Linux was never made for the cloud, but DBOS is - and you can try it for free

Created specifically for the cloud, DBOS is part operating system and part database. Here's what makes it so different.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Eugene Mymrin/Getty Images

For years, Linux has been responsible for powering servers in the cloud, but given how the cloud has grown exponentially, and that Linux wasn't designed specifically for the cloud, it became clear that something had to change.

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That change might come by way of Michael Stonebraker (Ingres, PostgreSQL, and VoltDB) and Matei Zaharia (Apache Spark and co-founder/CTO of Databrisk) who have worked with a team from MIT to create a revolutionary operating system called DBOS, aka DataBase OS.

Work on DBOS began in 2022. In an initial blog post, DBOS Inc. cofounders Peter Craft and Qian Li stated, "We believe the next generation of operating systems should be database-oriented because databases are built to solve the hard problems of modern computing. Databases today can manage petabytes of data, are distributed and increasingly cloud-native, and can secure and govern data with fine-grained access control and provenance tracking. Equally important, modern distributed in-memory data stores like VoltDB and FoundationDB are becoming extremely fast, and we show later they are fast enough to efficiently run many OS services that traditional disk-based RDBMSs could not."

They went on to propose building a database-oriented OS that centered around two principles:

  • All applications and OS states are stored in tables in a distributed database.
  • States could only be accessed through database transactions.

Their OS consisted of four levels:

  • User applications
  • File system/scheduler/IPC/other OS services
  • Distributed DBMS
  • Microkernel services

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With DBOS, operating system services are coded in SQL on the distributed DBMS, which is quite different than the traditional method of running the database management system within the user space on top of the operating system.

Once they had created a successful prototype of DBOS, they secured funding for DBOS, Inc., and, now, the operating system is available to try for free or you can contact sales for a custom plan. You can create a new account by signing in with your Google account. Once you've signed in, you'll see a Getting Started page that instructs you to:

You can install the DBOS SDK on Ubuntu Linux, MacOS, or Windows (WSL). It does require Node.js 20 or later and then uses Docker to deploy the app to the OS.

Also: Why I use multiple operating systems to get my work done

One of the biggest benefits of DBOS is reliable execution, so if an application is interrupted, it will automatically resume right where it left off. 

The big question is: Will companies be interested in shrugging off their dependency on Linux for a radically new approach to cloud-centric operating systems?

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