The Mach operating system

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The Mach operating system traces its ancestry to the Accent operating system developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) (Rashid and Robertson [1981]). Mach's communication system and philosophy are derived from Accent, but many other significant portions of the system (for example, the virtual memory system, task and thread management) were developed from scratch (Rashid [1986], Tevanian et al. [1989], and Accetta et al. [1986]). The Mach scheduler was described in detail by Tevanian et al. [1987a] and Black [1990].

 An early version of the Mach shared memory and memory-mapping system was presented by Tevanian et al. [1987b]. The Mach operating system was designed with the following three critical goals in mind:

1. Emulate 4.3BSD UNIX so that the executable files from a UNIX system can run correctly under Mach.

2. Be a modern operating system that supports many memory models, as well as parallel and distributed computing.

 3. Have a kernel that is simpler and easier to modify than is 4.3BSD. Mach's development followed an evolutionary path from BSD UNIX systems. Mach code was initially developed inside the 4.2BSD kernel, with BSD kernel components replaced by Mach components as the Mach components were completed.

The BSD components were updated to 4.3BSD when that became available. By 1986, the virtual memory and communication subsystems were running on the DEC VAX computer family, including multiprocessor versions of the VAX. Versions for the IBM RT/PC and for SUN 3 workstations followed shortly. Then, 1987 saw the completion of the Encore Multimax and Sequent Balance multiprocessor versions, including task and thread support, as well as the first official releases of the system, Release 0 and Release

1. Through Release 2, Mach provided compatibility with the corresponding BSD systems by including much of BSD's code in the kernel. The new features and capabilities of Mach made the kernels in these releases larger than the corresponding BSD kernels. Mach 3 moved the BSD code outside of the kernel, leaving a much smaller microkernel. This system implements only basic Mach features in the kernel; all UNIX-specific code has been evicted to run in user-mode servers.

The Mach operating system

Excluding UNIX-specific code from the kernel allows the replacement of BSD with another operating system or the simultaneous execution of multiple operating-system interfaces on top of the microkernel. In addition to BSD, user-mode implementations have been developed for DOS, the Macintosh operating system, and OSF/1. This approach has similarities to the virtual machine concept, but here the virtual machine is defined by software (the Mach kernel interface), rather than by hardware.

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 With Release 3.0, Mach became available on a wide variety of systems, including single- processor SUN, Intel, IBM, and DEC machines and multiprocessor DEC, Sequent, and Encore systems. Mach was propelled into the forefront of industry attention when the Open Software Foundation (OSF) announced in 1989 that it would use Mach 2.5 as the basis for its new operating system, OSF/1. The initial release of OSF/1 occurred a year later, and this system competed with UNIX System V, Release 4, the operating system of choice at that time among UNIX International (UI) members. OSF members included key technological companies such as IBM, DEC, and HP. OSF has since changed its direction, and only DEC UNIX is based on the Mach kernel.

Mach 2.5 is also the basis for the operating system on the NeXT workstation, the brainchild of Steve Jobs, of Apple Computer fame. Unlike UNIX, which was developed without regard for multiprocessing, Mach incorporates multiprocessing support throughout. Its multiprocessing support is also exceedingly flexible, ranging from shared-memory systems to systems with no memory shared between processors. Mach tises lightweight processes, in the form of multiple threads of execution within one task (or address space), to support multiprocessing and parallel computation.

Its extensive use of messages as the only communication method ensures that protection mechanisms are complete and efficient. By integrating messages with the virtual memory system, Mach also ensures that messages can be handled efficiently. Finally, by having the virtual memory system use messages to communicate with the daemons managing the backing store, Mach provides great flexibility in the design and implementation of these memory-objectmanaging tasks. By providing low-level, or primitive, system calls from which more complex functions can be built, Mach reduces the size of the kernel while permitting operating-system emulation at the user level, much like IBM's virtual-machine systems.

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