As we make the shift to the cloud era, computing’s traditional building blocks are increasingly abstracted away. This is fueled by the advent of hypervisors, virtual machines, public clouds, and application containers. Despite being roughly sixty years old and existing in an industry that sees tectonic shifts at least once a decade, the operating system remains a rock solid foundation and the underpinning of modern information technology. Why is it that this core building block will not quietly go away?
The functions that the operating system provides are critical to computing - as long as there are systems with memory to manage, I/O to arbitrate, processes to schedule, and storage or networks with which to interface, the operating system remains vital.
Does abstracting the operating system make these functions less important?
While we do not notice the electricity and water that sustain our homes and office buildings every day, no one would dare say that they are irrelevant. As the sources for these and other utilities have been abstracted, we’ve grown accustomed to their availability; we take them for granted.
The operating system has also evolved to become such a utility. It is pervasive and ubiquitous, and we don’t notice it because it just works.
Critical not only to the function of enterprise IT, the operating system lies at the core of our daily lives, serving as the underlying force of IT consumerization. The operating system is everywhere – it is in our mobile phones, our cars, our smart DVD players, and our thermostats. IDC predicts that there "will be approximately 212 billion ‘things’ globally by the end of 2020", including a large percentage of intelligent systems that will be installed and collecting data across consumer and enterprise applications. The operating system helps us to control and connect with the Internet of Things around us.
And let’s not forget the application, which needs an operating system to provide system services as well as linkage to its dependencies — the required software libraries, run time components, and device drivers. The application may be king, but the operating system is its castle – providing the foundation, the resources, and the security for the application to thrive.
Those who claim that the operating system is irrelevant are trying to shift your focus from this critical technology because it’s in their best interest to do so. Beer manufacturers will point out that drinking beer after exercise will hydrate you slightly better than water – of course, beer is 95% water.
Regardless of technical advancements, the operating system remains at the core of enterprise computing. It is here to stay, and will forever be foundational to our interconnected world.