Security-focused microkernel goes in for some seL4-care, becomes a foundation to keep that ecosystem growing

Being under the Linux Foundation umbrella is a good way to get that done


The team behind the seL4 secure microkernel has created a foundation to help build a wider ecosystem.

The new seL4 Foundation will operate under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation. As is usually the case with such things, it will be an independent body that governs the project's evolution in consultation with developers and other stakeholders.

SeL4's main selling point is security, as it has been formally verified as not diverging from its specification in any way while faithfully executing binaries. The code has been widely adopted, especially in embedded and/or military applications.

More would adopt it, the team behind the microkernel says, if it had a bigger community.

"Over the last five years or so we have made a lot of progress getting it deployed into products," said Gernot Heiser, Scientia Professor and the John Lions Chair for operating systems at the University of New South Wales and also research programme leader of the team that developed seL4. "We have now reached the point where we see ourselves as a bottleneck to broaden the community."

June Andronick, leader of the Trustworthy Systems research group at Data61, said the seL4 team started talking about a new structure of the project just before Easter 2019. The team eventually settled on the Linux Foundation as a partner after assessing the work required to start their own foundation and learning that working under an umbrella organisation would be far easier and probably more effective too.

Professor Heiser told The Register he hopes the foundation will broaden the seL4 community.

"We need people to take bits off our hands," he said. "We can keep doing the kernel. But to make it work in the real world you need networks, you need filesystems. There is plenty of know-how around the world." He added that he expects many corporate contributions, but welcomes individual contributions too.

Heiser will chair the new foundation's board, which will also feature other seL4 developers and users. ®

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