Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Operating Systems Functionality

Proprietary systems vendors were, for a long time, considerably ahead of open systems in the level of functionality offered by their operating systems, especially in areas like the number of processors supported in SMP versions, robustness, availability, systems administration, and so forth. But over time, UNIX systems have caught up, and offer SMP, cluster support, and constantly-improving robustness and availability. This maturation of UNIX has thus significantly reduced any functionality advantage proprietary systems may now offer over UNIX (although that very process of maturation has drastically reduced the number of extant UNIX variants). In terms of functionality, we should see the same process happening between UNIX and Windows, as Windows gathers experience.

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There are five useful technical areas in which one may compare operating systems. We list them here, and then subsequently discuss them at greater length.

» Scalability. As already noted, this is a measure of the ability of a system to match the dimensions of a problem it must handle

» RAS—Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability. These characteristics drive the total availability of the servers and thus their capacity to support the uses for which they were acquired.

» Distributed services and Internet support. Here, we mean the integration of the basic elements that allow operation in a distributed system (these services are, properly speaking, middleware and do not form part of the operating system). Supporting basic Internet capabilities and supporting PC clients fall into this category.

» System management. By this we mean the complete collection of facilities— mainly software—that facilitate the management of the system. One may observe these facilities evolving towards some quasiautonomous decision-taking capabilities (so that the software can react without further human input), which should lead to lower cost of ownership.

» Capacity to simultaneously support various isolated workloads. Since a server is an expensive investment, systems managers are pushed into making each server support many different independent workloads simultaneously. The process of server consolidation, which is the act of reducing the number of (generally distributed) servers deployed in an enterprise to a smaller number of (probably co-located) servers, requires this capability. The management of several workloads according to a given policy (for instance, priority given to certain applications regarding the allocation of resources) is also called workload management. A system’s capability to be partitioned into several independent system to support, in complete isolation, different workloads is another approach to server consolidation. Dynamic partitioning capability (i.e., without stopping the complete system) is a key feature.

Source of Information : Elsevier Server Architectures 2005
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