Midori and M#: Microsoft's open source bridge to better security?

Speculation about Microsoft's M# language is wide-ranging, but it may be the foundation to a secure, non-Windows OS

An alleged future successor to Windows received renewed attention over the past week, as speculation whirled that Microsoft might open-source the new programming language associated with it.

But a closer look at the project reveals it might be an attempt by Microsoft to tackle an even more significant task: namely, address the problem of computer security from the inside out and ground up.

M for Microsoft

Let's start with M#, the language that's apparently being developed as an experimental project within Microsoft. It became the center of attention when Joe Duffy, billed as "an architect and developer on a research operating system" at Microsoft, blogged about M# in a post entitled "C# for Systems Programming."

In what he stressed was a "research effort, nothing more," Duffy talked about developing a managed language -- like C# and its .Net compatriots -- that is designed to allow both high performance and a good margin of safety and productivity. What's more, the intended use of the language is apparently systems programming.

Mary Jo Foley at Cnet connected some of the dots and posited the language in question was part and parcel of the work involved in building Midori, a long-under-wraps experimental OS that has been allegedly incubating within Microsoft for years now.

"My goal is to eventually open-source this thing," Duffy also wrote in his post, which touched off a great deal of thought (by Computerworld's Preston Gralla, for one) about how Microsoft is preparing to move toward a more open-source-driven future.

But the really intriguing aspect of Midori and M# may not lie in either of them being open sourced.

The future is abstract, parallel, and managed

For a full perspective on Midori, I dug back into the archives of Software Development Times and found a piece from July 2008, wherein author David Worthington described examining "internal Microsoft documents that outline Midori's proposed design."

Two significant things stand out about Midori. The first is how, as Worthington puts it, the OS is "Internet-centric and predicated on the prevalence of connected systems."

"Midori," he wrote, "will be built with an asynchronous-only architecture that is built for task concurrency and parallel use of local and distributed resources, with a distributed component-based and data-driven application model, and dynamic management of power and other resources."

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