Linux Kernel is Good For Now

SAN FRANCISCO — The man who maintains the Linux kernel says he’s
quite confident that the latest versions of the operating system are the
best and most stable. For now.

Andrew Morton of Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) said the
current builds of the Linux 2.6 kernel are being adopted by enough of
the enterprise distributions in the market that work on a 2.7 kernel
tree has been placed on hold.

“It will be some time before we need a 2.7 kernel,” Morton said
during a Q&A session at the Open Source Business Conference here. “The
only reason we would start a 2.7 tree at this time is if we are
unsuccessful with the current builds and it keeps breaking, or if someone
comes forward and decides they need to rebuild their entire software
stack.”

The current build has close to 6 million lines of code and is
separated into two build trees. Morton and his team of 50 to 70 project
managers have stewardship over the enterprise-ready versions, while
Linux creator Linus Torvalds oversees the other build tree with the
latest changes.

Having both trees in operation satisfies
both needs, Morton said. And having two trees working at the same time
has shaved a considerable amount of time off the development and
deployment process, taking it down to as few as 30 days, Morton pointed out.

“We don’t need a three-year development cycle, because the developers are
getting more comfortable with the code,” he said. “The other reason is
that the stable tree is slowly changing and the major vendors were
carrying enough of the current builds, so we felt that we should make the
release cycles much shorter.”

This is not to say that Linux has forked, a controversial theory that
would make most distributions incompatible. Morton commented that the
trees are in no way an indication of forking, which to him would be
highly unlikely.

“Forking of the kernel would result in a $100 million-per-year
expense to maintain the forked version, thus making it undesirable for
anyone to fork it,” Morton said. “Besides, forking would require a
massive fallout amongst the kernel development team.”

Forking could also be disastrous for a Linux community that research
firm IDC forecasts will be the engine behind more than $36 billion in
annual IT revenues by 2008.

The push for Linux and open source software is still an uphill battle, because the vast majority is running on proprietary software, according to
OSDN CEO Stuart Cohen.

“It has crossed the chasm, but it has some catching up to do,” Cohen
said. “Now we are looking at what is needed from an ecosystem
standpoint.”

Another kernel process that Morton is championing is Developers
Certificate of Origin. The process, which has its roots in the SCO Group
lawsuits, asks that contributors sign off at the
developer window as a way to verify where new code has come from.

“We encourage those who are verifying builds to directly contact
the person who last touched that code if there is a problem,” said Morton.

Finally, to help with the virtualization process of Linux, Morton
said Kernel.org would choose XEN by the end of this year.

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