Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

Summary: I've refrained from posting much on the Windows 8 under-the-hood features that individuals with access to recently leaked Windows 8 builds have been unlocking as of late. But I can't hold back from mentioning "Redhawk," which seems to be part of the larger Windows 8 package.


I've refrained from posting much on the Windows 8 under-the-hood features that individuals with access to recently leaked Windows 8 builds have been unlocking as of late.

But I couldn't hold back from mentioning one of the recently discovered tidbits, as it hearkens back to a Microsoft codename about which I wrote years ago.

Way back in 2008 -- a year before Windows 7 was released to manufacturing -- I blogged about 'Redhawk.' My tipsters at the time said Redhawk was focused on the creation of a new managed-code execution environment that would be more lightweight and more appealing to developers who have been put off by the perceived overhead of the current Common Language Runtime (CLR) at the heart of the .Net Framework.

Back then, I heard that some of the Redhawk deliverables (specifically around the driver model) potentially could be incorporated into Windows 8. My tipsters said that Microsoft Tech Fellow Patrick Dussud was leading the Redhawk charge -- something about which Dussud declined to comment. (Dussud's bio lists him as the Chief Architect of the .Net Framework team and a member of the Windows Core Architecture team.) Dussud told me when I interviewed him that he was very focused on scalability and multicore support as part of his next big project.

It seems from folks who have unlocked the Milestone 1 (M1) of Windows 8 that leaked to the Web earlier this month that Redhawk somehow plays into Windows 8. There are comments on MyDigitalLife and Microsoft's Channel 9 site (thanks to Charon at for the pointer to Channel 9) discussing Redhawk and speculating as to what it might bring to the next version of Windows. The commentors note that "Rh" and "Rhp" (Redhawk Project?) that refer back to a System Language Runtime (SLR) in the build.

It's interesting to me that we have heard nothing (so far) about a .Net 5. The M1 leaks don't include mention of it; instead they mention a .Net 4.0.30215 build. Maybe we'll hear more about the next .Net Framework later this summer -- or maybe even in May at TechEd -- when Microsoft might start talking publicly about Visual Studio 2012.

I'm also wondering what the inclusion of Redhawk in Windows 8/.Net Next means, if anything, in terms of "Midori." When I initially received tips on Redhawk, my sources said Redhawk deliverables might also include a new back-end compiler that somehow paved the way for Midori, an incubation project inside Microsoft headed by Senior Vice President of Technical Strategy Eric Rudder, that is/was slated to be a distributed, concurrent operating system. There's been no word on Midori and its current status for a while now....

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

    Interesting. I'm not sure how far the ".NET Framework" will go into the core OS components, but I've been thinking this kind of thing would happen since the 2002-2003 timeframe. I guess it just took a while to move the technology through.

    Personally, this is what I think Balmer was referring to when he said that there would be some significant technology challenges surrounding Windows 8. It will certainaly make development for Windows 8 a *lot* easier if it's all managed code/C#/VB .NET.

    At least for me....
    • It would be awesome for me

      since my school seems to love .NET classes being part of my "Application Development" degree.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @goff256 I've used a few apps made in .Net and they have been obviously slow, and have used a very huge amount of ram. Most PC en<a href="">t</a>husiasts try to avoid such programs, but I guess theres a market in less aware users. Until their co<a href="">m</a>puter really starts to slow down.
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

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      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

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      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

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  • Native code!

    There are indeed a few DLLs inside System32 that may be related to Redhawk but it is quite difficult to understand their purpose and confirm that as they are not used by any Windows component (they contain native code, export some low-level functions and are built on top of Win32).<br><br>All the new components found in the OS (advanced task manager, pdf reader, new com runtime, webcam, etc.) are written in C/C++.
    • I'm sure you mean C++

      @lordkain - I'm sure you mean C++ when you say "native code", since native code would really mean it was written in Assembler.<br><br>I'm very surprised to hear that Microsoft would write their PDF view in C++. Sounds great from a performance perspective, but must be much harder to maintain, I would think.<br><br>Thanks for the info, Win 8 will be fascinating to follow.
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @Speednet - You're right, by native code I mean C/C++.
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @Speednet How do you tell the difference between code written in assembler which is compiled to native code and code written in C++ which is compiled to native code?
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @zedubal - I used to be interested in looking at DLLs and EXEs to see what built/compiled them, but it's been a while. In any case, I believe most (if not all) DLLs and EXEs would include the name of the compiler somewhere embedded within the file, so that's one easy way to tell.

