Why a New OS?

The essential goal of the Redox project is to build a robust, reliable and safe general purpose operating system. To that end, the following key design choices have been made.

Written in Rust

Wherever possible, Redox code is written in Rust. Rust enforces a set of rules and checks on the use, sharing and deallocation of memory references. This almost entirely eliminates the potential for memory leaks, buffer overruns, use after free, and other memory errors that arise during development. The vast majority of security vulnerabilities in operating systems originate from memory errors. The Rust compiler prevents this type of error before the developer attempts to add it to the code base.

Microkernel Architecture

The Microkernel Architecture moves as much software as possible out of the operating system kernel. Drivers, application services and other operating system functionality run as independent processes. The kernel's main responsibility is the coordination of these processes, and the allocation of system resources to the processes.

Most kernels, other than some real-time operating systems, use an event-handler design. Hardware interrupts and application system calls each trigger an event, invoking the appropriate handler. The kernel runs in supervisor mode, with access to all the system's resources. In Monolithic Kernels, the operating system's entire response to an event must be completed in supervisor mode. An error in the kernel, or even a misbehaving piece of hardware, can cause the system to enter a state where it is unable to respond to any event. And because of the large amount of code in the kernel, the potential for vulnerabilities while in supervisor mode is vastly greater than for a microkernel design.

In Redox, drivers and many application services can run in user mode, similar to user applications, and the system can restrict them so they can only access the resources they require for their designated purpose. If a driver fails or panics, it can be ignored or restarted with no impact on the rest of the system. A misbehaving piece of hardware might impact system performance or cause the loss of a service, but the kernel will continue to function and to provide whatever services remain available.

Advanced Filesystem

Redox provides an advanced filesystem, RedoxFS. It includes many of the attributes of ZFS, but in a more modular design.

TODO: Additional details on RedoxFS features.

Unix-like Utilities and API

Redox provides a Unix-like command interface, with many everyday utilities written in Rust but with familiar names and options. As well, Redox application services include a programming interface that is a subset of the POSIX API, via relibc. This means that many Unix/Linux/POSIX programs can run on Redox with only recompilation. While the Redox team has a strong preference for having essential applications and utilities written in Rust, we are agnostic about the programming language for applications of the user's choice. This means an easy migration path for systems and applications previously developed for a Unix platform.