Where Is the Linux Kernel Going?

For the immediate future, stablizing new features is the order of the day, but after that, power management takes center stage.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Last week, at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit held at the Googleplex, some of Linuxs top kernel developers discussed the state of the Linux kernel today and where it might be going.

Among the kernel developers present were Andrew Morton, James Bottomley, Chris Wright, Ted Tso and Greg Kroah-Hartman. About the only top Linux kernel developer who wasnt present was Linus Torvalds, the originator of the kernel.

In a panel discussion chaired by Jon Corbett, a Linux developer himself and editor of LWN.net, the group took on many contentious issues. After introductions, in which the quiet Morton unexpectedly added a note of levity by remarking that "If you dont know who I am you shouldnt be here," Corbett started the panel off by asking, "Is the quality of the current kernel [Linux 2.6.21] horrific?"

Many in Linux development circles felt that too many "not ready for prime time" features were added in the 2.6.21 kernel. Such features included the introduction of the "tickless" kernel and a new IDE (integrated drive electronics) sub-system, along with major changes in how Linux deals with ACPI (advanced configuration and power interface).

Morton fielded this one, noting, "Back in the 2.4 days, we worked on technology for others—a technology that could be turned into a product—and for ourselves. With Linux 2.6, we are concentrating more on creating that technology instead of creating a product. Our major feedback now comes from the vendors. Theyre the customers. Im not sure I believe them, but they say its OK."

Still, "We need to work on regressions more," Morton allowed, conceding that "2.6.21 was perhaps a bit more buggy than it should be."

Much of the work on the soon-to-arrive 2.6.22 kernel is being devoted to stabilizing these new features. Bottomley observed that the Linux kernel developers must deal with the "tension between new features and stabilizing those features." He urged users to remember that, "If youre running Fedora Core 7, then youre helping us to stabilize and test the kernel."

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