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Enterprises asked to 'hammer' on new 2.6 test kernel

Linus Torvalds on Monday released a test version of the 2.6 Linux kernel and asked enterprises to download it, test it and report their findings to the Open Source Development Lab.

Enterprises that wish to deploy Linux on their infrastructures or data centers in the next 12 months are being asked to download and examine a test version of the Linux 2.6 kernel released Monday.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds and 2.6 kernel maintainer Andrew Morton released the test9 kernel yesterday and hope to hear immediate feedback as IT managers install it on the different hardware configurations present in IT shops today.

"This is a call to test if you're not a normal kernel developer," said Open Source Development Lab technical director Tim Witham. Torvalds is an OSDL fellow and released test9 through the lab. "We're hoping to hear about shops trying something that may not work. That's the best sort of feedback. The more people who try it now, the quicker 2.6 will be stabilized and the quicker people will be able to use it higher up in the stack in the data center."

The 2.6 kernel is expected to accelerate Linux use in the enterprise data center. Scalability and stability improvements are expected to be very attractive to IT administrators and other enterprise decision makers.

"Anyone looking to deploy [Linux] by the end of the year should look to deploy 2.6 now and test on 2.6, not 2.4," Witham said. "They should test on what they are going to deploy on. It's crunch time and it's time to start looking toward the future."

Torvalds put the brakes on 2.6 development this month and has been accepting only stability and performance patches, a normal path toward Monday's release of test9, Witham said.

"Now is when we want big companies and software vendors to step in and hammer on the kernel so we can get their ideas into the final production release of 2.6 Linux," Torvalds said in an OSDL statement. Torvalds and Morton joined the Open Source Development Lab in July. "This is their last big chance."

The buzz surrounding 2.6 centers on its scalability up to 32 processors in production environments. It has also been tested on 64-way systems. Torvalds and Morton said 2.6's scalability comes from a new CPU scheduler, improved memory management and file systems, and support for 8 gigabits of memory on 32-way systems.

A native Posix thread library has also been included that improves performance test times on 100,000 threads from 15 minutes to two seconds, the OSDL said.

Improvements to the driver layer enhance I/O device performance and management. New features there include logical volume management, sysfs, device mapper and reduced lock contention, the OSDL said.

The 2.6 kernel also supports more embedded device applications and new desktop features, including hot plug devices like firewire and USB, and audio enhancements, with the inclusion of Advanced Linux Sound Architecture.

The 2.6 kernel was previewed in July and has been put through performance and regression tests at OSDL facilities in the United States and Japan.

Those tests are done on the OSDL's Scalable Test Platform (STP) and Patch Lifecycle Manager (PLM) systems. Kernel development, including patch testing, is automatically tracked by the platform. The lab has created database workload tests and urges enterprises to use these benchmarks on the 2.6 test kernel and report their findings.

"With 2.6, more so than 2.2 or even 2.4, it was a tighter development community," Witham said. "Now Linux is so widespread, not as many people are not following the day-to-day development process. We have to let people who are not developers come in and use it at this time."


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