Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Xenia von Wedel, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Jignesh Solanki, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Linux.SYS-CON.com Exclusive: A Whirlwind Tour Of Open-Source Operating Systems

Some Are Famous, Some Lesser Known

The enormous success of GNU/Linux as an operating system and as an open source project has captured the imagination of developers, IT staffers, business people, journalists, educators, and even politicians. Linux is so visible, its brand and allure so strong, that most people forget or never notice the existence of an array of other open source OSes. Some of these platforms "compete" with Linux for market share and popular attention (like BSD and OpenSolaris), some complement Linux with additional capabilities or virtualize aspects of its operation (like RTLinuxFree and T-Kernel), while others target embedded or vertical applications (like eCOS and RTEMS) with a minimum of overlap with our TuxOS.

This article offers readers a survey of open source operating systems, some famous, some lesser known. Please pardon me if I have omitted your favorite free kernel or cherished RTOS. In fact, I'm always eager to be educated, so e-mail me with additions or corrections so I can build my list of legacy or lesser-known OSes, kernels, and executives.

BSD
The venerable Berkeley Software Distribution side of the Unix family is split into four branches - OpenBSD, NetBSD, FreeBSD, and BSD/OS. The three open branches continue in active development and broad deployment: NetBSD, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD, and today power many Web servers and even embedded applications (primarily networking). The fourth, BSD/OS, a commercial, semi-proprietary offshoot, met its demise when Wind River Systems (of VxWorks fame) acquired BSDi and subsequently brought its Unix product line to end-of-life.

BSD-family Unix OSes enjoy good reputations for performance and security, but for various reasons don't enjoy the large ubiquitous developer communities that Linux does. BSD OSes have been ported to a vast array of 16, 32, and 64-bit platforms, with the number of NetBSD ports rivaling Linux and also TRON for the title of "most ported." BSD Unixes also form the basis for a series of further-derived OSes, like Juniper Networks JUNOS and the Mac OS X. The Berkeley networking stack, most commonly BSDlite 4.4, also forms the basis for a large portion of TCP/IP networking functionality in other OSes, and strongly influences the Linux IP stack.

BSD is licensed under the BSD Copyright (license), which has recently gained the OS family new adherents among GPL-averse commercial interests. To learn more about BSD operating systems, visit www.bsd.org, a site that will also direct you to the homes of each BSD variant.

Darwin
Most users of Apple OS X probably don't know that their beloved Macintosh operating system is based on BSD 4.4 and Mach 3.0. Those who do recognize BSD at the heart of OS X and who venture to open shells and use the rich Unix command set and capabilities may not realize that Darwin is an open project of its own, and that they can contribute to its development and debugging. Learn about the Darwin project at http://developer.apple.com/darwin/.

eCOS
This open source real-time OS originated at Cygnus Software and today is part of the corpus of software under the Red Hat banner. eCOS offers a variety of scheduling options and IPC services and boasts POSIX APIs. eCOS supports a wide range of CPUs of both the embedded (PowerPC, ARM, MIPS, etc.) and enterprise variety (IA-32, x86). eCOS sits at the heart of the RedBoot monitor, so you may very well have used eCOS to boot Linux or another OS on an Intel XScale or other embedded system board without knowing it. Red Hat no longer supports eCOS as a product, which is maintained as a community project and licensed under a "GPL-compatible Free Software License," derived from the GPL with an explicit exception for static linking of user programs to the eCOS kernel. The eCOS copyright is in the process of being transferred to the Free Software Foundation. Visit http://sources.redhat.com/ecos/ for more information.

GNU Hurd
Richard Stallman's original GNU project had as its goal the creation of a 100% free Unix operating system replacement. In the early 1990s, the GNU system was almost complete, lacking only a kernel. The GNU Hurd was going to be a collection of server processes running on top of the Mach microkernel, which at the time was not a piece of free software. Before a free Mach kernel actually appeared, the Linux kernel came onto the scene, and began its ascent from a small open source project to its current strong and ubiquitous market position. Today, the GNU/Linux operating system incorporates most of the GNU system intended to work with Hurd, and gives the Linux kernel its familiar shells, utilities, and development tools. Find out more about the GNU system, Hurd (a.k.a. Alix), at www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.html.

ITRON and µITRON
TRON (The Real-time Os Nucleus) embedded RTOSes form a corpus of software that stems from the work of Dr. Ken Sakamura of Tokyo University in Japan. Since its inception almost two decades ago, the ITRON specification has been adopted by many leading Japanese semiconductor suppliers and device OEMs, and has been implemented for a range of processors and found a diverse application set. The µITRON kernel, in particular, continues to power single-chip low-end MCUs that otherwise could not use an OS due to the memory and execution speed constraints.

ITRON is not an open source OS per se - it's a shared operating system specification with a very large number of implementations (including open source versions) for a range of microprocessors, including familiar embedded CPUs like Motorola 68000 and PowerPC, ARM, and MIPS, as well as Japanese market-focused silicon like Fujitsu SPARClite, Hitachi H8300, H8/500 and SuperH, Mitsubishi M32 and 7700, NEC 78K, and legacy TRON processors. Even with strong competition from embedded Linux and RTOSes like VxWorks, ITRON platforms have held a dominant position in the Japanese market for over a decade. To learn more about ITRON, visit www.sakamura-lab.org/TRON/ITRON/home-e.html and www.tron.org/index-e.html.

As successors to TRON, T-Kernel and T-Engine together form an open RTOS definition and development environment. T-Engine Project standardizes and abstracts hardware interfaces and T-Kernel provides the definition of a TRON-compatible RTOS. T-Kernel architecture is designed to be virtual, with a goal of running other middleware (e.g., T-Java) and OSes (T-Linux and even Microsoft Windows) above it. To learn more, visit www.t-engine.org.

