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Chapter 2 Design Overview of 4.4BSD

Table of Contents
2.1 4.4BSD Facilities and the Kernel
2.2 Kernel Organization
2.3 Kernel Services
2.4 Process Management
2.5 Memory Management
2.6 I/O System
2.7 Filesystems
2.8 Filestores
2.9 Network Filesystem
2.10 Terminals
2.11 Interprocess Communication
2.12 Network Communication
2.13 Network Implementation
2.14 System Operation

2.1 4.4BSD Facilities and the Kernel

The 4.4BSD kernel provides four basic facilities: processes, a filesystem, communications, and system startup. This section outlines where each of these four basic services is described in this book.

  1. Processes constitute a thread of control in an address space. Mechanisms for creating, terminating, and otherwise controlling processes are described in Chapter 4. The system multiplexes separate virtual-address spaces for each process; this memory management is discussed in Chapter 5.

  2. The user interface to the filesystem and devices is similar; common aspects are discussed in Chapter 6. The filesystem is a set of named files, organized in a tree-structured hierarchy of directories, and of operations to manipulate them, as presented in Chapter 7. Files reside on physical media such as disks. 4.4BSD supports several organizations of data on the disk, as set forth in Chapter 8. Access to files on remote machines is the subject of Chapter 9. Terminals are used to access the system; their operation is the subject of Chapter 10.

  3. Communication mechanisms provided by traditional UNIX systems include simplex reliable byte streams between related processes (see pipes, Section 11.1), and notification of exceptional events (see signals, Section 4.7). 4.4BSD also has a general interprocess-communication facility. This facility, described in Chapter 11, uses access mechanisms distinct from those of the filesystem, but, once a connection is set up, a process can access it as though it were a pipe. There is a general networking framework, discussed in Chapter 12, that is normally used as a layer underlying the IPC facility. Chapter 13 describes a particular networking implementation in detail.

  4. Any real operating system has operational issues, such as how to start it running. Startup and operational issues are described in Chapter 14.

Sections 2.3 through 2.14 present introductory material related to Chapters 3 through 14. We shall define terms, mention basic system calls, and explore historical developments. Finally, we shall give the reasons for many major design decisions.

2.1.1 The Kernel

The kernel is the part of the system that runs in protected mode and mediates access by all user programs to the underlying hardware (e.g., CPU, disks, terminals, network links) and software constructs (e.g., filesystem, network protocols). The kernel provides the basic system facilities; it creates and manages processes, and provides functions to access the filesystem and communication facilities. These functions, called system calls appear to user processes as library subroutines. These system calls are the only interface that processes have to these facilities. Details of the system-call mechanism are given in Chapter 3, as are descriptions of several kernel mechanisms that do not execute as the direct result of a process doing a system call.

A kernel in traditional operating-system terminology, is a small nucleus of software that provides only the minimal facilities necessary for implementing additional operating-system services. In contemporary research operating systems -- such as Chorus Rozier et al, 1988, Mach Accetta et al, 1986, Tunis Ewens et al, 1985, and the V Kernel Cheriton, 1988 -- this division of functionality is more than just a logical one. Services such as filesystems and networking protocols are implemented as client application processes of the nucleus or kernel.

The 4.4BSD kernel is not partitioned into multiple processes. This basic design decision was made in the earliest versions of UNIX. The first two implementations by Ken Thompson had no memory mapping, and thus made no hardware-enforced distinction between user and kernel space Ritchie, 1988. A message-passing system could have been implemented as readily as the actually implemented model of kernel and user processes. The monolithic kernel was chosen for simplicity and performance. And the early kernels were small; the inclusion of facilities such as networking into the kernel has increased its size. The current trend in operating-systems research is to reduce the kernel size by placing such services in user space.

Users ordinarily interact with the system through a command-language interpreter, called a shell, and perhaps through additional user application programs. Such programs and the shell are implemented with processes. Details of such programs are beyond the scope of this book, which instead concentrates almost exclusively on the kernel.

Sections 2.3 and 2.4 describe the services provided by the 4.4BSD kernel, and give an overview of the latter's design. Later chapters describe the detailed design and implementation of these services as they appear in 4.4BSD.


[Accetta et al, 1986] "Mach: A New Kernel Foundation for UNIX Development"", M. Accetta, R. Baron, W. Bolosky, D. Golub, R. Rashid, A. Tevanian, and M. Young, 93-113, USENIX Association Conference Proceedings, USENIX Association, June 1986.

[Cheriton, 1988] "The V Distributed System", D. R. Cheriton, 314-333, Comm ACM, 31, 3, March 1988.

[Ewens et al, 1985] "Tunis: A Distributed Multiprocessor Operating System", P. Ewens, D. R. Blythe, M. Funkenhauser, and R. C. Holt, 247-254, USENIX Assocation Conference Proceedings, USENIX Association, June 1985.

[Gingell et al, 1987] "Virtual Memory Architecture in SunOS", R. Gingell, J. Moran, and W. Shannon, 81-94, USENIX Association Conference Proceedings, USENIX Association, June 1987.

[Kernighan & Pike, 1984] The UNIX Programming Environment, B. W. Kernighan and R. Pike, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1984.

[Macklem, 1994] The 4.4BSD NFS Implementation, R. Macklem, 6:1-14, 4.4BSD System Manager's Manual, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, 1994.

[McKusick & Karels, 1988] "Design of a General Purpose Memory Allocator for the 4.3BSD UNIX Kernel", M. K. McKusick and M. J. Karels, 295-304, USENIX Assocation Conference Proceedings, USENIX Assocation, June 1998.

[McKusick et al, 1994] Berkeley Software Architecture Manual, 4.4BSD Edition, M. K. McKusick, M. J. Karels, S. J. Leffler, W. N. Joy, and R. S. Faber, 5:1-42, 4.4BSD Programmer's Supplementary Documents, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, 1994.

[Ritchie, 1988] Early Kernel Design: private communication, D. M. Ritchie, March 1988.

[Rosenblum & Ousterhout, 1992] "The Design and Implementation of a Log-Structured File System", M. Rosenblum and K. Ousterhout, 26-52, ACM Transactions on Computer Systems, 10, 1, Association for Computing Machinery, February 1992.

[Rozier et al, 1988] "Chorus Distributed Operating Systems", M. Rozier, V. Abrossimov, F. Armand, I. Boule, M. Gien, M. Guillemont, F. Herrmann, C. Kaiser, S. Langlois, P. Leonard, and W. Neuhauser, 305-370, USENIX Computing Systems, 1, 4, Fall 1988.

[Tevanian, 1987] Architecture-Independent Virtual Memory Management for Parallel and Distributed Environments: The Mach Approach: Technical Report CMU-CS-88-106,, A. Tevanian, Department of Computer Science, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, December 1987.

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