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Kernel maintainer offers insight into 2.6

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

The Open Source Development Lab's stated mission is to provide developers with the resources and guidance they need to drive Linux deeper into enterprise data centers. New CEO Stuart Cohen told SearchEnterpriseLinux.com in May that the goal of the Beaverton, Ore.-based lab is to become the leading Linux advocate. "I think we have the right skills and capabilities among our members to get into that role," Cohen said.

Cohen recently accelerated the lab's charge toward its goal by recruiting Linux author Linus Torvalds to join the lab as the group's first fellow. Torvalds amicably left his position with chip maker Transmeta Corp. to concentrate full time on kernel development and managing the leading Linux developers worldwide.

This week, Torvalds' No. 2 man, 2.6 kernel maintainer Andrew Morton, joined the OSDL. Morton, principal engineer at Digeo Inc., will be sponsored by the lab while he maintains the development cycle of the 2.6 kernel and continues his duties at Digeo.

Morton said yesterday that the OSDL offers him and Torvalds access to developers, code contributors and hardware that will be used to put the finishing touches on the 2.6 kernel.

"It will be out when it's ready. We will probably have the 2.6.0 version fairly soon, but it will mainly be a marketing ploy to tell the world that we think it's ready and we want more testers," Morton said. "It tells developers that play time is over. It's time to get this done."

Morton

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said the new version of the kernel addresses several issues that could drive further adoption of Linux in the enterprise for mission-critical duties.

"There's a ton of stuff. We've done a lot of work on that side of things," Morton said. "There's support for larger disks, breaking the 2-terabyte disk limit on IA-32. There's more scalability for a large number of disks; support for larger amounts of memory on IA-32 machines. There's better 64-bit support and many other enhancements around scalability."

Most enterprises are currently using Linux for a variety of duties, from the desktop, to Web, print and file serving, to some heavy-duty transaction processing, in a few cases. Morton, however, urges enterprises serious about Linux and open-source to grab the most current source code, download it and make sure it "behaves properly," Morton said.

"I had a sense a long time ago that a lot of [enterprises] are hanging back and playing with 2.4," Morton said. "From my point of view, that's a problem. If something in 2.5 or 2.6 is incompatible, they won't find out until 2.6.10. If they are interested in a long stake in Linux, grab the kernel and make sure it satisfies their requirements. If it doesn't, let me know. Drop me an e-mail."

Morton has been the lead maintainer of the 2.5 kernel, maintaining his own code tree with other developers and working on file system enhancements, for example. He also is in constant communication with developers, examining patches and feeding them out when they are ready to go, Morton said. Torvalds, meanwhile, is in a coordination and review role, doing a lot of list development.

"Linus comes in when there's some sticky stuff," Morton said.

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