Google unveils another experimental operating system: KataOS • The Register

Google, one of the few tech companies willing to experiment with new operating systems, has unveiled KataOS for embedded machine learning devices.

KataOS was announced along with Sparrow on the Google Open Source Blog. KataOS is the operating system design and Sparrow is the reference implementation as Weston display server is Wayland’s reference implementation.

KataOS aims to be “a provably secure platform optimized for embedded devices running ML applications.” Google is collaborating with Antmicro who created the seL4-sys box. Currently, the operating system is being developed on the Arm64 instruction set, but there are plans to run it on openTitan, which uses RISC-V.

According to its presentation on GitHub, the new operating system is “almost entirely written in Rust”. This somewhat excludes the underlying microkernel, which is seL4 the reg FOSS Desk when reporting on the experimental Neptune OS in February.

Since seL4 is mainly implemented in C, the project uses CAmkES – a component architecture for microkernel-based embedded systems that uses Haskell and Python – as an abstraction layer to tie the C and Rust layers together.

Microkernels were considered the next big thing in the 1980s. While they haven’t had much impact in the mainstream, they are out there in large numbers. Minix 3 by OG Linux critic Dr. Andy Tanenbaum is a successful FOSS microkernel used in the system management controller of millions of Intel CPUs. QNX, the basis for Blackberry 10 and the money-making part of Blackberry, is a best-selling commercial microkernel.

The one you are most likely to have seen or used is undoubtedly Apple’s macOS (formerly Mac OS X and before that NeXTstep), which is based on the open-source XNU kernel. This is based on Carnegie Mellon University’s Mach, a first generation microkernel, but XNU has a large kernel built-in “Unix server” based on FreeBSD code, so technically it’s more of a hybrid kernel than a pure microkernel.

Security Enhanced L4, or seL4 for short, is a member of the larger L4 family specially developed by the late Jochen Liedtke [PDF] in response to Mach, aiming to improve microkernel performance. They’ve been around for quite a while – the reg had reported on it nearly a decade ago.

Yes, it’s possible for this Sparrow to fall off his perch. It’s a new contender for Google’s graveyard, along with the recently axed game streaming platform Stadia, which we dubbed that when it launched.

But on the other hand, the success base for a niche system like this is lower than for a more general OS. Of previous Google OS efforts, Fuchsia is the most well-known that the company eventually shipped. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/17/google_kata_os/ Google unveils another experimental operating system: KataOS • The Register

Rick Schindler

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