Microsoft has released the first snapshot of the Barrelfish operating system, an operating system written especifically for multicore environments.

The Barrelfish team, a group of researchers from Microsoft Research Cambridge and the technology university ETH Zurich, says it is “motivated by two closely related trends in hardware design: first, the rapidly growing number of cores, which leads to a scalability challenge, and second, the increasing diversity in computer hardware, requiring the OS to manage and exploit heterogeneous hardware resources.”

Tthe project has been under way for about two years and builds on ideas researchers have had for years about how system will evolve to keep up with hardware advancements.

In Barrelfish, each core has its own kernel and does not share memory as it does in Windows or Linux. Instead, the cores communicate by passing messages, what researchers term a “multikernel” model.

Barrelfish is still in a research phase and its code released under the 3-clause BSD-style Open Source licence.  The software is free to download.

We all know how Microsoft has dealt with and treated opens source software in the past. Michael Kerner, from, remarks:

As a BSD style license and without any clear open/public source code repository, this isn’t an open source operating system like Linux or even say FreeBSD. The way I see it, open source here is a means of distribution and a way for people to openly see what the researcher have done and not necessarily as a means of collaboration or contribution.