UNIX’s Founders Created Another OS at Bell Labs: ‘Plan 9’

The crew behind UNIX also built another operating system at Bell Labs, writes the company CTO and president of Nokia Bell Labs:
Beginning within the late Nineteen Eighties, a bunch led by Rob Pike and UNIX co-creators Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie developed “Plan 9”. Their motivation was two-fold: to construct an working system that might match an more and more distributed world, and to take action in a clear and chic method. The plan was to not construct instantly on the Unix basis however to implement a brand new design from scratch. The consequence was named Plan 9 from Bell Labs — the identify an inside joke impressed by the cult B-movie “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

Plan 9 is constructed round a radically totally different mannequin from that of typical working techniques. The OS is structured as a set of loosely coupled providers, which can be hosted on totally different machines. One other key idea in its design is that of a per-process identify house: providers may be mapped on to native names mounted by conference, in order that packages utilizing these providers needn’t change if the present providers are changed by others offering the identical performance.

Regardless of the groundbreaking improvements in Plan 9, the working system didn’t take off — a minimum of not sufficient to justify Bell Labs continued funding in Plan 9 improvement. However Plan 9’s improvements discovered their means into many business OSes: the idea of creating OS providers out there through the file system is now pervasive in Linux; Plan 9’s minimalist windowing system design has been replicated many instances; the UTF-8 character encoding used universally in the present day in browsers was invented for, and first applied in, Plan 9; and the design of Plan 9 anticipated in the present day’s microservice architectures by greater than a decade…!

Beginning this week, Plan 9 may have a brand new residence within the house it helped outline: our on-line world. We’re transferring the copyright in Plan 9 software program to the Plan 9 Foundation for all future improvement, permitting them to hold on the great work that Bell Labs and plenty of different Plan 9 fans have undertaken over the previous couple of many years. Certainly, there’s an energetic group of people that have been engaged on Plan 9 and who’re sooner or later evolution of this groundbreaking working system. That group is organizing itself bottom-up into the brand new Plan 9 Basis, which is making the OS code publicly available beneath an appropriate open-source software program license.

We at Nokia and Bell Labs are large advocates for the ability of open-source communities for such pioneering techniques which have the potential to learn the worldwide software program improvement group. Who is aware of, maybe Plan 9 will turn into part of the rising distributed cloud infrastructure that may underpin the approaching industrial revolution?

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