James Larus, Father Of Singularity OS, Departs Microsoft For Academia

After 16 years at Microsoft, James Larus will be departing the company to become the new Dean at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (EPFL) School of Computer and Communications Science (IC) in Switzerland.

Mary-Jo Foley at ZDNet reports:

Larus was a Principal Researcher who contributed to the programming languages, compiler and computer architecture fields inside and outside the company. He joined Microsoft Research in 1998 to start and lead the Software Productivity Tools (SPT) group, according to his bio. He subsequently become a Research Area Manager for programming languages and tools, where he started Singularity, a Microsoft Research operating system project.

Singularity is a microkernel operating system and set of related tools and libraries that is developed completely in managed code. Singularity was not based on Windows; it was written from scratch as a proof-of-concept. Microsoft made the Singularity source code available for download under a non-commercial, academic license back in 2008.

Microsoft describes Singularity as a research project “which demonstrated that modern programming languages and software engineering techniques could fundamentally improve software architectures.” Singularity ended up spawning and/or influencing a number of other operating system research projects at Microsoft, including Barrelfish, Helios, Midori and Drawbridge.

Later in his career at Microsoft, Larus helped start the eXtreme Computing Group (XCG), which is a group in Microsoft Research developing hardware and software supporting cloud computing. In XCG, Larus led groups developing the Orleans framework for cloud programming and various computer hardware projects.

The fate of Singularity with Larus’ departure is an unknown.  Galen Hunt, another key figure in Singularity’s creation, is still at Microsoft so the research project may still continue.  Another well known OS research project, Midori is still being actively researched also.

While new operating systems are technically interesting along with the advantage of a fresh start, I do not see any of these research projects becoming a commercial product.  Microsoft has unified around the Windows kernel and introducing a new OS and developing an ecosystem around it seems like an overly ambitious project to me.

Source: ZDNet