DeveloperIBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
University of Toronto
University of New Mexico
Working stateDiscontinued
Source modelOpen source
Initial releaseOctober 2006; 17 years ago (2006-10)
Marketing targetResearch
Available inEnglish
PlatformsPowerPC 64, 32
Kernel typeMicrokernel
Official websitewww.research.ibm.com/K42

K42 is a discontinued open-source research operating system (OS) for cache-coherent 64-bit multiprocessor systems. It was developed primarily at IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in collaboration with the University of Toronto and University of New Mexico. The main focus of this OS is to address performance and scalability issues of system software on large-scale, shared memory, non-uniform memory access (NUMA) multiprocessing computers.[1]

K42 uses a microkernel architecture rather than the traditional monolithic kernel design. K42 consists of a small exception-handling component that serves as the microkernel, a fast inter-process communication (IPC) mechanism named protected procedure call (PPC), and servers for most other components of the operating system. These servers exist in separate address spaces and rely upon the fast IPC mechanism for communication with the microkernel and other servers.


The core of K42 is based on the University of Toronto's operating system Tornado.[2] K42 is the university's third generation of research on scalable operating systems. Tornado OS on a nuMachine Multiprocessor[3] was the second generation and Hurricane OS[4] on a Hector Multiprocessor[5] was the first generation.


K42 supports the Linux PowerPC 64 and 32 application binary interfaces (ABIs), so most PowerPC Linux binary files can run on K42 without modification, including the relational database DB2. K42 has some device drivers implemented specifically for it, but it gets most of its hardware support by directly linking in Linux device drivers to a special server.

Another goal of the K42 design is to achieve a customizable and maintainable system. Being built with an object-oriented programming design, it allows applications to customize and thus optimize the OS services required, and then on the fly, hot swap kernel object implementations. This is particularly important for applications, such as databases and web servers, where the ability to control physical resources can improve performance.

Open source

The K42 source is via git:



  1. ^ Krieger, Orran; Auslander, Marc; Rosenburg, Bryan; Wisniewski, Robert W.; Xenidis, Jimi; Da Silva, Dilma; Ostrowski, Michal; Appavoo, Jonathan; Butrico, Maria; Mergen, Mark; Waterland, Amos; Uhlig, Volkmar (October 2006). "K42: building a complete operating system". ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review. 40 (4). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): 133–145. doi:10.1145/1218063.1217949.
  2. ^ "Tornado Operating System: Overview". Eecg.toronto.edu. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  3. ^ "The NUMAchine Multiprocessor Project". Eecg.toronto.edu. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Hurricane". Eecg.toronto.edu. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Hector". Eecg.toronto.edu. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2015.