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Barrelfish - Microsoft's other OS

| Thursday, July 14, 2011

With multicore becoming the norm we need operating systems that can take advantage of them without wasting time trying to keep the show on the road with centralized management. Barrelfish is Microsoft's experiment in viewing the hardware as a collection of networked processors.

Since it became difficult for hardware manufacturers to increase clock speeds much above 3Ghz we have had to change our approach from faster serial processing to more parallel processing. The big problem is that while operating systems such as Linux, Unix and Windows can make use of multiple processors they were never designed to do so efficiently or in a modern way.

Researchers at Microsoft Research working with ETH Zurich think that Barrelfish, a new OS built from scratch, might be a way forward. It was started as a project back in 2007 and they are very clear that this is not a Windows replacement - not now, not ever. The whole point of Barrelfish is to find out how to build a better multiprocessor system. One of the key properties that the new OS needs is scalability. The number of cores available on today's machines varies but over time it is only going to increase and the operating system has to be able to keep up.

Read more: I Programmer
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