Tiny Inferno OS packs net power in 1M of RAM

Lucent Technologies Inc. said its Inferno distributed network operating system,
developed at Bell Laboratories under Dennis Ritchie, the father of Unix and C, will run in
less than 1M of RAM on top of other operating systems or directly on microprocessors.


A range of hardware and software vendors are buying into the idea. Epson America Inc.
will put Infernoin a handheld, pen device. Acer America Corp. of San Jose, Calif., plans
an Inferno set-top box. Digital Equipment Corp. is developing a reference design for thin
clients with Inferno running on Digital's StrongARM reduced-instruction-set-computing
processor.


Sun Microsystems Inc. will ship Solaris 2.7 with Inferno. And Lucent is building
Inferno into its 5ESS switches and asynchronous transfer mode switches.


But to achieve the goal of reliable and ubiquitous dial tone, Lucent must sell the idea
to most network device makers, software vendors and service providers, said Samuel Paone,
director of Inferno business development.


Lucent's Government Solutions Division in Silver Spring, Md., and Arlington, Va., is
talking with the military services and other government agencies about possible Inferno
applications, Paone said.


Inferno, which Lucent sells for as little as $1 to $15 per network device, consists of
a 300K operating system kernel, a virtual networking protocol, a virtual computer similar
to Sun Microsystems' Java Virtual Machine, and two programming languages.


One language is Lucent's C-style Limbo. The other is Java.


"Inferno brings object-orientedness to the network environment without a lot of
the baggage that comes with object-oriented programming," Paone said.


Every network resource including hardware is represented as a file and given a
filename. Behind that filename "can be a whole host of code that's already
written," he said.


The Bell Labs team under Ritchie created a network protocol called Styx to make it
easier to write applications that run across virtually any network service from TCP/IP to
ATM, Integrated Services Digital Network, Point-to-Point Protocol, Asymmetric Digital
Subscriber Line or plain old telephone service.


Security built into the NOS kernel provides two-way authentication, message encryption,
data integrity checks and digital signatures.


"Inferno makes Java secure and lets Java applications operate in a distributed
fashion," Paone said.


The initial Inferno release runs directly on more than 18 microprocessors including
Intel Corp.'s Pentium, Sun's Sparc and microSparc-11, Silicon Graphics Inc.'s Mips R4000
and National Semiconductor Corp.'s Odin 486. It also runs on top of Microsoft Windows NT,
Windows 95, SunSoft Solaris, Silicon Graphics Irix, Hewlett-Packard HP-UX and Red Hat
Linux.


Lucent plans to deliver Inferno 2.0 in August.


Contact Lucent at 800-815-0693.


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