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8.1.4. The Mach BSD UNIX Server

As we described above, the Mach designers have modified Berkeley UNIX to run in user space, as an application program. This structure has a number of significant advantages over a monolithic kernel. First, by breaking the system up into a part that handles the resource management (the kernel) and a part that handles the system calls (the UNIX server), both pieces become simpler and easier to maintain. In a way, this split is somewhat reminiscent of the division of labor in IBM's mainframe operating system VM/370, in which the kernel simulates a collection of bare 370s, each of which runs a single-user operating system.

Second, by putting UNIX in user space, it can be made extremely machine independent, enhancing its portability to a wide variety of computers. All the machine dependencies can be removed from UNIX and hidden away inside the Mach kernel.

Third, as we mentioned earlier, multiple operating systems can run simultaneously. On a 386, for example, Mach can run a UNIX program and an MS-DOS program at the same time. Similarly, it is possible to test a new experimental operating system and run a production operating system at the same time.

Fourth, real-time operation can be added to the system because all the traditional obstacles that UNIX presents to real-time work, such as disabling interrupts in order to update critical tables are either eliminated altogether or moved into user space. The kernel can be carefully structured not to have this type of hindrance to real-time applications.

Finally, this arrangement can be used to provide better security between processes, if need be. If each process has its own version of UNIX, it is very difficult for one process to snoop on the other one's files.


8.1.3. The Mach Microkernel | Distributed operating systems | 8.2. PROCESS MANAGEMENT IN MACH