Mach
The Mach kernel and operating system got its start in the mid 1980s as a prototypical microkernel - that is, a collection of "pico-servers" that provide services to each other and to user applications. Mach grew to include interprocess communication among kernel-level services and for the rest of the system. It also accrued virtual memory support in the kernel and for user-level servers. Later, Mach saw the addition of lightweight kernel threads, multiprocessing, and support for Unix-style APIs.

The Mach kernel also formed the basis for a number of other OSes, including GNU Hurd, Mk-Linux, Macintosh MachTen, NeXT OS, Omron Luna, DEC OSF/1 for DEC Alpha, and IBM's OS/2 for RS6000 machines. While variously proprietary in its earlier instantiations, Mach is now an open source OS under the auspices of the Open Software Foundation. To learn more about Mach, visit the CMU Mach home page at www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/mach/public/www/mach.html and the Mach4 page at the University of Utah at www.cs.utah.edu/flux/mach4/html/Mach4-proj.html. Linux on Macintosh enthusiasts should check out www.mach-linux.org.

More Stories By Bill Weinberg

Bill Weinberg brings over 18 years embedded and open systems experience
to his role as Open Source Architecture Specialist and Linux Evangelist
at the Open Source Development Labs, where he supports initiatives for
meeting developer and end-user requirements for Carrier-Grade, Data
Center and Desktop Linux.

Prior to the OSDL, Bill was a founding team-member at MontaVista
Software, and helped establish Linux as a favored platform for next-
generation intelligent embedded device development. In the course of
his career, Bill also worked at Lynx Real-Time Systems, Acer Computer,
and Microtec Research.

Today Bill is known for his writing and speaking on topics that include
Linux business issues, Open Source licensing, embedded application
porting/migration, and handheld applications. He pens columns in
LinuxUser and Developer, and Embedded Computing Design, and is a
contributor to periodicals like E.E.Times, Linux Journal and Elektronik.
Bill is also a featured speaker at conferences like Linux World, Real-
time Computing, and Embedded Systems.

More info at http://www.linuxpundit.com

Comments (6) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Arioch 08/08/05 04:23:32 PM EDT

Guess such an overview would be great to see on WikiPedia.org !

What about LiveCD's ?
In Linux LiveCD usually is a sub-part of a distro, except for Knoppix, which is separate.
I've heard about FreeBSD-based LiveCD, but i do not know if it is separate distro.
Anyway - LiveCD concept is quite unusual IMHO to users of Win or MacOS :-)

Erghmmm, now at last why i came here. I think, You've forgotten one more BSD distro: DragonFly BSD :-)

And what about phones and PDAs? EPOC, Symbian?

Thanks!

Charles Forsyth 07/19/05 11:58:20 AM EDT

I was happy Inferno (and Plan 9) were mentioned, but should point out that Inferno is properly Free/Open software. The dual-licence scheme does not restrict its use to non-commercial use. If, as with Linux and the others, you keep to the terms of its GPL/LGPL/BSD set of licences, there is no need to get a commercial licence. That is only needed by those who wish to keep their changes proprietary. If they'd be happy using Linux under its terms, they don't need a commercial licence for Inferno. I think our having our own Free software licence led to that confusion, so several months ago we changed to use existing Free licences instead.

Charles Forsyth 07/19/05 11:57:53 AM EDT

I was happy Inferno (and Plan 9) were mentioned, but should point out that Inferno is properly Free/Open software. The dual-licence scheme does not restrict its use to non-commercial use. If, as with Linux and the others, you keep to the terms of its GPL/LGPL/BSD set of licences, there is no need to get a commercial licence. That is only needed by those who wish to keep their changes proprietary. If they'd be happy using Linux under its terms, they don't need a commercial licence for Inferno. I think our having our own Free software licence led to that confusion, so several months ago we changed to use existing Free licences instead.

Charles Forsyth 07/19/05 11:53:26 AM EDT

I was happy Inferno (and Plan 9) were mentioned, but should point out that Inferno is properly Free/Open software. The dual-licence scheme does not restrict its use to non-commercial use. If, as with Linux and the others, you keep to the terms of its GPL/LGPL/BSD set of licences, there is no need to get a commercial licence. That is only needed by those who wish to keep their changes proprietary. If they'd be happy using Linux under its terms, they don't need a commercial licence for Inferno. I think our having our own Free software licence led to that confusion, so several months ago we changed to use existing Free licences instead.

Mohit Sindhwani 07/17/05 09:31:35 PM EDT

Hi - it's a nice summary!! Thanks for putting it all in one place :)

Just wanted to add 1 point. While ITRON was not open source (though an opper source version, TOPPERS/JSP, was available), the T-Kernel *is* open source, though not licensed under GPL. However, the membership model of the T-Engine Forum means that higher level memmbers get access to the open source earlier than the general public. The money collected through the membership of a large number of rich corporations (approx 450 at the time of writing) is what drives the research and standardisation activities of the T-Engine Forum.

Cheers
mo.

There is some more information about the T-Engine in English on my website at http://www.onghu.com/te/

LinuxWorld News Desk 07/17/05 01:29:35 PM EDT

LinuxWorld Exclusive: A Whirlwind Tour Of Open Source Operating Systems
The enormous success of GNU/Linux as an operating system and as an open source project has captured the imagination of developers, IT staffers, business people, journalists, educators, and even politicians. Linux is so visible, its brand and allure so strong, that most people forget or never notice the existence of an array of other open source OSes.

@ThingsExpo Stories
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...