Feeds

Operating systems are old and busted

VMware founder wants data center coup

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

USENIX Operating systems aren't so great. They lounge like bloated monarchs on a database server — getting far more credit than they're worth. Clutched in their sausage fingers are the keys to a kingdom far too vast to properly manage.

But Stanford professor Mendel Rosenblum believes virtualization may be the guillotine that cuts the OS reign down to size. Rosenblum, who is also a founder of VMware, called for heads to roll during his opening keynote at the USENIX conference in Santa Clara...Virtually roll, of course.

In the place of the modern database operating systems, he envisions a faster, leaner and more local solution to running applications using a virtual client

A traditional OS needs to be able to handle nearly any application a user throws at it. One box might need to be a dedicated email client, another a customer relations client — and the OS needs to be able to run both applications well on potentially different hardware. And here lies the flaw, Rosenblum says.

In a database, it's ultimately the application, not the OS, that does something useful for the user. So under the current OS development model, developers create a system that can support as many applications as possible — or at least get it on as many boxes as possible. Rosenblum believes attempting to cover too much ground has made modern operating systems an bloated mess of code.

"The more complexity you have the more likely there's some sort of back door — some place to get in," Rosenblum said.

And it doesn't stop at security. Rosenblum argues a jungle of code also creates troubles for OS reliability, manageability, performance and even innovation.

This is where Rosenblum believes virtualization can dash in and untie the database from the railroad tracks.

Virtualization is a layer of abstraction that separates physical hardware from the operating system. While traditionally an operating system is married to a particular computer, a virtual computer can run an operating system regardless of its host. A data base may pool its computational resources together and create several virtual machines independent of the hardware. Rather than viewing each box as a separate computer, a user would see it as a certain amount of CPU, memory and storage.

Each virtual machine can be dedicated to one task only. That means it doesn't need complex hardware management and broad application support. If a virtual machine is an email server only, the excess fat in the code used for other applications can be scraped away.

"You start to see where you are actually able to strip down the OS environment," said Rosenblum. "In fact, if you look at some applications, you see when you start to take out all the parts of an OS that the application doesn't need, the OS is pretty small compared to the application itself."

This would allow for specialized operating systems streamlined for a particular application. Rosenblum believes less code in an OS would lead to better resource and power management, easier troubleshooting, more reliability and less openings for an intruder to slip in.

It could also create an opportunity for OS creators to come back into the fold after being cast out to the frontier of web 2.0 development.

Rosenblum admits the industry may not be ready for his virtual coup yet. The hardware market has been to set standards for handling virtual clients. On top of that, current one-license-per-box agreements for OSes don't work well with a virtual system model.

The virtual revolutionaries will have to be satisfied tossing stones into the golden palace before they get their day. But the king's court may open the doors as they become more and more concerned over the cost and infrastructure required to maintain a modern database. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype
Box-hugger is not a dirty word, Minister. Box-huggers make the cloud WORK
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.