Road Map

Herein, we lay out our plans for evolving Genode. Progress in addition to this planning will very much depend on the degree of community support the project will receive. The Challenges page collects some of our ideas to advance Genode in various further directions.

The road map is not fixed. If there is commercial interest of pushing the Genode technology to a certain direction, we are willing to revisit our plans.

Review of 2017

The technical topics of 2017 ranged from hardware-accelerated graphics, over UEFI, greatly improved seL4 support, user-level networking, file-system infrastructure, to an consolidated framework API. However, one topic stood out the most, which is the practical use of Genode as day-to-day OS.

Whereas the so-called "Turmvilla" system scenario enabled a few enthusiasts to work on a Genode-based system since mid of 2015, the scenario was quite rigid and required significant manual labour for any customization. Although it was not really inviting for potential users, it illustrated well that all the basic building blocks - in particular the driver stacks - were in place. But it would have been be quite a stretch to call Turmvilla a general-purpose OS at that point. The year 2017 introduced two pivotal features that allowed us to break free from the limitations of Turmvilla-like scenarios, namely the new package-management concept and the ability to compose and modify subsystems dynamically.

Inspired by these new features, a new system scenario called "Sculpt" emerged in Autumn 2017. The combination of Genode's recursive architecture with the dynamic reconfigurability of the init component allows the user to interactively shape the running Genode system including any subsystem or even configurations of individual components. The system structure is always at the user's fingertips and can by modified instantly using a text editor. At the same time, the new package management greatly helps to keep the complexity at a manageable level. Whereas Turmvilla users rarely updated their installation out of hesitance to break their work environment, Sculpt is routinely updated on a weekly basis. The switch of the entire Genode-Labs team to Genode full time by the end of year was certainly our biggest milestone so far.

2018 - The year of Sculpt

The "Turmvilla" era lies behind us. So let the "Sculpt" era begin!

Having used Sculpt over the past few months, we feel confident to make the system scenario available to a larger audience. In 2018, we will take four steps:

  1. Sculpt for Early Adopters (EA)

    The current version of Sculpt accompanied with plain-text documentation that explains the concept and use. It is intended for people who are already familiar with Genode, in particular users that experimented with Turmvilla-like scenarios in the past. Sculpt EA expects basic Vim skills from the user.

  2. Sculpt for The Curious (TC)

    A polished version of Sculpt that is more welcoming to the user and accompanied with example subsystems that loosely resemble a traditional notion of an operating system (like basic menus and window borders). There will be a ready-to-use ISO image for Sculpt TC. So users won't need to be familiar with Genode's source code and build system. As with Sculpt EA, Sculpt TC will still rely on the user's ability to use Vim.

  3. Sculpt by Visual Composition (VC)

    Whereas the earlier versions rely on text editing for sculpting the system, Sculpt VC will feature an interactive graphical user interface, which will hopefully make the system tangible for users who live outside the terminal.

  4. Sculpt as a Community Experience (CE)

    Sculpt CE will allow anyone to play the role of a component provider. Each user should be able to pick individual components or entire component compositions provided by others while maintaining complete control over the system.

In addition to working on Sculpt as the overall theme of the year, we will focus on the following topics:

Gentle transition from NOVA to our custom kernel and seL4

NOVA used to be our kernel of choice on x86 platforms. However, since the kernel is no longer actively developed, we had to take over the responsibility to maintain it. Whereas we feel confident in developing the kernel in an evolutionary way, the kernel has long-standing architectural limitations (i.e. kernel-memory management) that would require invasive changes. Instead of ramping up our engagement with NOVA, we'd like to focus on our custom kernel (base-hw) and the seL4 kernel. In 2018, we set out to enable Sculpt on base-hw. This involves the support for SMP, VT-x, and VT-d on x86.

Freescale i.MX

Based on the feedback from our community, Freescale i.MX support is of great interest, specifically i.MX6. Hence, we plan to improve the driver support for this SoC.

seL4

We will try to apply all improvements of Genode on seL4 whenever feasible. It also goes without saying that we will track seL4's upstream development.

Software quality and resilience

The modernized framework API introduced last year is an important stepping stone. But there is much more we can (and should) do, I.e., learning from the high-integrity computing community (e.g., implementing critical components in SPARK), leveling-up the scope and intensity of our automated tests, facilitating static code analysis, and employing software-hardening techniques. Of course, this scope goes far beyond the time frame of one year. The immediate prioritization of these topics will largely depend on the focus of commercial users funding the work.

System monitoring, tracing, profiling

The interactive use of Sculpt along with the prospects enabled by Genode's GPU support motivate us to optimize Genode towards low-latency multimedia applications. We will ultimately need to gain a deep understanding on inter-component interactions, in particular along time-critical data paths. Therefore, we plan to improve the tooling and cultivate the use of our existing but underused tracing support.

Java

By the end of 2018, we want to enable Genode to leverage the ecosystem around Java, which is - according to the TIOBE index - the most popular programming language.

Milestones for 2018

In the following, we present a rough schedule of the planned work. As usual, it is not set in stone. If you are interested in a particular line of work, please get in touch.

February - Release 18.02

  • Sculpt for Early Adopters (EA)

  • Dynamic on-target package installation and deployment

  • i.MX6 networking

May - Release 18.05

  • Sculpt for The Curious (TC)

  • Update of the Genode Foundations book

  • Consistent use of the depot tools for automated tests

  • Qt5-based applications based on packages

  • SMP support for the base-hw kernel on x86

August - Release 18.08

  • Sculpt by Visual Composition (VC)

  • Ability to (cleanly) restart device drivers

  • Updated PC hardware support

  • i.MX6 USB

  • Multi-component user mail agent

  • IOMMU support for the base-hw kernel on x86

November - Release 18.11

  • Sculpt as a Community Experience (CE)

  • Automated tests hosted on top of Sculpt

  • Sculpt-like scenario for network appliances

  • Virtualization support for the base-hw kernel on x86