Software engineers should look to their hardware counterparts for approaches to managing complexity. Before the advent of Integrated Circuits, electronic circuits were generally complex creatures with many interconnected discrete components. The complexity of the circuit was visible, difficult to manage and adversely affected the cost of products. With the advent of ICs much of this complexity was hidden inside the chips themselves. The job of designing complex functionality into products became much easier.
Despite many attempts over the years, software design has never been able to replicate this IC design paradigm. The advent of object-oriented programming languages and tools was supposed to address some of these issues. While object-oriented design offers some significant improvements in areas such as GUI programming it doesn't always do a great job of hiding complexity. In fact, they often simply shift the complexity into other areas in the software development chain such as testing, toolsets, class library design or the learning curve.
Modern hardware design requires a complex skillset. What the advent of ICs did, however, was allow the hardware designer to use a given chip in a product design without having to understand the exact physics and layout of the circuits contained within the chip itself. As long as the designer conformed to the specs at the external interface to the chip (pins) the chip will react in a very predictable manner. This is what encapsulation of complexity offers: complexity hiding and predictable/reproducible behavior. Objects in software design offer partial complexity hiding, but the software designer often still has to know and master a complex language (e.g., C++) in order to be able to wire objects together into a product. Objects are very poor at providing predictable and reproducible software behavior. Furthermore, the language of the objects themselves often dictates the language used to “wire them together”. In our opinion, true encapsulation of complexity behind a universally simple and extendable API is what is required to produce a software IC. The software designer should not have to master a complex object-oriented language and toolset in order to be able to “wire together” these software ICs. At the very least the software designer should be able to choose the wiring language independent of the chip language.
Many RTOSes have pioneered the use of user-space processes as an encapsulation scheme. One of the oldest to use this scheme is QNX TM (http://www.qnx.com/). Since 1980, QNX has released a continuous series of innovative OSes that were based upon a set of cooperating processes all using a Send/Receive/Reply messaging paradigm. QNX's approach to kernel design differs greatly from that used in Linux and we do not wish to reinflame the infamous microkernel vs. monolithic kernel debate. Suffice to say that we believe that the process model and the Send/Receive/Reply messaging paradigm first pioneered by QNX offers the key ingredients of a successful software IC.
In most modern operating systems, including Linux, the process is a very robust computing entity. There are several layers of protection offered to a process and the resources it embraces when running on a processor. It is very difficult for two processes to inadvertently adversely affect one another. If a given process encounters a fatal bug and crashes, it is rare that the entire system will be compromised. So the userispace process in Linux offers us a great container for our software IC. Now all we need is the software analog of the pins. This is where the messaging paradigm comes in.
One of the most powerful message formats is also one of the simplest. We can view a message as simply a collection of bytes. This collection of bytes is divided into two parts. The first field of bytes which is of fixed length is always present in every message and taken together, these bytes represent a unique message identifier called a token. The balance of the message (which can be of variable length) represents the token context-sensitive data. When two processes wish to exchange such messages they simply agree on a token scheme and on the format for each tokenized message they want to exchange. The interprocess message transport layer need not be concerned at all with the message content.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Back to Backups
- A New Version of Rust Hits the Streets
- Google's Abacus Project: It's All about Trust
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction
- Seeing Red and Getting Sleep
- Fancy Tricks for Changing Numeric Base
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Installation
- Working with Command Arguments
- CentOS 6.8 Released
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide