Linux on the Loose

Torvalds set to release 2.4 kernel that will be more suitable for enterprises

As linux creator linus Torvalds prepares the 2.4 kernel for final release later this month, testing of the kernel and bug fixing are proceeding at a rapid pace.

The preparation bodes well for this kernel, which will include a slate of enhancements that improves Linuxs robustness and goes a long way toward proving its suitability for enterprise-level applications.

Nevertheless, developers and testers cautioned that the release could be held back if Torvalds and his team discover any last-minute problems prior to release or if they feel it still contains bugs that will affect its stability and reliability.

In an interview with eWeek in mid-October, Torvalds said he wanted to avoid "any nasty surprises" and that he was allowing about two months prior to launch for pure testing. That two months is up this week, but Torvalds could not be reached for comment.

While Torvalds has told the Linux kernel mailing list he intends to release 2.4.0 some time this month, he is unlikely to issue a press release when he does. "He will simply upload it to the Linux Kernel Archives and then make an announcement on the Linux kernel mailing list," said a Linux user and developer working with Torvalds, who declined to be named.

But things are looking good for a December release. Michael K. Johnson, the manager of kernel engineering for Linux vendor Red Hat Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the testing process has been going well, and bugs are being quickly identified and fixed. "The code is advancing rapidly, and I am confident that it will be stable and perform as expected," Johnson said.

Among the most significant new features of the 2.4 kernel is SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) scalability. While the new kernel has a CPU limit of 32 processors on the large X86 Intel Corp.-based servers, it is expected to be largely used at the eight-way level.

Also included will be large file system support, even on 32-bit architectures; the ability to address up to 64GB of physical memory on the X86 Intel servers and IA-32 platforms; expanded hardware support, with various new drivers for hardware like Universal Serial Bus and accelerated three-dimensional-graphics cards; and various new architectures, such as IBMs S/390 mainframe, IA-64 and, eventually, the Advanced Micro Devices Inc. X86-64.

From an enterprise standpoint, the SMP scalability took Linux to a new level and would make it more robust, Johnson said. It was also being continuously and rigorously tested.

"We have machines with lots of CPUs, memory and hard drive space running really heavy stress tests the whole time, keeping up with the latest kernels. Thats going to make a real big difference to enterprises using Linux," he added.

In addition to all this, Torvalds is planning to include the ReiserFS journaling file system in the 2.4.1 release, expected within two weeks of 2.4s release, the Linux developer said.

Red Hats Johnson said the Ext3 journaling file system would also be included in an early 2.4.x release, and both would be supported.