Plan 9 is just a project, AT&T Corp was saying even late last year of what it billed as its modern successor to Unix: we’re not going to turn it into a product any time soon. Yet this week the company announces that Plan 9 from Outer Space is headed for inner space: the embedded […]
Plan 9 is just a project, AT&T Corp was saying even late last year of what it billed as its modern successor to Unix: we’re not going to turn it into a product any time soon. Yet this week the company announces that Plan 9 from Outer Space is headed for inner space: the embedded market. Plan 9 was developed at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories by the same core team that developed Unix 25 years ago. An evaluation copy of the product, including source code, is available for $350 and AT&T is distributing it through Harcourt General Inc’s Harcourt Brace & Co. Companies that choose to use the operating system in their own products will be asked to pay a flat licensing fee of $200,000, plus 20% of future product royalties, but AT&T says it plans to be extremely flexibl e in licensing source code to other companies, even makers of rival embedded operating systems to encourage wide adoption of Plan 9. Plan 9, already licensed to over 200 colleges and universities, is now available to commercial research institutions. AT&T plans to target large industrial companies that have previously relied on application-specific in-house operating systems designed to run a particular task, and will do specific licensing deals for to small and medium-sized companies. Plan 9 is designed to be extremely compact, with the core kernel requiring about 50Kb of memory – by comparison, Tao Systems Ltd’s Taos requires just 13Kb; a multitasking system requires from 400Kb to 450Kb. Plan 9 is supported on iAPX-86, R-series, Sparc and 68020; two more architectures are in the wind, but AT&T has not said what they are, although PowerPC is likely to be one, and ARM could be the other; it also ran on AT&T’s ill-fated Hobbit embedded RISC. Unlike Unix, developed for time-sharing, Plan 9 has been designed for distributed computing in a networked client-server environment, and AT&T insists it is not in competition with Unix or Windows. As with the Japanese Tron, the operating system is modular with versions for different functions: the Plan 9 concept is to have separate file and application server versions, with a third version for the terminal computer, and file servers are not able to run applications, and vice versa.