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]

62 thoughts on “Microsoft Unveils Open Source Multi Core OS

  1. “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.

  2. 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”.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. @ch
    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 :)

  15. 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

  16. Hehehe…

    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)

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. @tjhooker:

    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.

  23. 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!

  24. @shibrowski:

    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.

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