Timothy Roscoe delivering the opening keynote at ComPAS

Timothy Roscoe is delivering the opening keynote talk entitled “Minding the Gap” at the Conférence d’informatique en Parallélisme, Architecture et Système (ComPAS) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

There is a (by now) well-established gap between the functionality provided by hardware architects, and the issues and requirements that system software (and particularly operating system) designers worry about. Recently, with the accelerating pace of hardware innovation, this has become a serious and pressing issue, and I will argue that the way we have traditionally built low-level system software is simply not up to the challenge of supporting modern, diverse, highly parallel, rapidly evolving, and quirky hardware.

The Barrelfish research operating system was conceived as a response to trends in hardware design, and continues to serve as a testbed for new ideas in OS construction which apply modern techniques from programming languages, knowledge representation, and networking to the problem of managing the machine. I will describe a selection of these in the talk, together with our experiences implementing them. Our ideas have proven useful and effective at dealing with the mismatch between hardware architecture and software needs, but ultimately we hope they will foster a more fruitful conversation between the hardware and software sides of "the gap", and lead to better principles and practices on both sides.