Feeds

The Year in Operating Systems: No battle of big ideas

Small change for 2009

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

In a mature IT market, it becomes hard to make any significant changes in hardware architecture or software design without upsetting the installed base of legacy users.

This, of course, makes the evolution of a product somewhat troublesome. Change must fit within the strict confines of compatibility, ensuring both hardware and software vendors do something useful without upsetting the entire apple cart in the data center - or on our desks and in our laps.

To be sure, this is a lot less exciting than having a totally new thing come along, as proprietary minis did in the late 1970s, commercialized Unix did in the mid-1980s, and a decent Windows operating system for desktops and Linux for supercomputers and then regular servers did in the mid-1990s.

These kinds of tectonic shifts are very difficult to imagine in operating systems these days, thanks to the internet where no one particular machine or its operating system is the center of gravity for users and developers.

That is not to say that there isn't a lot of underlying infrastructure in operating systems that cannot be and must be improved. Just to take one example, the advent and mainstreaming of virtual machine hypervisors for Linux and Windows boxes in recent years is about gaining efficiencies in the data centers.

Hypervisors allow for sophisticated, flexible, and efficient distributed computing by cramming many virtual machines and their workloads onto a single physical server. They don't, though, change the nature of computing all that much.

Similarly, network connectivity for servers, desktops, laptops, and other devices is a key attribute of any operating system these days. A lot of work has gone into making wireless and other network connectivity easier for personal devices and server operating systems have been tweaked with improved networking stacks to take advantage of the fastest network gear the industry can deliver.

If there is one prevailing thing that all kinds of end users desire, whether they are in the data center, in cubicles, or at home: They want operating systems that are easier to use. And operating system makers - be they commercial entities or open source software projects - are all trying to do that with better user interfaces, more graphical tools, and automation wherever possible.

Think of how much easier it is to link to a wireless network in Linux today than it was only a few years ago, just as an example.

Given where we are in terms of market maturity and the work that remains to be done, it's worth looking back at 2008 to measure what really changed in the world of operating systems. Also, it pays to look ahead at what vendors have lined up for us in the coming twelve months.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.