Users of Linux databases are drooling over the list of features promised by the forthcoming upgrade to the Linux kernel, Version 2.6.
The Linux 2.6 production kernel, expected to be released later this year, will enable Linux to handle big, enterprise-class database applications. New features integrated into the main kernel will spare users the need to adopt them as back-ported capabilities in the 2.4 production kernel. Such abilities include support for much larger amounts of memory, support for a larger number of threads, improved networking performance, increased storage and types of storage, and better volume management.
Tim Kuchlein, director of IS at Clarity Payment Solutions Inc., a developer of prepaid electronic payment systems, said the ability for the kernel to support extra memory will enable his company to work its database like Google—running on all memory, all the time.
Clarity will soon move to the IBM DB2 8.1 database running on Red Hat Inc.s version of Linux. To get it all running with maximum affordable memory, managers plan to move to a 64-bit architecture and, to that end, are checking out Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit architecture.
The move could mean that Clarity could kiss writing to disk goodbye. “We want to have as much memory in our systems as we can,” said Kuchlein, in New York.
The ability to support 64 bits isnt new to the Linux kernel, but the affordability of 64-bit boxes is, Kuchlein said. “Only recently have you been able to buy hardware without having to mortgage your life to make use of [64 bits],” he said. Kuchlein has priced IBM pSeries servers with 16GB of memory at about $230,000, compared with AMD boxes with two CPUs and 8GB that sell for about $6,150.
But perhaps the most enticing lure of the 2.6 kernel is its promise of better volume management. “Sizing of partitions and stuff is always a pain in the [neck],” said Kuchlein. “You have what you think will happen [with partitioning needs], and you make plans, and two weeks later it changes. Just being able to dynamically resize partitions is obviously a very good thing.”
Officials at Aventis Behring—a company that develops therapeutic proteins to treat people with immune and protein deficiencies, such as hemophiliacs—are also itching to get their hands on the 2.6 kernel. The reasons: better volume management, asynchronous I/O and better management of multiple applications on one server.
Asynchronous I/O is appealing because the company, based in King of Prussia, Pa., is considering a project deploying Web services on Linux that requires scalability. “[Asynchronous I/O] allows command queuing to improve CPU utilization, which can result in performance improvements for Web servers and databases,” said Jesse Crew, manager of global systems.
The ability to better manage multiple applications on one server running separate logical images can help administration and consolidation, as well as reduce complexity and lower costs. “From experience with the Windows environment, running two applications on a single server can cause coexistence nightmares during future upgrades of either one,” Crew said. “With Linux, we may be able to put an end to these types of issues. Running multiple applications on the same server knowing they are logically partitioned makes things easier to maintain.”
Vendors are just as excited about the 2.6 kernel. For one, Gary Ebersole, president of ANTs Software Inc., maker of a new high-performance DBMS, said the company will snap up 2.6 as soon as possible. Motivating his decision is, again, 64-bit address space. Another draw is support for a large number of threads, which will allow the company to scale up on symmetric multiprocessing. “Well grab as many threads as there are microprocessors in the system,” said Ebersole, in Burlingame, Calif. “Good thread management in the kernel is good.”
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