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Torvalds Calls Linux Kernel 'Huge And Bloated'

At the LinuxCon event this week, Linus Torvalds said the proliferation of new Linux kernel features has rendered it "huge and bloated," and solution providers say that's just the price of popularity.

Asked whether features are being added to the Linux kernel too quickly, and whether this is affecting Linux performance, Torvalds acknowledged that this is indeed a problem. The Linux kernel has also grown to the point where it's no longer streamlined and efficient, Torvalds added.

"The kernel is huge and bloated, and our icache footprint is scary. I mean, there is no question about that. And whenever we add a new feature, it only gets worse," Torvalds said at the event, as reported by The Register.

Torvalds, of course, has never been one to mince words about the shortcomings of proprietary operating systems, which is why Microsoft and Apple officials are probably snickering uncontrollably over his characterization of the Linux state of affairs. Solution providers, for their part, say Linux is simply running into the same issues that have dogged vendors that compete on feature sets.

"The more features offered in a kernel, the more code you produce, and the slower the system that's running the operating system," said Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider. "As Linux matures, [the community is] seeing the same problems that Microsoft and Apple have already run into."

Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York-based integrator, says Linux kernel features have grown as a result of the need for Linux to compete with the likes of Windows 7 and OS X Snow Leopard.

"Linux as a product needs to stay competitive with other products, and as much as the community tries to keep a handle on this, it's starting to spin a bit out of control," Basanta said. "As new releases come out it does get slower, and it's not as fast and lean as it used to be."

At LinuxCon, Torvalds also admitted that the Linux community doesn't have a concrete plan to address the situation. But Bernard Golden, CEO of Hyperstratus, a San Carlos, Calif.-based solution provider, doesn't interpret Torvalds' comments as a dire warning or a call to action. Instead, Golden says the growth of the Linux kernel reflects the fact that more vendors are pushing to get their products running on the OS.

"As Linux gets more popular, people are doing more with it, and that means more code. It has got slower, but you don't hear people saying it's too slow. Besides, hardware doubles in performance every year," Golden said.

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