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OS Design for Modern Hardware

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Computer hardware from individual Systems-on-a-Chip to large machines is changing: cores are becoming more heterogeneous, systems more diverse, and fully exploiting the complexity of the system interconnect and memory system is becoming crucial to delivering performance and energy efficiency.

However, the Unix OS model of monolithic kernel and daemon processes is a poor match for this emerging landscape. In this talk I’ll research at ETH Zurich and elsewhere to explore a expl ore a very different approach: viewing a machine (even a single SoC) as a network, and building the OS as a distributed system: the Barrelfish multikernel OS.

I’ll give an overview of Barrelfish, with particular focus on how heterogeneous and distributed memory is managed in the system using capabilities. I’ll also discuss why modern hardware is a distributed system, but not in the classical sense, and the implications for how we think about distributed algorithms in a multikernel operating system.


Timothy Roscoe is a Full Professor in the Systems Group of the Computer Science Department at ETH Zurich. of Technology. He received a PhD from the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, where he was a principal designer and builder of the Nemesis operating system, as well as working on the Wanda microkernel and Pandora multimedia system. After three years working on web-based collaboration systems at a startup company in North Carolina, Mothy joined Sprint’s Advanced Technology Lab in Burlingame, California, working on cloud computing and network monitoring. He then joined Intel Research at Berkeley in April 2002 as a principal architect of PlanetLab, an open, shared platform for developing and deploying planetary-scale services. In September 2006 he spent four months as a visiting researcher in the Embedded and Real-Time Operating Systems group at National ICT Australia in Sydney, before joining ETH Zurich in January 2007. His current research interests include network architecture and the Barrelfish multicore research operating system. He was recently elected Fellow of the ACM for contributions to operating systems and networking research.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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