Colloquium d’Informatique de Sorbonne Université
Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 18:00
Amphi 24 Sorbonne University - Faculté des Sciences

MINIX 3: A Reliable and Secure Operating System

Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Andrew S. Tanenbaum was born in New York City and raised in White Plains, NY.He has an S.B. from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a Professor Emeritus in the Computer Science Dept. at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
Prof. Tanenbaum is the principal designer of three operating systems: TSS-11, Amoeba, and MINIX. In addition, Tanenbaum is the author or coauthor of five books, which together have been translated in more than 20 languages. All in all, there are over 160 editions, as shown on
In 2004, Tanenbaum became an Academy Professor, which carried with it a 5-year grant totalling 1 million euro to do research on reliable operating systems. His university matched this amount. In 2008, he received a prestigious European Research Council grant of 2.5 million euro to do continue this research.
Tanenbaum is a Fellow of the ACM, a Fellow of the IEEE, and a member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1994 he was the recipient of the ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award. In 1997 he won the ACM SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science. In 2007 he won the IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr., Education Medal.
His home page is at


Most computer users nowadays are nontechnical people and have a mental model of what they expect from a computer based on their experience with TV sets and stereos: you buy it, plug it in, and it works perfectly for the next 10 years. Unfortunately, they are often disappointed as computers are not very reliable when measured against the standards of other consumer electronics devices.
A large part of the problem is the operating system, which is often millions of lines of kernel code, each of which can potentially bring the system down. The worst offenders are the device drivers, which have been shown to have bug rates 3-7x more than the rest of the system. As long as we maintain the current structure of the operating system as a huge single monolithic program full of foreign code and running in kernel mode, the situation will only get worse. While there have been ad hoc attempts to patch legacy systems, what is needed is a different approach.
In an attempt to provide much higher reliability, we have created a new multiserver operating system with only 9000 lines in kernel and the rest of the operating system split up into small components each running as a separate user-mode process. For example, each device driver runs as a separate process and is rigidly controlled by the kernel to give it the absolute minimum amount of power to prevent bugs in it from damaging other system components. A reincarnation server periodically tests each user- mode component and automatically replaces failed or failing components on the fly, without bringing the system down and in some cases without affecting user processes. The talk will discuss the architecture of this system, called MINIX 3,
The system can be downloaded for free from

Other information

Contact: Marcin Detyniecki

Steering committee

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