Transkernel: An Executor for Commodity Kernels on Peripheral Cores

2019-08-16T17:15:25Z (GMT) by Shuang Zhai

Modern mobile devices have numerous ephemeral tasks. These tasks are driven by background activities, such as push notifications and sensor readings. In order to execute these tasks, the whole platform has to periodically wake up beforehand, and go to sleep afterwards. During this process, the OS kernel operates on power state of various IO devices, which has been identified as the bottleneck for energy efficiency. To this end, we want to offload this kernel phase to a more energy efficient, microcontroller level core, named peripheral core.

To execute commodity OS on a peripheral core, existing approaches either require much engineering effort or incur high execution cost. Therefore, we proposed a new OS model called transkernel. By utilizing cross-ISA dynamic binary translation (DBT) technique, transkernel creates a virtualized environment on the peripheral core. It relies on a small set of stable interfaces. It is specialized for frequently executed kernel path. It exploits ISA similarities to reduce DBT overhead.

We implement a transkernel model on ARM platform. With novel design and optimization, we demonstrate that a transkernel can gain energy efficiency. Moreover, it provides a new OS design to harness heterogeneous SoCs.