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Red Hat CEO vs. Torvalds: More Linux features don't equate to bloat

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst disagreed with Linus Torvalds' contention that Linux has become bloated. Whitehurst said that Linux is growing and becoming more full-featured. The bloat will come when features are added that no one wants.

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst disagreed with Linus Torvalds' contention that Linux has become bloated. Whitehurst said that Linux is growing and becoming more full-featured. The bloat will come when features are added that no one wants.

Whitehurst addressed the Torvalds comments Wednesday on the company's second quarter earnings conference call.

Also see: Torvalds calls Linux "bloated" and "scary." Is he right? · Does it matter that "Linux is bloated"?

Here's the key question from Brent Williams, an analyst at Benchmark, and Whitehurst's answer.

Williams: I saw an interview with [Linus Torvalds] the other day and he was suggesting the idea that in some respects, the core Linux kernel is getting a little bit bloated and that there’s just so much stuff going in there and I think of course Linus speaks his mind at any given moment and doesn’t bother himself with consistency from day to day in his thoughts, but is this reflective of any maturity in the evolution of the kernel technologically? Is this suggesting maybe that a lot more focus is going to surrounding capabilities? I mean, is this indicative of a change in the focus of the kernel development community and can we look at any sort of hints there about where Linux might evolve and how that might end up helping Linux attack new markets, or anything like that?

Whitehurst: I guess my simple answer to that is as Linux has continued to grow and its applicability continues to expand, there’s just more feature functionality that people are looking for to be built into the operating system. I have not had a conversation with him about the comment. I don’t think of that as bloat. Certainly bloat is when you start adding feature functionalities that people don’t want, and certainly the nature of Linux where users are the key contributors, I do think Linux is growing but I think it is much more indicative of the fact that its’ continued added features that people do want and the key differentiator is it can continue to do that in a very modular way, so I actually look at the growth as much more of a reflection that it continues to add features that people do want, and that’s a good thing.

So who's right here? Whitehurst has a point. Won't every operating system have virtualization capabilities layered in? Isn't it the normal course of business to add features?

However, Torvalds may be onto something too. He may be early with his bloat warning, but at some point Linux will have more features than people actually want. Bloated operating systems are like a lot of other things: It's hard to find the tipping point, but you know bloat when you see it.

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