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Do microkernels suck?


Gernot Heiser

NICTA, Sydney, Australia
UNSW, Australia

    Open Kernel Labs, Sydney, Australia


At the 2007 OLS, Christoph Lameter presented a talk titled “Extreme High Performance Computing or Why Microkernels Suck”. Having more than a passing interest in microkernels, and having deployed one in a few (dozen? hundred?) million mobile phones, I found this somewhat intriguing, and started to analyse the argumentation.

I would like to share the result with the LCA community, to help people make up their own mind. In a nutshell, I think Christoph's work is a great contribution to Linux scalability, but knowing Linux doesn't mean you know understand microkernels. In fact, I will show that the paper is, as far as microkernels are concerned, essentially based on folklore rather than fact, and fails to provide any solid evidence for its assertions. Rather than starting a flame war, I will present and examine the facts, and discuss what conclusions can be drawn from them.

BibTeX Entry

    author           = {Gernot Heiser},
    month            = {jan},
    video            = {/publications/papers/Heiser_08lca.ogg},
    year             = {2008},
    keywords         = {operating systems, microkernels, virtual machines},
    title            = {Do Microkernels Suck?},
    booktitle        = {9th},
    address          = {Melbourne}