Road map 2013

Norman Feske norman.feske at ...1...
Fri Jan 4 13:55:10 CET 2013

Hello and happy New Year everybody,

the advent of 2013 is a good opportunity to make up our minds about
Genode's road map for this year. But before I will start with explaining
my preferences, I'd like to outline my thoughts about the last year's
road map.

In 2012, we labeled our activities as "Eating our own dog food". Our
goal was to bring Genode into a shape that makes it usable as working
environment for conducting Genode development. On our road-map website
( we listed a long list of desirable
goals. Looking through the list makes me proud of our achievements. Just
to name a few highlights, there is the ability to build Genode on
Genode, SSH, lighttpd, the new file-system infrastructure, the new DDE
linux and DDE OSS. But even though the list is impressive and the pieces
nicely come together, we are not quite there yet to realistically make
the switch to Genode as development environment. Two major missing
points are a solid UI concept that leverages Genode's unique
architecture and a "real" file system. You will find those points in my
suggestions for this year's road map below.

Even though we missed our ambitious main goal for 2012, there is no
cause for despair. There are indeed many achievements in addition to our
road-map items to be proud of. The most visible addition is the thorough
support for ARM-based platforms reaching from versatile express, over
freescale i.MX, to OMAP4. Another amazing development is the added
base-hw platform that enables Genode to be executed without a 3rd-party
kernel. Furthermore, the largely revised support for the Linux base
platform makes Genode fit to be used as component framework on Linux,
which is a quite unexpected turn of events.

So what is coming next?

>From my point of view, I see four major construction sites that we
should address this year: framework infrastructure, self-hosting,
tooling and optimizations, and hardware support.

Framework infrastructure

The primary group of people Genode tries to cater well are developers
and integrators of systems. Genode is meant as a tool box to empower
those people to build real-world component-based system solutions. From
this audience, we receive requests for improvements in the following areas:

* Multi-processor support: On some base platforms, SMP support is
  available but the framework still misses a holistic concept to
  manage and configure the use of multiple CPUs.

* Storage: Block-device access is a general concern. Even though we
  laid the foundations for Genode's storage infrastructure, several
  pieces are still missing, in particular a "real" (non-FAT) file
  system, block/file/directory caching, and I/O scheduling. Without
  those pieces, there is no way to achieve the application performance
  that we desire.

* Networking: The current TCP/IP performance using lwIP has room
  for improvement. So I'd like to find a solution to bring TCP/IP
  performance on Genode on par with Linux. Maybe this means to find
  the bottlenecks in our lwIP port, or even going for another TCP/IP

* Qt5: Now that Qt5 is officially released, we should consider to
  switch from Qt4 to Qt5.

* Low-latency audio: The current audio_out-session interface was
  our first shot into the direction of audio processing. To enable
  use cases where streaming audio and sporadic sounds must be
  accommodated at the same time, we need to revise our approach.
  There is already work in progress on this topic.

* Cryptography
  * Random numbers
  * Block-device encryption


The second major topic is redeeming the promise stated for the past year
- using Genode as a real-world OS. The following pieces are missing.
Compared to the list on the old road map, this one is rather small. So I
am very positive!

* UI concept for pleasant working environment
  * Tiled window manager
  * Terminal improvements (e.g., scroll buffer)
  * Noux improvements (e.g., signals)

* Tools
  * Git (work is already in progress)
  * Mail user agent
  * Instant-messaging software
  * Support for 'make prepare' (e.g., SVN, wget, mawk)
  * Support for run tool: expect, Qemu

Tooling and optimization

Now that Genode's work loads get ever more complex, we feel the
drastically increased need to understand its inner behavior and detect
possible black holes where the performance goes.

When the system scenarios were rather small, printf-debugging was quite
feasible. But now, with multiple instances of Noux running concurrently
with several drivers, we need better tools for understanding, debugging,
and tracing the system. In a component-based system like Genode, the
creation of such tooling support of especially challenging because we
need to walk on new grounds. In my opinion, good tooling is key to
direct our efforts spent with performance optimizations. The goal should
be to ultimately debunk the slow performance of microkernel-based
systems as a myth.

Hardware support

The attractiveness of our framework corresponds to the degree of
hardware support. Since we want to make Genode more attractive, we need
to continue our efforts with creating custom drivers, porting drivers,
and enabling platforms. The following points are the most interesting
ones from my point of view:

* Intel architecture
  * IOMMU support
  * Improved virtualization support (Vancouver on NOVA)
  * Intel wireless
* ARM architecture
  * Extending support for SoC platforms
  * TrustZone

Of course, Genode's road map for 2013 is not meant to be dictated by me.
Please chime in, discuss the topics above and propose additional items.
I hope that we will reach consent for the goals of this year by mid
January. Then I will update the official road map on the website.


Dr.-Ing. Norman Feske
Genode Labs ·

Genode Labs GmbH · Amtsgericht Dresden · HRB 28424 · Sitz Dresden
Geschäftsführer: Dr.-Ing. Norman Feske, Christian Helmuth

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