Long before Linus Torvalds released the 2.4 Linux kernel early this month, the Linux development community was hard at work on a wish list for the next development cycle for the open-source operating system.
Torvalds and his team will continue to tweak the 2.4 kernel for some time, with patches and bug fixes released as 2.4.x versions. At some point he will create the 2.5 development tree and begin the cycle again. Linux vendors are working on commercial versions of the operating system, which are due within six months, that are based on the kernel.
Although Torvalds, Linuxs creator, is likely to take a break now that the latest version has been released, the development community will not.
"We are already looking ahead to what development work should be considered in the future," said Sheila Harnett, a system architect at IBMs Linux Technology Center, in Austin, Texas.
The work includes minor modifications to major overhauls, such as the incorporation of a Journaling File System, Linux clusters and continued work on the event-scheduling modules.
IBM will be working with the community and contributing to further 2.4.x releases and the 2.5 kernel in the areas of Logical Volume Manager and clustering, including ongoing MOSIX projects such as scalable Web servers, cluster installations for quick configuration of a MOSIX cluster and Network RAM for large processes that span the main memory of several nodes.
But considering the long and delayed 2.4 cycle, Jamin Gray, a St. Louis programmer involved in the Linux Gnome Project, said he is disappointed that Linux and the other kernel hackers didnt manage to stick to their plan of short release cycles with 2.3. "Im hoping they remedy that with the 2.5 development cycle," Gray said.
The development community also will be focusing on additional scalability, availability, internationalization, printing, and Journaling File System and systems management. "All of these contributions are intended to enhance the enterprise-level capabilities in Linux," IBMs Harnett said.
The major vendors are currently testing the prerelease and base 2.4 kernel across various software and hardware platforms, but they say a distribution incorporating the new kernel will take months rather than weeks.
VA Linux Systems Inc., of Fremont, Calif., late last week was first out with a preproduction release of the kernel. Officials said a full production release for the companys servers and storage systems will likely be delivered later this year.
Likewise, Red Hat Inc. has been developing the next version of its Linux operating system, code-named Florence, around the 2.4 kernel for some time. But company officials were evasive about the exact timing of its release. Sources inside the Durham, N.C., Red Hat said they are striving for the first half of this year.
Michael Tiemann, Red Hat chief technology officer, said the company is working with Dell Computer Corp. to ensure that any new version of Red Hat software can be preloaded onto Dells hardware as soon as it is available.
Darren Davis, vice president of engineering for Caldera Systems Inc., in Orem, Utah, said he would soon announce a beta for the next version of the companys eServer distribution that incorporates the kernel. The desktop suite will follow a few months later.
Officials for TurboLinux Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., said they do not expect the 2.4 kernel to be stable for the enterprise until at least Version 2.4.4, making it unlikely that the kernel will make its way into a commercial TurboLinux server release until the second quarter of this year.
Despite this, customers and users are prepared to wait. Wiley Hodges, director of product management at Sendmail Inc., in Emeryville, Calif., which uses Linux at both the desktop and server levels, said the company was looking forward to the release of commercial Linux distributions based on the 2.4 kernel.
"But we are not expecting this software until the second quarter at the earliest. We want a high degree of reliability and are happy to wait until the kernel has been thoroughly tested and is stable," Hodges said.