The KeyKOS System
Key Logic Documents
KeyKOS ® is a persistent, pure capability operating system. In talking about it with many people over the past few years, I've received many requests for papers and other information. This page is an attempt to collect KeyKOS-related information in one place. The collection of papers provided here is available thanks to the cooperation of the publishers, the authors, and some seriously overworked OCR software.
EROS (the Extremely Reliable Operating System) is a close derivative of KeyKOS that runs on Intel-family machines. Further information on EROS can be found at the EROS Home Page
While the Key Logic documents have been placed in the public domain by Key Logic, most of the documents provided here remain copyrighted. Since we would like to keep the available, we ask that you redistributed these documents only if the copyright permits you to do so. If you wish to distribute the documents in some other way, please contact the copyright holders.
This page is not operated by Key Logic, Inc., and I have no affiliation with the company beyond a friendship with several of the key people.
The following papers provide a general overview of the KeyKOS system. If you are interested in learning about KeyKOS, my recommendation is to read all of these papers in the order listed:
GNOSIS - A Prototype
Operating System for the 1990's (1979)
KeyKOS - A Secure,
High-Performance Environment for S/370 (1988)
The KeyKOS Architecture
The Checkpoint Mechanism in
NanoKernel Architecture (1992)
The following two papers describe some system facilities that have been implemented on top of KeyKOS. The nanokernel paper also provides a general introduction to KeyKOS that is targeted to a UNIX-oriented audience:
Transaction Processing in the KeyKOS Microkernel
The KeyKOS NanoKernel Architecture (1992)
The following notes were published in Operating Systems Review, and address various security considerations in capability systems:
Note on the Confinement
Security in a Secure
Capability-Based System (1989)
A Note on “Protection
We have managed to place the text and images of the KeyKOS patent online for your perusal:
U.S. Patent 4,584,639
- Covering the KeyKOS “Factory”
Key Logic Documents
In addition to these documents, some others have been provided by the courtesty of Agorics, Inc. The Agorics organizing page for these documents can be found here. Some of the documentation here is very specific to the IBM 370 hardware for which the system was built.
The Gnosis Design Document, in particular, is one of the most exhaustively complete documentation trails of the design of any operating system I know about.
KeyKOS Concepts, An Introduction is a gentle introduction to the principle ideas of KeyKOS and is aimed at potential application developers. It gives some examples of how to solve application specific security problems.
The Gnosis Design Document is a working document that was built over a period of years during which KeyKOS (Then called Gnosis) was under design and construction. It is specific to the IBM 370 architecture and details how object-based design can be applied to those aspects of the system that are indeed necessarily machine specific. This document describes the function of the privileged code as well as the fundamental facilities that might now be called an API.
KeyKOS Principles attempts to describe the state of the existing system sufficiently for application development. It is less complete historically and philosophically.
The KeyKOS Architecture appeared originally in the Operating Systems Review. It is a high density presentation of the KeyKOS architecture and describes in detail how the system functionality is divided into objects.
KeySAFE , used in conjunction with KeyKOS, is a system designed to meet the high B-level requirements of the Department of Defense Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria.
Support This publication provides information about the support of Guest Environments in KeyTECH.
References This document provides information on the use of C programming language in the KeyKOS environment.
The following bibliography citations are provided for your convenience in referencing the KeyKOS papers.
Some other, related papers: