Although the cloud can be used for general computing purposes, a general-purpose operating system is not necessarily the best fit for the cloud. To that end, the Linux Foundation's Xen Collaborative project today announced the Mirage OS 1.0 cloud operating system.
Mirage is a "library operating system," which means that it can run on any target for which a suitable bootloader and drivers exist, Anil Madhavapeddy, project lead for the Mirage OS subproject effort within the Xen Project, explained to eWEEK.
Xen is an open-source hypervisor technology project that became a Linux Foundation Collaboration project earlier this year. As a Collaboration Project, Xen benefits from the open-source expertise, leadership and guidance of the Linux Foundation in growing and evolving open-source projects.
Madhavapeddy said the Mirage OS 1.0 release is the first stable toolkit release that is sufficient to self-host its infrastructure on the Internet.
"It is a baseline for the early adopters of Mirage to integrate it into their own products, such as XenServer," Madhavapeddy said.
XenServer is a commercially supported Xen hypervisor server technology from Citrix. Prior to becoming a Linux Foundation Collaboration project, Xen development was all led by Citrix.
Mirage OS applications will run in CloudStack Xen virtual machines as well as on top of any XenServer instance, Lars Kurth, community manager of the Xen Project, told eWEEK. Apache CloudStack is an open-source infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform that powers Citrix's commercial CloudPlatform technology.
From a features perspective, Madhavapeddy said Mirage OS developers are conducting research into new database, filesystem and security technologies that use Mirage as the baseline to build complex distributed systems. He admitted also that there are some gaps in what is currently part of the Mirage OS 1.0 release.
"The 1.0 release is still missing some significant functionality, such as SSL [Secure Sockets Layers] support, but development is proceeding fast to plug these gaps in 2014," Madhavapeddy said.
Mirage OS isn't the only open-source attempt in the marketplace today to build a new cloud-optimized operating system layer. Cloudius is building its own cloud OS called OSv, which leverages the KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor at its core.
"Unlike other cloud-friendly operating systems such as OSv, we do not attempt to optimize existing code, but instead focus on a toolkit to make it easier to quickly assemble new systems without having to be a domain expert in, for example, kernel programming," Madhavapeddy said.
Overall, Madhavapeddy said that, in his view, it's fun as a programmer to be able to regain flexibility with the Mirage approach.
"Too much of modern systems construction involves wrestling with configuration files and mystical kernel policies," he said. "While Mirage is obviously not going to replace Windows any time soon, it's a lot more enjoyable to use and develop code in its chosen problem domain of building server systems."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.