“Barrelfish”: Microsoft’s Latest Future OS Project

By  |  Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Last Friday, Network World reported that Microsoft’s research labs in Cambridge (UK) has previewed an experimental operating system code-named ‘Barrelfish.’ However, it is just one of many fish in Microsoft’s barrel, and is not nearly as close as Microsoft’s project “Midori” is to becoming an actual product.

Barrelfish and Midori tackle a similar problem that Microsoft has determined cannot be met by evolving its existing technology. They run on multi-core systems, and are designed for heterogeneous hardware environments, where applications and resources can exist in separate places.

Beyond sharing a similar mission, there are major technical differences between the projects. Midori is rooted in a research project called Singularity, which is constructed using Microsoft’s .NET Framework; Barrelfish uses some open source components.

Barrelfish, like Singularity, is just a research project. Midori is differentiated, because it an offshoot from the Singularity lab work. Microsoft has placed Midori under the control of Eric Rudder, senior vice president for technical strategy at Microsoft and an alumnus of Bill Gates’ technical staff.

The company has also mapped out a migration path away from Windows to Midori, but there was still a lot of hand-waving in the memos that I reviewed last year. Microsoft has since placed all information regarding Midori under lock and key on a “need to know” basis.

After I wrote my Midori expose, I was told by a source at Microsoft that I had just scratched the surface. Microsoft is a big company that has a lot of resources, and I will not pretend to know everything that is going on in its skunkworks. What I do know is that Barrelfish is just research–for now.

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