Why Technical English

Kernel improvements in Windows 7 | March 27, 2010

  We continue in discussing Features new to Windows 7. This time some kernel improvements are argued. Join us!

Galina Vitkova

The kernel is a central part of most computer operating systems. That is a component of an operating system which makes a bridge between applications and the actual data processing executed by hardware. The kernel is intended to manage communication between hardware and software components of a computer system. It means the kernel communicates with external devices (Input/Output devices: a keyboard, a mouse, disk drives, printers, displays, etc.), manages internal components (like RAM, CPU, HDD) and operates entire processes. The kernel controls all processes which are starting and running and decides which process will have access to the hardware and for how long.   


Fig. 1  (from Wikipedia)

A kernel connects the application software to the hardware of a computer


The kernel is a constituent of a series of abstraction layers, each relying on the functions of layers beneath itself. As a basic component of the operating system it merely corresponds to the lowest level of abstraction that is implemented in software. The abstraction layers simplify designing all the software and make its implementation feasible.   


Fig. 2 (from Wikipedia)

A typical vision of a computer architecture as a series of abstraction layers: hardware, firmware, assembler, kernel, operating system and applications

Several improvements and additions have been made to Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) kernel components, which have increased system performance and enabled more optimal use of available hardware resources. Some of them are as follows:

  • Support for up to 256 logical processors.
  • Introduction of the concept of “timer coalescing (joining)”: Multiple applications or device drivers, which perform actions on a regular basis, can be set to occur at once, instead of each action being performed in accordance with their own schedule.
  • Implementation of Device Containers: Before Windows 7, every device attached to the system has been treated as a single functional end-point, which has a set of capabilities and a “status”. This has been appropriate for single-function devices (such as a keyboard or scanner). But it does not accurately represent multi-function devices such as a combination printer/fax machine/scanner, or web-cams with a built-in microphone. In Windows 7, the drivers and status information for multi-function device can be grouped together as a single “Device Container”. Then this device container is presented to the user in the new “Devices and Printers” Control Panel as a single unit.  
  • Accomplishment of User-Mode Scheduling: The 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 introduce a user-mode scheduling framework. On Microsoft Windows operating systems, scheduling of threads inside a process is handled by the kernel. This is sufficient for most applications. However, applications with large concurrent threading requirements, such as a database server, can profit from having a thread scheduler in-process. It occurs because the kernel no longer needs to be involved in context switches between threads. Due to this innovation threads can be created and destroyed much more quickly when no kernel context switches are required.

For more information about kernel innovations in Windows 7 and more English practice see Core operating system .

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/




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