If you think cutting edge of technology, chances are you are not going to be thinking about operating systems. Operating systems are, after all, the steady layer of software that sits on hardware and facilitates things getting done. Some operating systems are steadfast and steady (Linux), some are flashy and fun (OS X) and some are a little crazy (Windows), but they all get the job done. What more is there to do?

But innovation at the operating system level is not dead yet, if Joyent has anything to say about it. The cloud infrastructure has just announced the availability of a new cloud object store and data services platform that demonstrates that operating systems still have some serious technological chops.

The idea of the Manta Storage Service, is to make use of a type of virtualization that differs from what is typically seen in the marketplace. This is what is known as hardware virtualization, where platforms like VMware, Xen and KVM emulate an entire server - the hardware - so that apps will run on top of the guest operating system, which in turn runs on top of the hypervisor (the "machine" in virtual machine).

Joyent's approach uses virtualization at the operating system level, explained Bryan Cantrill, VP of Engineering at Joyent. This means that such instances have to run the same operating system that's being used on the physical host machine, but the tradeoff is worth it, Cantrill emphasized. With operating systems virtualized, apps can be run exactly where the data is sitting within an object store - a much more direct process.

Cantrill used the market behemoth Amazon Web Services to explain the difference in data access.

In Cantrill's example, log files are stored in S3 - a common use for Amazon's object storage service. To look for error in these S3-stored log files, one could run grep, a UNIX application used to search and discover contents of files. But you can't run grep (or any other application) in S3, because S3 just stores. So you would have to "backhaul the data into Hadoop and run a query for errors there," Cantrill said, or move the log file data into Amazon's EC2 and then run grep.

Moving data around like that takes time. Using OS-virtualization, though, means that apps can be run at the same location of the data. That is the core premise of Manta, spinning up OS instances as needed to run applications to search and manipulate data where it resides.

"The code is smaller than the data, so it makes more sense to bring the code to the data," Cantrill said.

"People can even run checksums on backups for compliance," he added - an operation that would involve data migration using S3 and other object storage systems.

 

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