Latest Linux 2.6 test kernel released for 'hammering'

FRAMINGHAM (10/27/2003) - The latest version of the long-awaited Linux 2.6 test kernel is being unveiled today to software developers and vendors around the world for continued testing, validation and improvements as it moves closer to inclusion in future versions of the open-source operating system.

In an announcement Monday, Open Source Development Labs Inc. (OSDL), a nonprofit global consortium created to speed the adoption of Linux, officially released the new Linux kernel 2.6 test9 version.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who now works at the Beaverton, Ore.-based OSDL as its first-ever fellow, and Andrew Morton, who is the designated kernel maintainer at the OSDL, made the kernel available for enterprise testing.

In an e-mail exchange Monday with Computerworld, Torvalds said that although a final release date for a completed 2.6 kernel hasn't yet been set, "the current plan is to look at test9 and really try to get people to stress-test it, while collecting patches/updates for any issues found. Basically, we're gathering the last-minute fixes, and I'm looking very hard at the progression of the patches.

"Before a stable release, they should really come down to just a trickle of issues -- and preferably not even very serious issues at that. Assuming that testing is successful and (an upcoming version) test10 ends up being a fairly small collection of these updates, I'll consider that trajectory successful," Torvalds said.

The plan will be to "let test10 simmer for a while just to verify" that it's ready for a final release as Kernel 2.6, he said. A test11 version is also possible, he said.

One of the goals of the 2.6 kernel has been its use for enterprise computing, Torvalds said, but improvements for desktop use haven't been ignored. "Of course, lately, the Linux desktop has become more important for the commercial players too, so that's not really any kind of adversarial situation," he said. "In fact, a lot of the latency improvement work we did was for the desktop, but (it) helps bigger machines too."

The first 2.6 kernel test version was released in July and has been modified and improved to today's Version 9 status.

The major changes in the 2.6 kernel compared to the current production 2.4 Linux kernel, which was released in January 2001, include the following:

- Improved scalability with production use on 32-way machines and testing on 64-way machines

- A new CPU scheduler, new memory management and improved file-system code

- Support for up to 8GB of memory on 32-bit x86 systems

- Faster threading with a new Native Posix Thread Library for Linux

- Enhanced driver layer for I/O devices such as disks, which should perform better and be easier to manage

- Built-in logical volume management

Timothy Witham, lab director of the OSDL, said the new kernel includes features that have been sought by enterprise Linux customers. "A lot of them are things that will really help in business computing," he said, including improved virtual memory to help the operating system scale up for larger database application use.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the latest kernel progression news is "showing the continuing evolution of this software" and its increasing performance and scalability beyond the needs of workstations or small servers. "It's clear that they're trying to create an environment that could be used for more critical applications," he said.

Members of the OSDL, which was founded in 2000, include IBM, Red Hat Inc., the Unilever Group, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp.

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