Labs-Eye View: The Linux 2.4 Kernel

 
 
By Timothy Dyck  |  Posted 2001-11-05 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It's been a rocky road for the Linux 2.4 kernel, which originally used a memory management system that was significantly more intricate than the one used in Linux 2.2.

Its been a rocky road for the Linux 2.4 kernel, which originally used a memory management system that was significantly more intricate than the one used in Linux 2.2. The new design hid a number of bugs that have proved hard to remove. The worst problems have been for users running heavy workloads that use a lot of virtual memory. In these cases, the memory manager can start swapping continuously, causing the operating system to be unresponsive for as long as several minutes. In an amazing feat of low-level coding, developer Andrea Arcangeli replaced the entire memory manager with a new design, one that is much simpler than before and that was accepted by Linus Torvalds into the Linux kernel. Theres been a storm of benchmarking since then, coupled with rapid improvements from both Arcangeli and Rik van Riel, the main developer of the original 2.4 memory manager, as each competes to create the best code. Benchmark results have been going both ways, but evidence is mounting that the simpler design is at least as fast as the code it replaces, more stable, more consistent under load and easier to fix.


 
 
 
 
Timothy Dyck is a Senior Analyst with eWEEK Labs. He has been testing and reviewing application server, database and middleware products and technologies for eWEEK since 1996. Prior to joining eWEEK, he worked at the LAN and WAN network operations center for a large telecommunications firm, in operating systems and development tools technical marketing for a large software company and in the IT department at a government agency. He has an honors bachelors degree of mathematics in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a masters of arts degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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