Top challenges for Linux kernel team outlined at LinuxCon

Top challenges for Linux kernel team outlined at LinuxCon

Summary: The biggest challenges for Linux going forward include addressing next gen scalability and networking requirements.Yet there are other social issues facing the Linux kernel community that outweigh any technological concerns, said several top developers at a LinuxCon panel on Tuesday.

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The biggest challenges for Linux going forward include addressing next gen scalability and networking requirements.

Yet there are other social issues facing the Linux kernel community that outweigh any technological concerns, said several top developers at a LinuxCon panel on Tuesday.

Attracting talent to work on the kernel will be more challenging in the future, according to James Bottomley, a Linux kernel maintainer and 20-year distinguished engineer (SUSE) at Novell.  Now that the kernel and Linux industry is mature, commercial opportunities have become far more appealing to new developers than kernel development,  he maintains.

"The biggest problem is the trend to invisibility in the code," Bottomley said. "Linux was once thought to be a great brand ... [but]the kernel is a less sexy place to work."

Red Hat's Fedora kernel maintainer Dave Jones also noted that the complexity of the code is "daunting" for newcomers and the barrier to entry is much higher than in was when the kernel was in its infancy.

Linux Foundation fellow and new Google hire Ted Ts'o -- who is said to be the first Linux kernel developer in North America - said the kernel is as robust these days as any other Unix kernel or any OS kernel out there.

Yet he sees scalability as one significant challenge for the Linux kernel (all kernels, really) with the "advent of very large numbers of CPUs on a chip. "We thought scalability was largely solved two years ago," but multicore processing will impose more stringest demands going forward, he said, pointing out that low end laptops will boast 16 to 32 cores in no time.

The advent of next generation networking technologies including Infiniband will also impose technical challenges for the team, Ts'o said.

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

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4 comments
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  • It is a challenge

    The reason being that the kernel isn't "visible". It sits quietly in the background and is taken for granted that it does its job. There are no splash screens or UI's or direct interactions by a user to make them go "PHWOAR, this kernel is awesome". So developers will find it less sexy than the applications that make people stand up and notice because they are more "in your face" than the kernel is.
    garethmcc
    • RE: Top challenges for Linux kernel team outlined at LinuxCon

      @garethmcc
      There's always plenty of people who get satisfaction from doing important but un-sexy development work. I wouldn't worry too much.
      AndyPagin
    • RE: Top challenges for Linux kernel team outlined at LinuxCon

      @garethmcc
      I'm a programmer and a part of me would love being able to rip through the linux kernel, but when I look at something like that, which directly interfaces with the computer hardware, I'm taken aback. My field of study is more abstracted from the low level and the kernel can get huge depending on the modules you add! That being said, you're right, people do take the kernel for granted. In reality, all you really need is a shell and the kernel and you can run linux fairly well, and cheaply, (resource-wise). Everything else is graphical or functional fluff
      KBot
    • PHWOAR factor

      @garethmcc

      Agreed. I've always felt that much of the crap we see in today's OS, system, and productivity software is due to the fact that so many of the really good software writers have gone into gaming instead, which is a lot "sexier."
      6502coder