Linux Kernel Work Picks Up Speed

 
 
By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-08-15 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A year after Linux kernel development was cleft in three, users and vendors report the process has improved the speed and quality of development.

A year after Linux kernel development was cleft in three, users and vendors report the process has improved the speed and quality of development.

When developers opted to nix a separate 2.7 kernel development at the Linux Kernel Developers Summit last summer, the decision spawned three 2.6 trees: the mainline or stable kernel, known as 2.6.x, maintained by Linux founder Linus Torvalds; the 2.6-mm, or staging tree, where technologies are tested before being added to the mainline kernel; and the 2.6.x.y kernel, for bug fixes.

"The hierarchy in the community has flattened, so now you have small teams of experts working at consensus level rather than having a maintainer and all the subordinates," said Dan Frye, director of IBMs Linux Technology Center in Beaverton, Ore.

"We are just delighted. The stuff our enterprise customers need is getting done, and that is translating into shipments of high quality from the distributions," Frye said.

The companies that produced the Linux distributions, such as Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc., also now have greater choice about which build of the kernel best suits their customer needs rather than having to wait for the final stable release, Frye said.

Some large enterprise Linux customers welcome the development changes as well. John Engates, chief technology officer for Rackspace Ltd., a managed-hosting provider in San Antonio, said incremental technology updates along with the introduction of enterprise Linux distributions had slowed the endless upgrade treadmill of the past.

One of the biggest consequences of the three-pronged development approach, "was that Linus started trusting the subsystem maintainers more, which helped speed up the process," according to Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Linux kernel developer with Novell, in Portland, Ore.

The number of unique kernel developers has risen to more than 1,000 with the 2.6 kernel from the 961 working on the 2.4 kernel, all of whom were sending patches up the chain, Kroah-Hartman said.

Torvalds said Linux vendors tended to appreciate more gradual upgrades, rather than the huge, painful jumps of the past.

Founders strive to do no evil in GPL 3 process. Click here to read more. "Im certainly pleased, and judging from the reactions we had at the Linux Kernel Developers Summit in Ottawa a few weeks ago, most everybody else is, too," Torvalds said.

While Torvalds was upbeat about the past years changes to the development plan, which he said have significantly improved the kernel development process, he left the door open to create a 2.7 tree "if we hit some fundamental change that makes us split into a 2.7.x tree."

"We havent hit anything yet, but if something really fundamental rears its ugly head, we still accept the possibility that wed have to do a full unstable branch split," Torvalds said.

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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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