<operating system> (Named after the classically bad, exceptionally
low-budget SF film "Plan 9 from Outer Space") An operating system developed at
Bell Labs by many researchers previously intimately involved with Unix.
Plan 9 is superficially Unix-like but features far finer control over the
name-space (on a per-process basis) and is inherently distributed and scalable.
Plan 9 is divided according to service functions. CPU servers concentrate
computing power into large multiprocessors; file servers provide repositories
for storage and terminals give each user of the system a dedicated computer with
bitmap screen and mouse on which to run a window system. The sharing of
computing and file storage services provides a sense of community for a group of
programmers, amortises costs and centralises and hence simplifies management and
The pieces communicate by a single protocol, built above a reliable data
transport layer offered by an appropriate network, that defines each service as
a rooted tree of files. Even for services not usually considered as files, the
unified design permits some simplification. Each process has a local file name
space that contains attachments to all services the process is using and thereby
to the files in those services. One of the most important jobs of a terminal is
to support its user's customised view of the entire system as represented by the
services visible in the name space.
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