Sources in the Linux community say the next kernel release, the Linux kernel 2.6, offers a new scheduler that vastly improves the scalability and transaction-processing characteristics of Linux. While the completion of the Linux 2.5 developer's version is close at hand, the next production release that will be incorporated into leading Linux distributions such as Red Hat Linux and Caldera OpenLinux is expected by year's end.
One Red Hat executive said the finalized Linux 2.6 kernel will take another quantum leap into the enterprise, allowing the open-source OS to compete more vigorously against Unix and Windows servers.
"It opens the floodgates for 18-way and 32-way systems," said Michael Tiemann, CTO of Red Hat. "The new scheduler [in Linux 2.5 allows for 1 million-per-second context switches. The current version 2.4 kernel allows for 250,000 switches per second. Now, you have eight-way systems [running Linux."
This will enable large server vendors and systems integrators to pitch Linux for high-end enterprise needs. The Linux 2.4 kernel, which was released in early 2001, went a long way to address key enterprise needs but topped out in the symmetric multiprocessing arena to supporting eight-way servers.
The 2.6 kernel will also feature support for USB 2.0, a journaling file system developed by SGI, new driver APIs for wireless extensions, a new I/O scheduler and improved, asynchronous I/O support. The latter will allow for improved database performance.
The Linux 2.5 developer's release is expected imminently. At LinuxWorld, Paul Cormier, executive vice president at Red Hat, and Free Standards Group Executive Director Scott McNeil said the official sign-off for Linux 2.5 was close at hand. However, the Linux 2.6 kernel due later this year is the production kernel that will be incorporated into leading Linux distributions.
One Linux ISV and IBM Global Partner, Bynari, sees immediate need for a more scalable Linux kernel for his clientele.
"It will help us. We'll need [Linux 2.6 to go into 16-way [systems," said Tom Adelstein, CTO of Bynari, Dallas.
Caldera International maintains the Linux 2.6 kernel will have relevance in the SMB market as well. "Our focus is on the SMB market, but standards are set in the enterprise and anything that helps drive Linux technology is good," said Shaun Cutler, director of Partner Programs at Caldera, which recently enhanced its Linux channel programs. "Yes, the SMB market needs 16-way systems. The ones that have the most immediate needs are the folks selling Unix today to migrate from Unix to Linux."