Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, 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
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
The Founder of NostaLab and a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, John is a unique combination of strategic thinker, marketer and entrepreneur. His career was built on the "science of advertising" combining strategy, creativity and marketing for industry-leading results. Combined with his ability to communicate complicated scientific concepts in a way that consumers and scientists alike can appreciate, John is a sought-after speaker for conferences on the forefront of healthcare science,...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
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 settl...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...