [Hartig 1998] which is being developed using the Fiasco real-time microkernel [Hohmuth 1998] as a basis.

Future Directions

One key future direction is, as often the case in systems research, a revisitation of a hot-topic of the past: virtual machine monitors. Research projects in the United States (e.g. Denali at the University of Washington) and within Europe (e.g. the XenoServers project at the University of Cambridge) are reapplying VMM techniques to modern architectures with a view to supporting micro-services: components of Internet-scale applications which require only a small fraction of the resources of a server.

Other intriguing avenues for future operating systems research include building tiny embedded systems for sensor network (or other extremely network systems), and support for 'ad hoc supercomputing' in the GRID.

CaberNet Related Activities

LandMARC is a Microsoft Research funded two year project at Lancaster University, UK. The main aim of the project is to build a research environment based on Microsoft technology which will support a number of important areas in mobility, distributed systems, and networking research in which Lancaster has established an international reputation.

This project aims to build a public infrastructure for wide-area distributed computing. We envisage a world in which Xenoserver execution platforms will be scattered across the globe and available for any member of the public to submit code for execution. Crucially, the sponsor of the code will be billed for all the resources used or reserved during the course of execution. This will serve to encourage load balancing, limit congestion, and hopefully even make the platform self-financing.

As part of this project we are developing XenoMon, a hypervisor which securely multiplexes the resources of a machine between a number of overlaying guest operating systems. Performing the resource division task at such a low level allows the support of multiple OS types on a single machine.


[Fassino 2002] J.-P. Fassino, J.-B. Stefani, J. Lawall, and G. Muller. "THINK: A Software Framework for Component-based Operating System Kernels". Proceedings of Usenix Annual Technical Conference. Monterey, CA, USA. June 2002

[Hartig 1998] H. Hartig et al. DROPS: OS Support for Distributed Multimedia Applications. Proceedings of the Eighth SIGOPS European Workshop. Sintra, Portugal. September 1998.

[Hohmuth 1998] M. Hohmuth.The Fiasco Kernel: Requirements Definition. Technical Report, TU Dresden. September 1998.

[Leslie 1996] I. Leslie et al.The Design and Implementation of an Operating System to Support Distributed Applications. IEEE Journal on Selected Areas on Communications 14(7). September 1996.

Maintained by Rogério de Lemos (r.delemos@ukc.ac.uk)
Last updated 4 November, 2002