kernfs is a virtual file system that reports information about the running system, and in some cases allows adjusting this information. procfs is a virtual file system that provides information about currently running processes. Both of these file systems work by exposing virtual files containing textual data.
The current implementations of these file systems are redundant and both are non-extensible. For example, kernfs is a hardcoded table that always exposes the same set of files; there is no way to add or remove entries on the fly, and even adding new static entries is a nuisance. procfs is similarly limited; there is no way to add additional per-process data on the fly. Furthermore, the current code is not modular, not well designed, and has been a source of security bugs in the past.
We would like to have a new implementation for both of these file systems that rectifies these problems and others, as outlined below:
kernfs and procfs should share most of their code, and in particular they should share all the code for managing lists of virtual files. They should remain separate entities, however, at least from the user perspective: community consensus is that mixing system and per-process data, as Linux always has, is ugly.
It should be possible to add and remove entries on the fly, e.g. as modules are loaded and unloaded.
Because userlevel programs can become dependent on the format of the virtual files (Linux has historically had compatibility problems because of this) they should if possible not have complex formats at all, and if they do the format should be clearly specifiable in some way that isn't procedural code. (This makes it easier to reason about, and harder for it to get changed by accident.)
There is an additional interface in the kernel for retrieving and adjusting arbitrary kernel information: sysctl. Currently the sysctl code is a third completely separate mechanism, on many points redundant with kernfs and/or procfs. It is somewhat less primitive, but the current implementation is cumbersome and not especially liked. Integrating kernfs and procfs with sysctl (perhaps somewhat like the Linux sysfs) is not automatically the right design choice, but it is likely to be a good idea. At a minimum we would like to be able to have one way to handle reportable/adjustable data within the kernel, so that kernfs, procfs, and/or sysctl can be attached to any particular data element as desired.
While most of the implementations of things like procfs and sysctl found in the wild (including the ones we currently have) work by attaching callbacks, and then writing code all over the kernel to implement the callback API, it is possible to design instead to attach data, that is, pointers to variables within the kernel, so that the kernfs/procfs or sysctl code itself takes responsibility for fetching that data. Please consider such a design strongly and pursue it if feasible, as it is much tidier. (Note that attaching data also in general requires specifying a locking model and, for writeable data, possibly a condition variable to signal on when the value changes.)
It is possible that using tmpfs as a backend for kernfs and procfs, or sharing some code with tmpfs, would simplify the implementation. It also might not. Consider this possibility, and assess the tradeoffs; do not treat it as a requirement.
Alternatively, investigate FreeBSD's pseudofs and see if this could be a useful platform for this project and base for all the file systems mentioned above.
When working on this project, it is very important to write a complete regression test suite for procfs and kernfs beforehand to ensure that the rewrites do not create incompatibilities.