Genode OS Framework release 14.02 Feb 28, 2014

The two highlights of the new release are VirtualBox running on top of the NOVA microhypervisor and the added support for NetBSD's file systems. Furthermore, the release comes with new or largely revised storage components such as a block cache.

During the release cycle for version 14.02, the development was focused on the topics storage and virtualization, both considered as fundamental for using Genode as general-purpose OS.

Concerning storage, we took the chance to redesign the existing block-level components to work asynchronously. This way, block requests can be processed in a pipelined fashion and even out of order, which is beneficial to hide device latencies and to maximize throughput. Additionally, there are entirely new storage components, most prominently a new block cache, FUSE-based file-system services, and support for the file systems of the NetBSD kernel. The latter was made possible by the use of so-called rump kernels, which allow the execution of individual NetBSD kernel subsystems at user level. We use it to execute NetBSD's file systems as Genode components.

Virtualization has become a popular use case for microkernel technology. Until now, however, none of Genode's existing virtualization options such as L4Linux on top of Fiasco.OC or the Vancouver VMM on top of NOVA could be considered as compelling alternatives to commodity virtualization products. With the added support for running VirtualBox on top of the NOVA microhypervisor, we combine the benefits of microkernel technology and capability-based security in particular with a product-grade virtualization solution. Compared to the traditional host operating systems supported by VirtualBox, using VirtualBox on top of Genode/NOVA reduces the trusted computing base for the security of virtual machines by more than three orders of magnitude. For existing Genode users, VirtualBox opens up the ability to run a wide range of unmodified guest operating systems such as GNU/Linux and MS Windows side by side with regular Genode components.

As is the case for every release, there are many additional improvements all over the place, for example unified interfaces for graphics, support for POSIX signals in the Noux runtime for Unix programs, and a new pseudo file system for the interactive exploration and tracing of Genode's process tree. These and more topics are covered by the detailed release documentation of version 14.02...