It's Time for Operating Systems to Rediscover Hardware

Timothy Roscoe, ETH Zurich

Abstract: 

A glance at this year's OSDI program shows that Operating Systems are a small niche topic for this conference, not even meriting their own full session. This is unfortunate because good OS design has always been driven by the underlying hardware, and right now that hardware is almost unrecognizable from ten years ago, let alone from the 1960s when Unix was written. This change is receiving considerable attention in the architecture and security communities, for example, but in contrast, so-called OS researchers are mostly in denial. Even the little publishable OS work that is not based on Linux still assumes the same simplistic hardware model (essentially a multiprocessor VAX) that bears little resemblance to modern reality. In this talk, I'll speculate on how we came to this unfortunate state of affairs, and what might be done to fix it. In particular, I'll argue for re-engaging with what computer hardware really is today and give two suggestions (among many) about how the OS research community can usefully do this, and exploit what is actually a tremendous opportunity.

Timothy Roscoe, ETH Zurich

Timothy Roscoe is a Full Professor in the Systems Group of the Computer Science Department at ETH Zurich, where he works on operating systems, networks, and distributed systems, and is currently head of department.

Mothy received a PhD in 1995 from the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, where he was a principal designer and builder of the Nemesis OS. After three years working on web-based collaboration systems at a startup in North Carolina, he joined Sprint's Advanced Technology Lab in Burlingame, California, in 1998, working on cloud computing and network monitoring. He 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. Mothy joined the Computer Science Department ETH Zurich in January 2007 and was named Fellow of the ACM in 2013 for contributions to operating systems and networking research.

His work has included the Barrelfish multikernel research OS, as well as work on distributed stream processors, and using formal specifications to describe the hardware/software interfaces of modern computer systems. Mothy's current research centers on Enzian, a powerful hybrid CPU/FPGA machine designed for research into systems software.

BibTeX
@conference {273990,
author = {Timothy Roscoe},
title = {It{\textquoteright}s Time for Operating Systems to Rediscover Hardware},
year = {2021},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = jul,
}