Linux 2.6 on Horizon

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-11-25 Print this article Print

Linux creator Linus Torvalds claims Version 2.6's improved memory, I/O handling and scalability will be appealing to enterprise customers.

The next major release of the Linux kernel is on track for the first half of next year, with improvements in its ability to handle large amounts of memory and throughput.

Scalability enhancements, as well, will add to the appeal of the latest kernel, Version 2.6, for enterprise customers, according to Linus Torvalds, the creator and top programmer for the Linux kernel, in an e-mail exchange last week with eWeek.

While he would like the 2.6 kernel to be ready early next year, Torvalds said, "Its just too hard to predict, and it does end up depending a lot on how good the vendors are at trying to calm things down through stability fixing."

Torvalds froze the feature set last month and is planning a code freeze by years end. "Although I have a soft spot for Jan. 5 [for the freeze] ... it will be exactly 12 years since I got the PC that was to become the first Linux PC," he said.

"Ive basically cleaned up my plate of invasive patches that got in before Halloween, and things are starting to stabilize again. The biggest challenge is probably just a lot of testing at this point and checking that different drivers work in particular," Torvalds said.

There has been debate about whether the changes to the kernel are significant enough to bump the version number to 3.0, but Torvalds said 2.6 is his choice. "I dont see a huge reason for version-number inflation right now," he said.

According to Torvalds, high-end users will notice the scalability work that has been done, as well as the responsiveness to the desktop, even under heavy I/O loads. In addition, the scalability work has been "quite noticeable, so 2.6.x will bring quite a big improvement in the ability to handle huge amounts of memory gracefully and having lots of I/O active at the same time," he said.

Torvalds said he feels theres nothing he left out of 2.6, but "there are always a ton of people who have their own projects and feel differently."

One of these is Wim Coekaerts, principal member of Oracle Corp.s technical staff and its Linux specialist, who said some vital clustering abilities are still not there.

"While network failover and some I/O failover capabilities will be in the 2.6 kernel, disk volume management is something enterprise customers want," said Coekaerts, in Redwood Shores, Calif. "We would like Linux to have a Logical Volume Manager. The 2.6 kernel will have a device manager, but we need a LVM."

Paul Cornier, executive vice president of Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., agreed.

"Making a more generic cluster file system is important to us, as is an industrial-strength Logical Volume Manager," Cornier said. "A distributed lock manager completes things. This is functionality that needs to go into the operating system but is unlikely to be found in the next [kernel] upgrade."

"I think people are grumbling mostly about the fact that they need a few new management tools, which do exist, including being backward-compatible with the old LVM setup," Torvalds said. "I suspect the user-level tools will be filled out and improved upon over the next few months."

An embedded programmer for a security technology company in British Columbia, welcomed the moves around I/O.

"The better the I/O, the better the kernel for all of us," said the programmer, who requested anonymity. "We are thrilled with what weve seen of the 2.5 development tree so far, which will find its way into the 2.6 kernel."

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


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