School Notes

CSC469 Tutorial 1

Review of Monolithic OS, Microkernel, Exokernel

A microkernel keeps the kernel small by only allowing it to handle threading and IPC. Everything else is in userspace. In monolithic, you have user applications in user space, and all OS functionality is in kernel space.

In an exokernel, the protection is separated out, and everything else is provided at the application-level. Very minimal kernel that provides secure access to the hardware resources.

Review of VMMs (Virtual Machine Monitors)

A VMM is a hardware virtualization technique that allows software to interact with hardware through a thin software layer. Basically simulates the hardware layer. Also called a hypervisor.

Two types: type 1 runs directly on the hosts' hardware (e.g. Disco/VMWare, Xen), and type 2 runs within a conventional OS environment(e.g. VMWare Workstation, Virtual PC).


The goal of Disco was to extend the modern OS to run efficiently on shared memory multiprocessors without large changes to the OS. This was difficult because a lot of OSs were not designed to scale to multiprocessors. Lots of lock contention, and faults were not contained to processors.

By putting a VMM on top of things, we can have the VMM manage resource allocation in smarter ways compared to outdated OSs which weren't written with multiprocessors in mind yet.


Overhead: extra layer of abstraction needs to be fast, or else you won't be able to simulate hardware effectively. Memory also needs to support the code and data of multiple operating systems at once, which are normally designed with the idea of having one OS in memory at once.

Resource Management: Lack of info. Idle loop and lock busy-waiting since the OS doesn't have direct access to hardware anymore(?)


Adds a second TLB, which after the physical to machine address translation occurs also translates the address to a VM address.

For I/O devices, each VM assumes it has exclusive access. This is handled using virtual devices exclusive to VM. The physical devices are multiplexed between virtual ones.

To handle this functionality, special drivers are introduced into the VM that take care of I/O operations. For disks, maps mounted virtual disks to physical disk locations on operations, and for network requests, forwards the network request on to the actual OS using copy-on-write mapping for faster sharing.

Xen Virtualization

Two kinds -- paravirtualiziation, where the guests run a modified OS that has high performance on x86, and hardware-assisted virtualization, where the CPUs support virtualization, meaning guest OSs don't have to be modified.

One of the virtualized OSs is running what's called the Control Plane Software. This software has access to the hardware directly, used to initialize/manage VMs.

paper -- "Xen and the art of virtualization" 2003

Practice Questions

  1. What is the difference between an exokernel and a hypervisor?
  2. What about an exokernel and a microkernel?
  3. What is the difference between a hypervisor(VMM) and a microkernel?
  4. Can a microkernel be used to implement a hypervisor?
  5. Can a hypervisor be used to implement a microkernel?

Hypervisors for Servers

Better to use a Type 1 hypervisor because it's closer to the hardware, so it's faster.