Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Is a Kernel

What Is a Kernel?

Let's start by providing a definition for the term kernel. The UNIX kernel is the software that manages the user program's access to the systems hardware and software resources. These resources range from being granted CPU time, accessing memory, reading and writing to the disk drives, connecting to the network, and interacting with the terminal or GUI interface. The kernel makes this all possible by controlling and providing access to memory, processor, input/output devices, disk files, and special services to user programs.

Kernel Services:

The basic UNIX kernel can be broken into four main subsystems:

Process Management
Memory Management
I/O Management
File Management

These subsystems should be viewed as separate entities that work in concert to provide services to a program that enable it to do meaningful work. These management subsystems make it possible for a user to access a database via a Web interface, print a report, or do something as complex as managing a 911 emergency system. At any moment in the system, numerous programs may request services from these subsystems. It is the kernel's responsibility to schedule work and, if the process is authorized, grant access to utilize these subsystems. In short, programs interact with the subsystems via software libraries and the systems call interface. Refer to your UNIX reference manuals for descriptions of the systems calls and libraries supported by your system. Because each of the subsystems is key to enabling a process to perform a useful function, we will cover the basics of each subsystem. We'll start by looking at how the UNIX kernel comes to life by way of the system initialization process.

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