Kernel watchers got an early Christmas gift Wednesday when Linus Torvalds released the 2.6 kernel, the long-awaited code base for the Linux operating system that is supposed open the floodgates for the OS in the enterprise.
Torvalds made the announcement last night, declaring "the beaver is out of detox." Previous kernel test versions had been nicknamed "The Stoned Beaver Release" and "Beaver in Detox."
Torvalds and 2.6 maintainer Andrew Morton stopped accepting patches for the test versions several weeks ago, and last night they released a "svelte" 11 KB patch. Torvalds said most of the bugs reported from users during recent test phases have been worked out, including one that could only be produced on 16-way and 32-way systems, the bread and butter of this release.
The 2.6 kernel promises the scalability, reliability and security that enterprises need. The kernel also supports larger disks -- more than 2 TB on IA-32 machines -- support for more memory on IA-32 and better 64-bit support.
"Some known issues were not considered to be release-critical, and a number of them have pending fixes in the queue," Torvalds said in a statement. "Generally, they just didn't have the kind of verification yet where I was willing to take them in order to make sure a fair 2.6.0 release."
Torvalds and Morton have been asking enterprises to download test versions of 2.6 and provide feedback that would be incorporated into this week's release.
"The new 2.6 kernel improves the responsiveness and I/O stress management capability of the kernel. This alone is a huge step forward for those systems that operate with mixed loads," said one system administrator, who asked not to be named, in an e-mail to SearchEnterpriseLinux.com. "The real drivers for the back end of this kernel are the new massive memory, two- and four-way NUMA-MP systems running RDBMS such as Oracle, PostgreSQL and DB2. PostgreSQL in particular, when optimized for 64-bit operation, has a price performance and feature set that simply cannot be beat."
Most enterprises, however, will wait for a 2.6-based enterprise-grade version of Linux from a distributor. And that may be a lengthy wait, in some cases.
Red Hat Inc., the leading Linux distributor, is on a 12- to 18-month release cycle with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and the 3.0 version was just released in October. Red Hat has said that many features from 2.6 have been back-ported into RHEL 3.0, which is based on the 2.4.21 kernel.
Novell, which recently announced it would acquire SuSE Linux AG, may beat Red Hat to the punch with a 2.6-based version of SuSE Enterprise Server. But that won't happen until the acquisition is completed and the transition between the companies is well under way.
"I will definitely give preference to any distribution that puts out 2.6 in its server offerings," said a systems administrator at the University of Central Florida who asked not to be named. "I have been running 2.6 now for three months, and it has been rock-solid though all the terrible things I put my machine through."
Red Hat, meanwhile, continues to suffer the slings and arrows of its user base on the heels of its announcement that it would end free support for Red Hat Linux 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 at the end of the year and Red Hat Linux 9.0 in April. Red Hat announced it would only support RHEL and the hobbyist Fedora project.
"They have become increasingly arrogant," said the systems administrator. "Dropping support for so many prior versions of Red Hat at the same time and focusing exclusively on the commercial market will severely dilute their influence. Failing to get the 2.6 kernel running as quickly as possible is extremely shortsighted."
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