KataOS is Google's new operating system for machine learning applications
An experimental OS designed to be mathematically secureBy Alfonso Maruccia
Why it matters: Google is designing an operating system for embedded applications that runs machine learning algorithms. KataOS' main targets are security and privacy protection, working with open source technologies that were created just for that.
As Stadia recently showed, Google is always working on new "experimental" technologies even if there's a chance they will fail in the most pitiful ways. The company's newest experiment is KataOS, a highly secure open-source operating system.
KataOS is the main core of Project Sparrow, which combines the new OS with a secured hardware platform to power embedded devices that run machine learning (ML) applications.
KataOS is written "almost entirely" in Rust, Google said, the memory safe programming language which will provide "a strong starting point for software security" by eliminating entire classes of potential bugs like buffer overflows.
Google partnered with Antmicro and chose seL4 as the OS microkernel, using the sel4-sys technology to make the kernel (written mainly in C) and the new Rust-based system work together. The hardware platform used by KataOS' initial release is the Arm64 instruction set, while the final project should run on the RISC-V-based openTitan open-source silicon design.
KataOS and Project Sparrow reference implementations are designed to strengthen embedded applications, where security is usually treated as a software feature to add on existing systems and not as the foundation of an entirely new system. The new OS should provide a simple solution to "build verifiably secure systems for embedded hardware," Google said, with devices mathematically proven to keep personally-identifiable data away from unauthorized and potentially malicious access.
The KataOS platform will protect users' privacy, thanks to its verifiably secure components and the kernel hardware protection that will be "logically impossible" to breach for high-level applications. Right now, the official public repository of Project Sparrow contains most of the KataOS core pieces but it lacks the ability to run third-party applications built outside of seL4's CAmkES framework.
KataOS is yet another venture in the OS space. Fuchsia, the previous experimental OS designed by Google, eventually turned into part of a real product with the Nest Hub smart display, so here's to hoping KataOS will bear more fruits and drive more adoption than other failed projects like Stadia.