        These days there is probably very little inside any operating system that is directly written in Assembler. Some low-level kernel stuff, and routines that are critical for performance.
      • A point about the terminology...

        @zedubal - Forgot to mention, If you write something in Assembler, you don't compile it.

        "Compiling" something takes a particular language and transforms it into Assembler/machine language.

        Just wanted to make that clear because you had asked about compiling something in Assembler, which of course is a misnomer.
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @Speednet - Technically you will not write something in Assembler but in an assembly language. The assembler will then translate the statements in machine code.

        The components I have looked into depend on msvcrt, that's why I said they are written in C/C++. Some assembly language might have also been used (inline assembly code is pretty straightforward in C/C++), I can't say :)

        AFAIK, assembly language inside Windows is only used for some really low-level or performance-critical stuff like in the HAL, in the kernel (interrupt trap handler, context switching), and in some core components (interlocked instructions, LPC, Win32k, etc.). The vast majority of the system is written in C to achieve portability!

        I'm thrilled to see that the Windows team continue to invest in C and C++ to write the new components, let's hope some of the new libraries they've been working on will be available to the developers outside Microsoft!
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @lordkain - Trying to get me on a technicality, eh? :) I've coded a lot of stuff (in the past!) in Assembly language, which I have always called Assembler for short. You are correct about some assembly language inside Windows being used for low-level and performance-critical areas (see my post above).
  • MS might put .NET CLR/FX as SoC part of OS

    This might be useful for more and more App Developers to develop App's for the Windows 8 OS itself, like how VC++ was used for OS development back when lot's of Windows apps are there. This might make the Silverlight Runtime also in SoC, might be useful for MS to have just .NET CLR & SL Runtime in SoC to have a Huge Perf. boost and make SL more close to the processor.
  • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

    Maybe if Microsoft spent a little less time worrying about portability and more time writing sections of the new OS in assembly language they might get this new 'Innovation' (MS's words not mine) to run at a reasonable speed!


    And normally it's pretty easy to spot C/C++ compiled code next to hand written assembled code (even modern compilers produce some very strange routines that human programmers would never use)

    I think personally this is the last chance saloon for Microsoft to produce anything cutting edge - the whole Vista/W7 debacle has left them looking like lazy money grabbers.
    • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

      @the.bogmonster@... There is a <b>HUGE</b> difference between cross-platform portability and portability between the same OS platform on different CPU/SOC combinations.

      The latter, for example, porting Windows x86 to x64 or to ARM is MUCH easier to achieve if the available native code generators (compilers, JITters) or interpreters can take the same set of code and generate efficient native code. Modern-day compilers are tuned to specifically generate code tuned for the most widely available CPU architectures available. The <i>"very strange routines that human programmers would never use"</i> you refer to are often generated that way because:
      <li>The code is avoiding instruction patterns that are known to have perf issues on current processors</li>
      <li>The code is taking advantage of a performance characteristic inherent in current cores</li>
      <li>The code is avoiding known stability/reliability/security issues</li>

      In general, compiler-generated code has out-performed hand written assembly code for a number of years now. Modern CPU's with their deeply pipelined architectures are insanely complex and even different processors in the same family from the same vendor have highly variable performance characteristics. While you CAN hand-write some assembly that runs faster than compiler-generated code on one specific CPU, it's very, VERY hard to hand-write assembly code that will run faster on all x86/x64 cores.

