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From BitKeeper to Linux Kernel Update

UPDATED: The upcoming 2.6.12 release of the Linux kernel is expected to sport native support for virtualization and SELinux among its enhancements. It would also follow a public spat in the open source community over the use of a "non-free" development tool.

For now, the latest incremental release, announced Sunday, stands at version 2.6.11.12.

Kernel developer Chris Wright announced the 2.6.11.12 kernel version Sunday. Wright was recently responsible for the incremental 2.6.11.11 Linux kernel, principally a bug fix, released at the end of May.

The previous kernel, version 2.6.11, was released in February after a two month and five release candidate cycle.

Along the way Linux creator Linus Torvalds was forced to change his development tool from BitKeeper to something he wrote himself called "Git."

The change came about as the result of a very public spat over the use of a non-free version of BitKeeper (BK) by Torvalds and the efforts of the open source community to reverse-engineer the program for their own purposes. Ultimately, Torvalds gave in to community pressure and shifted to Git on April 6 with release candidate 3.

"This release is a bit different from the usual ones, for obvious reason," Torvalds wrote. "It's the first in a _long_ time that I've done without using BK, and it's the first one ever that has been built up completely with 'git'."

Gary Hein, an analyst with research firm the Burton Group, said he didn't see the change from BitKeeper to Git as any significant "blow" for the Linux Kernel.

"These conversations happen all the time with internal and closed development teams. With BitKeeper, the discussion was particularly high profile and held within the public," Hein told internetnews.com. "I honestly don't believe that it will have long-term impact on the Linux kernel developers or Linux market."

When version 2.6.12 is released -- after the current incremental release of 2.6.11.12 -- it is expected to support SELinux, a joint effort between the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the open source community that Linux vendor Red Hat has been pushing since February of 2004 and with its Fedora Core project.

Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 4 released this past February, also includes SELinux. SELinux has been previously noted as an important contribution to Linux use as it implements mandatory access controls considered to be essential in limiting access to daemons and users to only what they need.

Virtualization support in the form of the Xen "hypervisor" has also been added to the kernel. Xen is a virtualization application that enables users to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same physical box.

IBM has backed Xen with code contributions since at least January of this year. Since March, Novell's SUSE Linux 9.3 has included Xen as well.

"Xen being included into the Linux kernel is very significant because essentially this means that every Linux kernel, from any distribution, will support Xen as its virtualization technology," Simon Crosby, VP of strategic marketing at Xen's corporate sponsor XenSource, told internetnews.com.

"This will allow the Linux distros to build, distribute and support Xen based kernels, which is a key requirement on the part of customers."

Corrects prior version to clarify that the latest release is an incremental update.