Parallel and Distributed Systems Group

Computer Science Department of Telecom SudParis

Exokernel: an operating system architecture for application-level resource management

Reading group: Timothée ZERBIB presented "Exokernel: an operating system architecture for application-level resource management" (OS Review'95) at 4a312 the 17/6/2022 at 10h00.


Traditional operating systems limit the performance, flexibility, and functionality of applications by fixing the interface and implementation of operating system abstractions such as interprocess communication and virtual memory. The exokernel operating system architecture addresses this problem by providing application-level management of physical resources. In the exokernel architecture, a small kernel securely exports all hardware resources through a lowlevel interface to untrusted library operating systems. Library operating systems use this interface to implement system objects and policies. This separation of resource protection from management allows application-specific customization of traditional operating system abstractions by extending, specializing, or even replacing libraries.

We have implemented a prototype exokernel operating system. Measurements show that most primitive kernel operations (such as exception handling and protected control transfer) are ten to 100 times faster than in Ultrix, a mature monolithic UNIX operating system. In addition, we demonstrate that an exokemel allows applications to control machine resources in ways not possible in traditional operating systems. For instance, virtual memory and interprocess communication abstractions are implemented entirely within an application-level library. Measurements show that application-level virtual memory and interprocess communication primitives are five
to 40 times faster than Ultrix’s kernel primitives. Compared to state-of-the-art implementations from the literature, the prototype exokemel system is at least five times faster on operations such as exception dispatching and interprocess communication.