Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Robin Miller, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez

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
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busin...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...