Roadmap 2019

Norman Feske norman.feske at
Sun Dec 23 20:46:48 CET 2018

Hallo everyone,

hereby, I'd like to follow up on our tradition to discuss Genode's road
map on the mailing list. Let's take the turn of the year to recapture
the events of 2018 and make plans for the next twelve months. Please
feel welcome to chime in! By mid of January, I'll finalize Genode's
official road map and would like to take your input into account.

In the following, let me share my personal reflections and goals.

The Year of Sculpt

When I declared 2018 as Genode's Year of Sculpt, I had no concrete idea
how Sculpt OS would shape up. I was convinced that we had -
functionality-wise - all building blocks of a general-purpose OS in
place. But it was rather unclear how to best put them together to attain
a practical system. The unconquered design space seemed vast, which was
both exciting but also - at times - a bit paralyzing.

I ultimately had to bang a few nails into the wall, taking decisions
with uncertain outcome. The Year of Sculpt was - more than anything - a
design-space exploration, not an up-front planned activity. In the
process, I came up with many half-baked thoughts and had the fortune of
having our team at Genode Labs scrutinizing my ideas while also taking
me seriously. Whenever an idea was indefensible, we jointly came up with
a better one. Whenever uncertain about a proposed solution, I went
forward with implementing it and took our team as guinea pigs. Whenever
an idea was blocked by a limitation of an existing component, I could
count on the support of the others to lend a helping hand with tweaking
the components as needed.

Unsurprisingly, many topics of the past year had a direct connection to
Sculpt, e.g., the NIC router, the huge device-driver efforts, the
GUI-stack improvements, and the work on the file-system and networks stacks.

For me personally, this ride was certainly the most rewarding period in
Genode's history so far. Now, when looking at the result, I am
overwhelmed about what we achieved together! Whenever I have the chance
to showing off Sculpt running on my laptop, Sculpt doesn't fail to impress.

That said, during the course of the year, this positive sense of
achievement eventually blended with the rather dull feeling that our
hard work remains largely unnoticed outside the inner circle of Genode
enthusiasts. The public at large remains quite indifferent (e.g., I was
unable to capture the interest of FOSDEM to feature a talk about Sculpt
OS on their main track). For a long time, I tricked myself into
believing that once we overcome all technical road blocks, Genode will
eventually become widely recognized automatically. There was always a
technical challenge to take on. With Sculpt, we have reached a point
where this excuse doesn't hold anymore. There is no technical piece missing.

This leaves me with the question of how to make Genode relevant at a
larger scale? Since this is not a technical question, I admittedly
struggle to find a good answer. When thinking of the overall leitmotif
for 2019, I always come back to this question.

Plan for 2019

I see three directions to help Genode to become more widely recognized.

1) Widening the audience of Sculpt OS
2) Fostering the community spirit around our project
3) Marketing of Genode-based products

Let me outline my thoughts behind each point.

1) Widening the audience of Sculpt OS

Sculpt works well, but it is arguably still too hard to use for
non-technical users and it lacks a lot of software that users take for
granted today. Consequently, we should improve its ease of use. In
particular, I'd love to explore the more consequent use of Sculpt's
component graph as an intuitive user interface for both the composition
and the configuration of components. The ultimate goal would be to
eliminate the need for editing any text files. With respect to software
availability, I have high hopes in the Genode SDK that we introduced in
Genode 18.11. Let's follow this route further.

2) Fostering the community spirit around our project

Our project enjoys a healthy community of users and contributors. But
the community is rather scattered and the various groups work pretty
much in isolation. As a result, the work of one group is often invisible
to the others, not to speak of any public visibility. Could we possibly
establish an instrument that would help each participant to gain more
visibility and thereby help the community at large to become more
relevant? I'll come up with a concrete proposal for such an instrument soon.

One technical element may be a feature of Sculpt that would allow the
user to browse the software depots provided by various community members
and install/deploy packages by just a few clicks. This would vastly ease
the discoverability of the available software and highlight the roles of
the respective developers.

A non-technical element may be a dissemination of Genode-related news at
a higher rate than the current release announcements.

3) Marketing of Genode-based products

Let's build Genode-based solutions to real-world problems and talk about
them. The more diverse the solutions, the better. Be it server
appliances, network equipment, controlling devices, or other forms of
embedded systems, there are so many opportunities.

One important trait of such products is the trustworthiness of Genode.
So we constantly need to reinforce the confidence in Genode's quality.
We should continue and expand our quality-assurance and
software-hardening activities. For example, I see a huge potential in
cultivating the use of Ada/SPARK for certain security-critical components.

These are my high-level thoughts about the direction of the project. I
deliberately left out a list of technical items from this initial
posting. Let's fill in the technical substance together. :-)

Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts. You may consider the
following questions:

* What are your ambitions for 2018?

* Which areas of Genode would you like to see improved?
  How would you possibly contribute to these improvements?

* Which technical topics do you find tempting?

* If you imagine a Genode-based system one year in the future,
  how would it look like?

* Do you have further ideas that would help making Genode relevant
  at a larger scale than today?


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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