“The beaver is out of detox.”
With this cryptic reference to “Stoned Beaver,” the code-name of the Linux v2.6 kernel, Linus Torvalds officially released the first major upgrade to the Linux kernel in three years late last December.
Now, as the major Linux vendors are preparing new releases of their enterprise software based on Linux 2.6, it appears that the upstart open source operating system is poised to significantly narrow
the feature gap between Linux and its older cousin, Unix.
Linux 2.6 promises a lot. It will scale to larger systems with more memory and many more devices than its 2.4 predecessor. The operating system also supports more embedded processors than ever before. In short: The kernel is packed with more than enough features to make IT shops take notice.
Torvalds clearly hopes the 2.6 kernel will do much to widen the range of Linux users. “The greatest impact is really how we’ve extended the reach of the kernel; both up through scalability to enterprise hardware, and down to the embedded space,” Torvalds said.
The Next Level
To achieve higher scalability, IBM last month detailed plans to marry its 64-bit hardware to the 2.6 kernel.
Linux distributor Red Hat, for its part, has focused its resources on areas higher up the operating system stack; of late, in areas like J2EE applications and, with its acquisition of software company Sistina Software, on storage management.
“When we find ourselves talking with customers, they’re asking us to solve the next level of problems,” said Brian Stevens, Red Hat’s vice president of operating systems development. “Storage management is probably the biggest one.
[Other] big stuff for us has been around virtualization, and then systems management.”
Stevens added that improving Java’s performance and ease of use was a top priority. “We’re really excited about getting an ubiquitous Java platform out there, and getting ISVs to certify to that,” he said.
With 2.6, Linux continues its march into the enterprise. And corporate users welcome it.
“2.6 is a major leap forward for Linux,” said Scott Lewis, the manager of infrastructure architecture and planning with UMB Bank. Although the 2.4 kernel made Linux a strong choice for UMB’s edge-of-network deployments — applications like mail, DNS, and FTP servers — all of that changes with the new kernel.
“2.6 will make Linux a viable option for deployments closer to the core of the network, where Java application servers, middleware, and databases play,” Lewis said.
The new scheduler, which is the part of Linux that starts and stops jobs done by the operating system, will be a major improvement, Lewis said. And Linux 2.6’s NTPL (Native POSIX Thread Library) will make heavily threaded applications like J2EE application servers and databases perform much better, Lewis said.
The new threading model “was probably the biggest thing in Linux 2.6,” Red Hat’s Stevens said.