Microsoft unveils Open Source multi core OS

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A new operating system, code named Barrelfish is being developed by Microsoft research labs and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. This operating system is being built with multi core operations foremost in priority. It is supposed to be extremely scalable and able to function on a very wide range of hardware. You can download the current snapshot of it on their site and dig into the source code, released under a 3-clause BSD style license. If you would like to learn the primary differences between this OS and Windows or Linux, you can read this PDF.

[via Engadget]


  1. strider_mt2k says:

    I eagerly await the catch.

  2. 24601 says:

    wow, only one chick

  3. monkeyslayer56 says:

    microsoft != opensource…

  4. Ben says:

    Sweet jesus, Microsoft finally did something cool.

  5. Gosh says:

    “I eagerly await the catch.” <- this.

    It would be great to see MS turn over a new leaf and really embrace open source, but I'll believe it if it actually happens. 'Til then, just seems like a PR stunt.

  6. Daley says:

    My guess is that M$ figures they can get more bang with less “buck” by having the open source community do their research for them, so they can then take that knowledge and apply it to their retail offerings.

    Just speculation of course – we all know that M$ isn’t in the business of doing anything for “free”.

  7. sigtermer says:

    like the Daley and the others said, Microsoft doesn’t believe in free software. it never has and never will. although there is a first for every thing…

  8. geg says:

    Hmm… BSD license, just like OSX. I’m shocked they didn’t go with GPL.


  9. Tom says:

    Now all someone needs to do is to grab a copy, GPL it and then the OS community can start from there.

  10. nope says:

    Wow a homogametic (geek way of saying girl). Show me your..umm…multicore?

  11. brian says:

    Nice work Microsoft PR guys…

    “We need to emphasize diversity in our press release, so let’s stick the 1 woman and the two brown-skinned dudes in the front row.”

  12. Clyde Cash says:

    To whoever said microsoft != open source, let me reply with open source != good software. There are some good ones out there, but most of it is crap.

  13. Tristan says:

    Wow, so much hatred for Microsoft.

    I’m certainly no fanboy, but I don’t delude myself by thinking that the company is inherently evil. It’ll be cool to see what comes out of this.

  14. Chris says:

    @24601 You sure that’s a chick?

  15. Saites says:

    M$ is probably looking for innovation from the open-source community. Think of what they did with the xbox. The essentially made it hackable, and even encouraged it. Then they incorporated a lot of the best features that people really enjoyed into the 360. It makes sense that they would look to the masses for ideas on how to make their retail OSes better.

  16. nave.notnilc says:

    I’m kinda astounded, GNU HURD, one of the oldest GNU projects, has just been beaten at its own game by MS.

  17. Blizzarddemon says:

    Im going with this being PR, or some side experiment to keep the linix folks under MS busy while the Windows certified twats screw up vista more and more.

  18. Marco says:

    Wow, even MS opts for a BSD license. Will the FSF morons eventually see the light and drop the GPL ?

  19. Matt says:

    Yes, people, Microsoft funds huge, potentially highly beneficial research projects just for the sake of PR to appeal to the open source community.

    Seriously, get a fucking clue.

  20. jωt says:

    october fools!

  21. tjhooker says:

    If FSF switched to BSD they wouldn’t have to listen to Stallman preach to them about ‘yuppyism’ at major conferences.

    MS isn’t going to do much here..

  22. captain says:

    What! Is hell freezing over? (Global Warming is real!) Micro$oft is embracing open-source?

    I may finally see a Windoze version of Linux in my lifetime. Wow!

    Micro$oft is bringing order to “the source”.
    Linux, I am your friend. Embrace the dark side, Linux.

  23. cyanide says:

    this is probably a way to test software and see what the community likes before implementing it. likely it’s a response to windows vista, because vista fucking sucked. people loved longhorn back in the day and there was all this hype about vista until the final versions started coming out. they don’t want to make a mistake like that again and so they’re going to use barrelfish to get ideas from the userbase as to what they should put in their OS.

