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OS is NOT a Bacterium

Bacterium vs. OS

From Yale University Office of Public Affairs

Recently scientists in Yale University published their research on explaining why computer crashes and we don’t. The compared the Linux operating system and a kind of bacterium called Escherichia coli. The scientists found out both systems are hierarchical but organized in different ways. The organization of a bacterium is like a pyramid with a few overheads controlling many primitives. While in the case of OS, there are few primitive routines but lots of high-level functions invoking them. Hence, any breakdown of such primitive routines would result in a much larger number of high-level crashes. That seems to explain why computer crashes all the time but we don’t.

Well, in my opinion, OS is not a bacterium so it is pointless to compare them. An OS is a platform enabling user to put on their own plays on it. Hence it provides a number of primitive routines so that higher-level user (e.g. software developers, non-technical users) can create fancy functions and applications and perform various kinds of tasks effectively. That’s why we can see that an OS provides only a small number of primitive routines which are used by a much larger number of high-level functions. And that’s the way it should be. If an OS should be like a bacterium with a pyramid-like structure, then we cannot imagine the growth of its size, as software and applications grow in an enormously high speed. One solution might be isolating high-level invokes so that an OS would look like many *bacteriums* functioning together, each with a stable pyramid-like structure. However this is unlikely to happen since software and application are dependent on each other: they compete for CPU, memory and disk storage. That’s why crashes happen. As cloud computing is emerging, can we imagine having these high-level stuff located on different remote servers? And each server is like a *bacterium*, solely concentrating on one single software or application. If this is possible, most crashes might be eliminated.


About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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