Kernel Changes Draw Concern from Open-Source Community

 
 
By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-17 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Linux 2.6 kernel is getting fatter, some contend; others say new features are optional and that their use is at the discretion of organizations compiling their builds of the kernel.

Members of the open-source community are expressing concern over rapid feature changes in the Linux 2.6 kernel, which they say are too focused on the desktop and could make the kernel too large.

Sam Greenblatt, a senior vice president at Computer Associates International Inc., in Islandia, N.Y., said that while the kernel is evolving for the desktop, server and embedded markets, more and more technology is being included, and the kernel is "getting fatter. We are not interested in the game drivers and music drivers that are being added to the kernel. We are interested in a more stable kernel."

Andrew Morton, the current maintainer of the Linux 2.6 kernel, who works for Open Source Development Labs Inc., in Beaverton, Ore., said there is no formal road map for an enterprise Linux feature set since the development of those technologies rests largely with vendors such as Red Hat Inc., IBM, Novell Inc. and CA.

"We are pumping feature changes into the kernel at an enormous rate," said Morton.

Still, Morton took issue with Greenblatts contention, saying that most new features are optional and that their use is at the discretion of organizations compiling their builds of the kernel. Morton said new features should continue to be added to the stable 2.6 tree rather than forming a new 2.7 development tree.

Critics of the development process point to growing competition among vendors to get code for new features accepted. But Morton maintains that the competition is healthy because it helps top-level kernel developers understand what subfeatures are required and what other users need.

To read more about Speculation that IBM and Open Source Development Labs are preparing to rewrite the Linux kernel, click here. On the enterprise front, Morton said he expects to merge code from Cambridge Universitys Computer Laboratories Xen virtualization technology into the Linux kernel within the next few months. Xen "does the right thing technically," unlike other technologies, which are mainly workarounds for the fact that the operating system is not appropriately licensed, Morton said.

But CAs Greenblatt disagreed, saying that other virtualization technologies, such as one from VMware Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif., currently fill the virtualization role. "We would be happy to see a true hypervisor [an application that allows multiple operating systems to run concurrently on the same physical server]. We think [Xen] is great innovation, but its concept of virtualization is still not to the point that we want to see in there," Greenblatt said.

Ian Pratt, a Xen project leader at Cambridge University, in England, said that Xen is indeed a true hypervisor.

"It runs on the bare metal and provides protected virtual environments for guest operating systems running on top of it," Pratt said. "Because of the paravirtualized approach, where we make some modifications to the guest operating systems, weve been able to allow the hypervisor and Linux to work in a more cooperative fashion."

On the issue of adding more clustering technology to the kernel, Morton said he hopes that clustering teams are working on factoring out common components for a merge into the mainline kernel.

InfiniBand, a channel-based, switch-fabric architecture from Topspin Communications Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., which was acquired last week by Cisco Systems Inc. , has already been moved into the kernel, Morton said, adding that the other InfiniBand stakeholders "seemed fine" with that decision.

Pratt said the Xen team is working with InfiniBand vendors to ensure that InfiniBand channels can be extended into guest operating systems running over Xen in an efficient yet fully protected manner.

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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