  24. Hackius says:

    I’m not surprised they didn’t chose GPL. Especially in it’s latest incarnation it’s a downright evil license system that I wish would just die. It’s actually holding back the open source community

  25. JayNix says:

    Let’s plan a release party… October fools!

  26. le'chef says:

    Worst photographer ever.

  27. sgf says:

    Why are people sounding confused? MS Research do lots of cool and interesting stuff, and release plenty of it as open source. The main Haskell developers are employed by MSR.

    It’s pretty straightforward. For the long-term, MS need decent research. They need top-quality researchers. Researchers who like writing papers and releasing open source code, so that’s what they do.

    MSR is mostly pretty distinct from the mainstream of MS, although some cool toys like F# leak out from time to time.

    It would really help if people didn’t assume the world was simple black and white.

  28. nave.notnilc says:

    at this point in time, barrelfish is only a better design for computers with numbers of cores greater than 10 or so. for lower numbers of cpu’s, conventional kernels are better. this isn’t ending up in windows any time soon, if ever.

  29. tjhooker says:

    They’ll use binary blobs for driver architecture. I’d bet money.

  30. ScottG says:

    Although this project may be open source on the surface, I think it’s nothing more than a front. I predict M$ will take the best parts of whatever is achieved through the ‘community’ aspect of open source only to turn it into something commercial. It may also be a M$ plot to hire experienced people who know what should go into a good OS. There are no ‘nice-guys’ in the corporate world.

  31. wafermouse says:

    Cool, I used to follow HURD and L4 quite a bit hoping they’d come up with the goods. Who’da thunk it’d be Microsoft? Be interesting to see whether they go with this, it seems they’re looking into lots of different OS research at the moment, I guess for Windows 8.

  32. Ugly American says:

    Back to the Future, again.

    In the 1970s Xerox PARC labs had a
    WIMP GUI, Ethernet, real message passing Object Oriented language & OS. Every so many years ‘industry leaders’ go back and copy a little bit more and claim they invented it and then go on to mis-implement it.

    Of course, x86 CPUs are designed around stack based serial thinking assumptions so we’re unlikely to see the true potential of message passing on individual computers until we drop the x86 and all it’s baggage.

  33. Concino says:

    In this particular case BSD stands for Blue Screen of Death right? :P

  34. Jayson says:

    I wonder how much spyware or other built in tracking software will be in this OS? I also wonder if this will have (or they’re distributing this OS to develop) software that will prevent programs like ripit4me or other good burning software from being used?

  35. CH says:

    Surely Open-Source and Free-Software are different things?

  36. monkeyslayer56 says:

    opensource and freeware are diferent but similar in that but are (normally) free. opensource is were your alowed to have the source code(what makes up the program or in this case the operating system) freeware is a step up form that in that u only get what that code makes not the code itself
    and those who no more then me please correct me if im wrong :)

  37. Hatecrime69 says:

    after reading the pdf for a bit, it sounds like they are taking a pretty un-biased approach towards linux or windows with this os research, taking an honest look at how linux does things and seeing where their idea for the os will do it. Also, bonus points to mainly using amd cpu’s for the development :)

    Of course if something tangible ever comes out of it, i’d be surprised

  38. Tux-fan says:


    did you read the paper ?
    You can condense it down to two points…

    1. Behind the line they like to say, Linux is as same bad as Windows (in terms of there research)
    They multiple mention … Windows and Linux do …blablabla… however, barrelfish….

    2. There is only one comparison between all three OS (figure 7) clearly show Windows is fare behind Linux which competes with barrelfish nicely up to 8-10 cores.

    All other test are done without MS-OS… why???… are the results where to bad and the graphs need a logarithmic scale to print the performance of all three test candidates in a single plot ? ;)

    Finally, I guess the comparison is not even fair. Compare a OS (Windows or Linux) optimized for single desktop systems towards a new OS optimized purely for heavy data throughput on multi cores is like comparing apples and pears.

    Hell, I could simply write the complete tests they performed in VHDL bake it in an FPGA and tatatata… fastest ever … but it wouldn’t be fair either.

