Life seems to be getting even better for Linus Torvalds. Having just taken a leave from his "day job'' at chip designer Transmeta, Torvalds is about to begin a new one at the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) where he will be able to focus even more on completing the upcoming 2.6 version of the Linux kernel. This version is seen by most observers as critical for Linux to succeed in the enterprise because it is being refined to work more capably on large, multiprocessor systems, especially those using nonuniform memory access, and given significant improvements in scalability and more reliable performance.
At this week's CA World 2003 show in Las Vegas, Torvalds sat down with InfoWorld Editor at Large Ed Scannell and Staff Writer Brian Fonseca to talk about the completion this past weekend of Version 2.6's first test release; what will keep him up at night worrying about that test release; his thoughts about the impending SCO-IBM suit and possible impact on Linux development; and something of a wish list of technologies to be included in upcoming versions of the open source operating system.
InfoWorld: How difficult a development effort was Version 2.6 compared with previous efforts? Are they getting increasingly difficult as you include more complex features?
Torvalds: This was fairly comparable to Version 2.4. It is hard to tell, really. I actually put out the first test release on Sunday evening [July 13], and that is the last beta of the program. With 2.4, that testing took about six or seven months to complete. But I think we are actually in better shape this time; we are aiming for three months but we will see what happens. It has gotten slightly more complicated, mainly because there are now more people involved. And what I mean is that doing a release always means synchronizing. And when you have more people to synchronize it takes longer because you get more issues that come up. But on the whole it was not that different from 2.4.
InfoWorld: When you say more people were involved, what people were involved this time who have not typically been so before?
Torvalds: In previous efforts, and I mean looking back at [Version] 2.0 or the precommercial days, most of the people involved tended to be literally engineers along with some involvement of the early Linux companies. But these days you still have all the engineers, but now you also have a number of larger companies. They interact with the kernel through their own engineers but they have their own issues that they want to make sure are sorted out and things like that. So that is really where the added people came from.
InfoWorld: In joining OSDL do you think you will have more technical resources at your disposal, thereby making the development efforts easier and the delivery of future kernels faster?
Torvalds: Well, long before I joined they had their own test projects. They had their own server farms where they developed not just their own hardware tests but literally had database loads to test Linux on their own load so could verify both performance and how they were operating. That has been all independent of me. What OSDL gives me is basically a little space where I can do Linux full time. And I don’t rely on OSDL itself. I consider that very independent of what I do. It is important, but it is not like my moving there changes much.
InfoWorld: How many test versions do you anticipate putting out before the code goes to GA (general availability)?