Many of the performance improvements cited in recent operating systems research describe specific enhancements to normal operating system functionality that improve performance in a set of designated test cases. Global changes of this sort can improve performance for one application, at the cost of decreasing performance for others. We argue that this flurry of global kernel tweaking is an indication that our current operating system model is inappropriate. Existing interfaces do not provide the flexibility to tune the kernel on a per-application basis, to suit the variety of applications that we now see.
We have failed in the past to be omniscient about future operating system requirements; there is no reason to believe that we will fare any better designing a new, fixed kernel interface today. Instead, the only general-purpose solution is to build an operating system interface that is easily extended. We present a kernel framework designed to support the application-specific customization that is beginning to dominate the operating system literature. We show how this model enables easy implementation of many of the earlier research results. We then analyze two specific kernel policies: page read-ahead and locking-granting. We show that application-control over read-ahead policy produces performance improvements of up to 16%. We then show how application-control over the lock-granting policy can choose between fairness and response time. Reader priority algorithms produce lower read response time at the cost of writer starvation. FIFO algorithms avoid the starvation problem, but increase read response time.