    As for open source and M$… you all know what the romans did to keep there citizens happy and to draw off the attention from all those loosing wars and social problems stuff…

    panem et circenses (Bread and Circuses)

  39. think about it says:

    More like a BSoD licence! amirite?

  40. !!!! says:

    A guy I work with said a long time ago that we need a new OS and it needs to be called Doors. Why climb through windows when you can walk through doors? How ironic is it that it may be MS that fills the void?

  41. This is really going to help, multi-core systems are EVERYWHERE now. Really the technology in current OS’s do not handle the multi-core processes very well. I know for a fact that multi-core game rendering is far behind what it should be and I can foresee this project developing new ways to deal with handling processes over many cores more efficiently.

  42. chris says:

    In response to:

    My guess is that M$ figures they can get more bang with less “buck” by having the open source community do their research for them, so they can then take that knowledge and apply it to their retail offerings.

    Just speculation of course – we all know that M$ isn’t in the business of doing anything for “free”.

    Posted at 9:50 am on Oct 1st, 2009 by Daley

    like the Daley and the others said, Microsoft doesn’t believe in free software. it never has and never will. although there is a first for every thing…

    Might I direct you to

    This press release will brief you on the details:

    Microsoft took a retail program (in my opinion they could not compete with them so they bought the competition) and made the software free while putting more features in. I agree Virtual PC does not compare well to VMWare, but at least it’s an option.

  43. xoring says:

    This is truly interesting. It looks like Erlang-style message-passing concurrency applied to an OS kernel. They run kernel for each core (allowing cores to be mixed heterogeneously, like x86 with ARM) and then pass messages between them instead of sharing memory. It’s _not_ a HURD-like micro-kernel system.

    This really looks like it might turn into something interesting.

    This is really going to bytecode languages a necessity since compiling for a particular arch would restrict your application to a subset of the available cores.

  44. fsphil says:

    The BSD allows companies to take but not give – that’s why Microsoft like it so much.

  45. brian says:

    I don’t understand people like “captain”. Do you really think there is anything clever in replacing the “s” in Microsoft with a $, or substituting “doze” for “dows”?

    It has never been clever. It has never been funny. Grow up.

    This sounds very interesting and Microsoft has been announcing some fairly significant and interesting products/projects lately. I’m interested to see where they go.

  46. tjhooker says:

    @brian: What’s worse is most of these Über hax0rz don’t even know the fundamentals of the architecture they’re advocating, just that it’s free as in no cost.

  47. brian says:


    Tell me about it. Given, I’m not an expert in the field either; just an enthusiast with an open-mind, and an appreciation for novel advancements.

    I’ve read some of the PDFs on the Barrelfish site, and while a bunch of it is way over my head, it’s very interesting.

    Comments on some other blogs involve various fanboys slamming each other, and comparisons being drawn between this (a non-profit OS product) to Snow Leopard and Apple’s GCD. I’m not very familiar with GCD, nor am I all that enthusiastic about reading about it at the moment, but I don’t think the scope of this new approach is at all covered by GCD.

    I base that on the assumption that: if this approach to designing an OS proven and already deployed in a competing consumer level OS, Microsoft would have no reason embark on this sort of endeavour.

  48. Shibrowski says:

    Does this mean I can have a free operating system AND play my favourite games … ? Oooooh – I think I’m gonna faint!

    @brian: The “$” and the “doze” is a satire pointed towards “Microsoft’s” cooperate decisions and copyright law suits.

    Apart from that, flames have been kept minimal. Seems like some flamers are gradually maturing or the admins are 24/7 filtering :P

    Only time will tell where this idea will go. It’s us, users, who will benefit from all that at the end of the day. Yipeee – Something new to play with!

  49. brian says:


    I understand what they are attempting to do; I don’t understand why they feel it’s necessary. If it isn’t clever, funny, insightful, or meaningful, so why bother?

    It contributes nothing to (I’d go so far as to say it detracts from) the discussion.

  50. Jikki says:

    What, what?!

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