Writing Systems Software in a Functional Language

Writing Systems Software in a Functional Language: An Experience Report

Iavor S. Diatchki, Thomas Hallgren, Mark P. Jones, Rebekah Leslie, and Andrew Tolmach. In Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Programming Languages and Operating Systems (PLOS 2007), sponsored by ACM SIGOPS, Stevenson, Washington, October 2007.


Current practices for developing systems software usually rely on fairly low-level programming languages and tools. As an alternative, our group has been investigating the possibility of using a high-level functional language, Haskell, for kernel and device driver construction, with the hope that it will allow us to produce more reliable and secure software. In this paper, we describe our experience developing a prototype operating system, House, in which the kernel, device drivers, and even a simple GUI, are all written in Haskell. The House system demonstrates that it is indeed possible to construct systems software in a functional language. However, it also suggests some ideas for a new Haskell dialect with features that target specific needs in this domain, including strongly typed support for low-level data structures and facilities for explicit memory accounting.

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