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BY: AL

WHAT IS MICROKERNEL?
MICROKERNEL IS THE TERM DESCRIBING AN APPROACH TO

OPERATING SYSTEM DESIGN BY WHICH THE FUNCTIONALITY OF


THE SYSTEM IS MOVED OUT OF THE TRADITIONAL KERNEL INTO
A SET OF SERVERS THAT COMMUNICATE THROUGH A MINIMAL
KERNEL, LEAVING AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE IN SYSTEM SPACE
AND AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN USER SPACE.

MICROKERNEL USES MESSAGE PASSING (ALSO KNOWN AS


IPC OR INTER-PROCESS COMMUNICATION)
INTER-PROCESS COMMUNICATION (IPC) IS ANY MECHANISM WHICH ALLOWS SEPARATE PROCESSES TO
COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER, USUALLY BY SENDING MESSAGES. SHARED MEMORY IS STRICTLY
SPEAKING ALSO AN INTER-PROCESS COMMUNICATION MECHANISM, BUT THE ABBREVIATION IPC USUALLY
ONLY REFERS TO MESSAGE PASSING, AND IT IS THE LATTER THAT IS PARTICULARLY RELEVANT TO
MICROKERNELS. IPC ALLOWS THE OPERATING SYSTEM TO BE BUILT FROM A NUMBER OF SMALL PROGRAMS
CALLED SERVERS, WHICH ARE USED BY OTHER PROGRAMS ON THE SYSTEM, INVOKED VIA IPC. MOST OR ALL
SUPPORT FOR PERIPHERAL HARDWARE IS HANDLED IN THIS FASHION, WITH SERVERS FOR DEVICE
DRIVERS, NETWORK PROTOCOL STACKS, FILE SYSTEMS, GRAPHICS, ETC.

MOST MICROKERNELS USE A MESSAGE PASSING SYSTEM OF SOME SORT


TO HANDLE REQUESTS FROM ONE SERVER TO ANOTHER. THE MESSAGE
PASSING SYSTEM GENERALLY OPERATES ON A PORT BASIS WITH THE
MICROKERNEL.

EXAMPLE, IF A REQUEST FOR MORE MEMORY IS SENT, A PORT IS OPENED

WITH THE MICROKERNEL, (THE STEPS ARE SIMILAR) AND THE REQUEST IS
SENT THROUGH. ONCE WITHIN THE MICROKERNEL, THE STEPS ARE SIMILAR
TO SYSTEM CALLS.

ALTHOUGH MICROKERNELS ARE VERY SMALL BY THEMSELVES, IN COMBINATION WITH


ALL THEIR REQUIRED AUXILIARY CODE THEY ARE, IN FACT, OFTEN LARGER THAN
MONOLITHIC KERNELS.

ADVANTAGES OF MICROKERNEL BASED OPERATING


SYSTEM

CRASH RESISTANT
PORTABLE
SMALLER SIZE
MAINTENANCE IS GENERALLY EASIER
RAPID DEVELOPMENT TIME AND NEW SOFTWARE CAN BE TESTED WITHOUT HAVING TO
REBOOT THE KERNEL.

DISADVANATGES OF MICROKERNEL BASED OPERATING


SYSTEM

SLOWER PROCESSING DUE TO MESSAGE PASSING


SLOWER THAN MONOLITHIC SYSTEM
MORE COMPLEX TO DEVELOP FOR.

EXAMPLES OF MICROKERNEL
WINDOWS NT
MACH
MAC OS
DIGITAL UNIX