Inferno (operating system)

Inferno (operating system)

Infobox OS
name = Inferno

caption = Inferno 4th Edition
developer = Bell Labs / Vita Nuova Holdings
source_model = Open source
kernel_type = Virtual machine
supported_platforms = x86, MIPS, XScale, ARM, PowerPC, SPARC
ui =
family = "Unix successor"
latest_release_version = Fourth Edition
latest_release_date = February 2, 2007
marketing_target =
programmed_in =
prog_language =
language =
updatemodel =
package_manager =
working_state = Current
license = GPL / LGPL / MIT
website = [ Vita Nuova]

Inferno is an operating system for creating and supporting distributed services. The name of the operating system and of its associated programs, as well as of the company Vita Nuova Holdings that produces it, were inspired by the literary works of Dante Alighieri, particularly the "Divine Comedy".

Inferno runs in hosted mode under several different operating systems or natively on a range of hardware architectures. In each configuration the operating system presents the same standard interfaces to its applications.A communications protocol called Styx is applied uniformly to access both local and remote resources. As of the fourth edition of Inferno, Styx is identical to Plan 9's newer version of its hallmark 9P protocol, 9P2000.

Applications are written in the type-safe Limbo programming language, whose binary representation is identical over all platforms, and may be executed using just-in-time compilation techniques in a virtual machine.

Design principles

Inferno was first made in 1995 by members of Bell Labs' Computer Science Research division to bring some principles of Plan 9 from Bell Labs over to other systems. Inferno is a distributed operating system based on three basic principles borrowed from Plan 9:
* Resources as files: all resources are represented as files within a hierarchical file system
* Namespaces: the application view of the network is a single, coherent namespace that appears as a hierarchical file system but may represent physically separated (locally or remotely) resources
* Standard communication protocol: a standard protocol, called Styx, is used to access all resources, both local and remote

Plan 9 ancestry

Inferno and Plan 9 share a common ancestor, the working version of Plan 9 from about 1996. They share the same design principles, though there are differences:

Inferno is somewhat similar to Java Virtual Machine.


IEEE Internet Computing, March-April 1997 included an ad for Inferno networking software. It claimed that various devices could now communicate over "any network" including the Internet, telecommunications and LANs. The ad stated that video games could talk to computers (a PlayStation was pictured), cell phones could access email and there was voice mail via TV.


Inferno runs directly on native hardware and also as an application providing a virtual operating system which runs on other platforms. Applications can be developed and run on all Inferno platforms without modification or recompilation.

Native ports include: x86, MIPS, XScale, ARM, PowerPC, SPARC.

Hosted or Virtual OS ports include: Microsoft Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Plan 9, Mac OS X, Solaris, IRIX, UnixWare.

Inferno can also be hosted by a plugin to Internet Explorer. According to Vita Nuova plugins for others browsers are underway. [ Plugins] , Vita Nuova.]


Inferno 4th edition was released in early 2005 as free software. Specifically, it was dual-licensed under two sets of licences. Users could either obtain it under a set of free software licences, or they could obtain it under a more traditional commercial licence. In the case of the free software licence scheme, different parts of the system were covered by different licences, including the GNU General Public License, the GNU Lesser General Public License, the Lucent Public License, and the MIT License. Subsequently Vita Nuova has made it possible to acquire the entire system (excluding the fonts, which are sub-licenced from Bigelow and Holmes) under the GPLv2. All three licence options are currently available.


The textbook "Inferno Programming with Limbo" ISBN 0470843527 (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2003), by Phillip Stanley-Marbell, describes the 3rd edition of the Inferno operating system, though it focuses more on the Limbo language and its interfaces to the Inferno system, than on the Inferno system itself. For example, it provides little information on Inferno's versatile command shell, which is understandable since it is a programming language textbook. Another book "The Inferno Programming Book: An Introduction to Programming for the Inferno Distributed System", by Martin Atkins, Charles Forsyth, Rob Pike and Howard Trickey, was intended to provide the operating-system-centric point of view, but was unfortunately never completed/released by its authors.


See also

* List of Inferno applications
* Plan 9 from Bell Labs
* Unix
* Language-based system
* JNode
* Singularity (operating system) Similar experimental operating system from Microsoft Research

External links

* [ Inferno Project on Google Code]
* [ Inferno Fourth Edition Download, including source code]
* [ Documentation papers] for the latest inferno release.
* [ Other documents of interest] .
* [ Inferno design principles]
* [ Mailing list and other resources]
* [ Screenshots]
* [ Developing with Inferno Blog]
* [ Inferno browser plugin]
* [ Inferno projects at the GSoC] .
* [ Inferno on OLPC]

Other links
* [ Ninetimes: News and articles about Inferno, Plan 9 and related technologies]
* [ Unofficial FAQ]
* [ Inferno programmer's notebook] - A journal made by an Inferno user
* [ Inferno tutorial] at the University of Reading e-Science Centre
* [ Copy of the original Lucent Inferno website]
* [ Archives of the original Inferno mailing list]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Operating system — Operating systems …   Wikipedia

  • Operating System — Système d exploitation Pour les articles homonymes, voir SE et OS. système d exploitation et logiciels applicatifs Le …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Operating system — Système d exploitation Pour les articles homonymes, voir SE et OS. système d exploitation et logiciels applicatifs Le …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Brazil (operating system) — Brazil, was the code name for what became the Fourth Edition of the Plan 9 from Bell Labs operating system; it was designed for high performance networks. One of its main purposes was to minimize overhead for multimedia operations and take… …   Wikipedia

  • Web operating system — This article is about the concept. For the mobile operating system developed by Palm, see webOS. See also: Web desktop In metacomputing, WebOS and Web operating system are terms that describe network services for Internet scale distributed… …   Wikipedia

  • Darwin (operating system) — Darwin Company / developer Apple Inc. Programmed in C, C++ OS family Unix …   Wikipedia

  • Singularity (operating system) — For other uses of Singularity , see Singularity (disambiguation). Singularity Project Singularity after boot up. Company / developer Microsoft Corporation Programmed in Assembly language, C …   Wikipedia

  • Haiku (operating system) — Haiku Company / developer Haiku Project OS family …   Wikipedia

  • Disk Operating System — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Dos (homonymie). Un disk operating system ou DOS (littéralement système d exploitation de disque) est un système d exploitation relativement basique, constitué d interfaces destinés à simplifier l utilisation des …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Disk operating system — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Dos (homonymie). Un disk operating system ou DOS (littéralement système d exploitation de disque) est un système d exploitation relativement basique, constitué d interfaces destinés à simplifier l utilisation des …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.