Maybe the problem isn't microkernels, but the in-built assumptions kernel devs make about what kind of environment their code is running in.
There's no question microkernels will always take longer to satisfy a service request than a monolithic kernel; so, instead of building APIs that are composed of lots and lots of tiny functions, you create requests that are basically aggregate common functionality.
Prior art: X11 works this way (where xlib queues "lots of little functions" into work units that are big enough that a network request's overhead is well amortized), 9P works this way (where Plan 9 queues seek and read/write interfaces into a single 9P transaction to minimize overhead), the L4 programming interface frequently works this way (where just about every message exchange is always a send-then-receive or receive-then-send, and is one reason why it outperforms Mach), etc.
And, speaking of 9P, although Plan 9 is not technically a microkernel, it is not exactly a monolithic kernel either. It's somewhere in between these two extremes, and any typical Plan 9 environment will make extensive use of microkernel-like functionality, since the vast majority of its system services are actually provided through user-space daemons and applications. ACME, the GUI itself, Plumber, etc. are all user-space, not kernel.
A lot of R&D has gone into making microkernel environments responsive. If they can make hard real-time devices using them, frequently in medical devices that keep people alive, I feel the issue of latency when invoking other system services is a problem which is now tolerable, if not solved.
@jens @espen Contrary to what my post might suggest, I'm not actually a microkernel apologist. My preferred architecture is exactly what Plan 9 uses; a hybrid design where you can get the best of both worlds, leaving it up to a system integrator to decide what resides in the kernel and what doesn't. Putting something in the kernel should be a performance optimization, not a hard requirement for basic operation.
Linux modules are a great compromise here, but I think their potential was never truly realized. I agree with Rob Pike that the basic philosophy behind Unix I/O primitives are under-utilized. Yeah, we now have /proc and /sys, but ... that's it?
I think it's obscene that Linux has over a thousand system calls when I've used, maybe, a total of 40 system calls in all my code since 1995, when I switched to using Linux as my desktop for the first time.
Old man shouting at clouds again, I suppose.
And though I'm actually doing only userspace things for a bunch of reasons, a kind of planet scale 9P-ish thing is sort of a goal.
My focus is currently on network and security topics. @alcinnz is, in a roundabout way, closer to the file-like protocol. It'll have to be a combination of both to become useful.
TL;DR, a better file-like API would probably make a lot of application code simpler and safer.
Still, that's only a factor of two to three, not an entire order of magnitude, difference. I'd argue that my point still stands.
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