Grand ambitions for Linux

At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, the open source OS's desktop, mobile, and cloud potential were explored

Like a fervent preacher appearing before his flock, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin emphasized benefits and potential for the Linux platform Thursday during an industry conference that also featured an update on mobile Linux efforts.

At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in San Francisco, Zemlin cited advances by Linux into multiple spaces, including supercomputing and embedded systems. "It is the fastest growing platform in every aspect of computing," Zemlin said.

"Linux is growing two to three times faster than any other platform out there today," he said.

He also stressed Linux potential on the desktop. A changing view of what constitutes the desktop, with it encompassing possibly everything from laptops to phones, browsers and maybe even cars, also benefits Linux, he said. "What we sort of claim every year [is] that this will be the year of the Linux desktop. It's time to start asking yourselves: what is the desktop?" Zemlin said. Linux, he said, is "redefining the client entirely," something proprietary competitors such as Windows cannot do.

[ Last month, Red Hat's CEO questioned desktop's relevance in a Linux debate | Related: The Windows-vs.-Linux server face-off. ]

Cloud computing also presents an opportunity for Linux, with the platform already holding a lead in this space, he said. Zemlin said Google could not really be Google if it ran on Windows instead of Linux. Zemlin also stressed the safety of Linux, saying that with a "quadrillion-dollar" transaction system like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange using Linux, the platform has been proven to be safe.

Zemlin also cited Linux as inexpensive and more. "While Linux is the most affordable platform out there, Linux is a lot more than that," he said, adding Linux is about changing assumptions. It also is about software development and sharing, he said.

Linux , though, needs standards, and such efforts as  the Linux Standard Base are afoot, Zemlin said. Standards, though, must be open and prevent a de facto lock-in situation, he added. There also are organizations and programs to help with Linux users facing patent issues, such as Linux Defenders, Zemlin said.

Afterward, Imad Sousou, director of the Intel open source technology center, pondered the Intel-created Moblin project for a Linux mobile platform and cited improvements planned for Moblin 2, which is now in a beta stage of release.

Intel last week moved Moblin over to the jurisdiction of the foundation. "Big corporations are not good shepherds of open source projects, at least not long-term," Sousou said.

Moblin features are dictated by benefits to the user experience. Also inspiring the project is an intention to get away from a habit of building "clones" of 20-year-old operating systems, Sousou said.

With Moblin 2, the platform will feature "Fast Boot," with a goal of reducing boot time to two seconds. It currently is five seconds. For UI development, Moblin developers favor animation frameworks. The Clutter technology has been selected for this purpose. "It's one of probably the best animation frameworks that we have seen on any operating system," featuring physics and 3D capabilities said Sousou.

Also planned for Moblin 2 is a connection manager called Conman, offering support for capabilities such as voice and WiFi.

Technologists serving on a panel pertaining to the Linux kernel Thursday morning noted other developments, such as Linux next.

"[Linux next] is designed to be a preview of the next release of the Linux kernel," said Andrew Morton, lead kernel maintainer, in an interview at the event.

"It's been running for about a year, it's updated every day," Morton said.

The ext4 file system, which updates the default Linux file system, also was cited. Version 4 is a higher performance file system with features database users have asked for, said Ted Ts'o, chief technology officer at the foundation.

"In general, it just allows for bigger file systems and better performance," Ts'o said. He said he expects ext4 to be featured in the Ubuntu and Fedora Linux systems next month.

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