      If ANY operating system vendor was to write the majority of their code in hand-written assembly, they'd struggle to have that OS perform well on all available x86 processors but would find it practically impossible to port that OS to run on x64, ARM, etc.

      Also, I disagree with your comments about Vista/Win7 making MS look like "lazy money grabbers". Vista introduced perhaps the biggest changes to the Windows architecture since the move from 16-bit Windows to Win32 in Windows 95. Features like UAC and IE "protected mode" have massively improved the security of the OS as a whole. Vista also introduced an entirely new media pipeline architecture which enables Vista+ to playback multiple high-def content (both DRM protected and DRM free) streams simultaneously without stuttering or dramatically impacting the performance of the underlying machine. Was Vista perfect? No, but it wasn't as bad as many would have you believe. Win7 on the other hand is, hands-down, the best desktop/laptop OS available today. It's incredibly quick, it's ROCK solid, highly secure, talks to practically every device you've got and runs practically every app out there.
      • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

        @bitcrazed Ok a couple of points to throw back at you bitcrazed.<br><br>Whilst I would agree that modern compilers can generate some impressive code that can utilise the more complex processors in use today, they lack simple ingenuity which most human programmers still possess. Because the compilers are using library code written by in some cases pretty average programmers they end up generating lazy and bloated code (study some Visual C examples in detail to see what I mean)<br><br>Whilst it would be great if companies did actually spend their time writing larger amounts of assembly code for their OS's, I of course recognise that is no longer possible in the mainstream due to cost and lack of assembly writing talent - I work in R&D for the UK Ministry of Defence and the lack of capable programmers is always an issue!<br><br>A recent example was the usage of an sub-system component whose manufacturers software was 90% Visual Basic and it was very difficult to find any assembly coders to re-write it.<br><br>Finally onto the Vista/Win7 Debacle - Vista was an advance only to Windows users - it was patently an unfinished product - the security protected mode, UAC & core being hailed unbreachable was really a joke (as the hackers proved just 3 days later!)<br><br>Windows is Vista V2 - simply taking a look at some of the older dialogs etc shows NO changes at all from Vista (lazy coding as lets face it, there is NOTHING in any OS that's pefect yet).<br><br>W7 is NOT rock solid - the BSOD is still there and healthy, it's of course streets ahead of Vista but light years behind Linux & OSX for reliability.<br><br>Ask almost any honest user why they have windows and the answer is always the same - for the applications. Very few companies can deviate due to the locked-in behaviour of the applications. W7 is pretty average for games (DX 11 is a resource hog), it can make a good dual core CPU & board look average because MS is trying to be all things to everybody and that simply doesn't work.<br><br>Every time I see MS's so-called 'development' costs for an OS it's make me laugh out loud (and remember i work for a ministry whose R&D costs are legendarily out-of-whack) MS simply needs to give the world a fast and workable OS (by all means do an ultimate version for the zealots) but at the price it charges end users for a workable copy of W7 (Home Premium upwards) , the users should get more than they are. <br><br>Imagine how bad MS would look if the OEM's did linux & OSX versions of their popular apps - who the hell would choose 'Windows v X' then?<br><br>In short I don't think MS are evil, just lazy that's all.<br><br><br><br>Microsoft may have the most users but the least number of actual fans in the OS industry.
  • RE: Microsoft codename 'Redhawk' lives... in Windows 8

    an OS written in assembly? you are out of your mind! high-level programming makes things far easier to understand, and therefore debuggable and maintainable, and: most of the code that runs for ANY product doesn't need to be hand-optimized.

    even when i worked on embedded systems we focused on optimizations of the bottlenecks AFTER we wrote everything in a high-level language and saw we had performance issues.

    and, let's not forget, most code that gets written will require years of maintenance, long after the assembly whizzes have moved on to something more interesting, and if you thought maintaining other people's high-level code was hard, whoooo, wait until you start trying to maintain other people's super clever hand optimizations for things that probably didn't even need to be optimized.

    talking about writing an OS in assembly, or even large parts of it, is just a red herring...