User/Kernel Diagramming Styles

Similar to different C/C++ styles like where to put the right brace we have User/Kernel Space/Mode architecture diagramming styles. Some prefer to put User part on top (Windows Internals team) and some prefer to put Kernel on top (like me). Marc Sherman in the comment here explains the former style as “calling down into the kernel”. Originally I thought about a psychological explanation where you put on top what you value the most or use the most. However, the reason I put Kernel on top is because I value Space over Mode in depicting memory and dependencies. In stack traces from complete memory dumps you have kernel portions on top as well. Also Google and Bing favour “stack grows down” slightly over “stack grows up” and I prefer “down” as well. Additionally, if you value User on top you would be forced to put Managed on top as well. If you put Kernel on top than Managed is at the bottom like on this flag that became a logo of Memory Dump Analysis Services. So here are two diagrams where I prefer the first (Kernel on top) with any stack growing down (in address decrement sense) and any stack trace from WinDbg having Kernel on top too:


The second diagram has any stack growing up:

I also suggest this variant (but people who write and read from right to left may prefer its reflection):

Another diagram style that is consistent with the traditional depiction of Privilege Mode rings (here Kernel is also on top but can be put in any direction):

What style do you favour? Please let me know.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

2 Responses to “User/Kernel Diagramming Styles”

  1. Marc Sherman Says:

    Another of my $.02: “managed” is technically “user” so I don’t think it applies here.

    ps. fun topic :-)

  2. Dmitry Vostokov Says:

    Technically yes, but from marketing perspective we need to move it into a separate “green” space… :-)

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