LinuxCon North America

LinuxCon North America

Article from Issue 132/2011

At the recent LinuxCon North America [1] in Vancouver, Canada, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the start of the Linux Kernel project. Many of the best developers in the community were there, and we had “gala” events celebrating the past 20 years. Although the Linux kernel tends to dominate aspects of computing such as high-performance computing, embedded systems design, and servers, several people acknowledged that we still have not enjoyed “the year of the Linux desktop.”

This particular conference stirred up a lot of retrospection. Jon Corbett, who normally does a bang-up job telling us what is new in the Linux kernel, went back a bit in time and showed some of the early timeline issues that almost derailed kernel development. Fortunately, the community was ready to tackle those issues, which tended to be more procedural and structural, concerning how to scale development, than technical, concerning how to scale the kernel itself.

Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM gave a fascinating view into some of the early meetings that IBM had on the Linux kernel and the decisions that led them to invest that first billion dollars. What was really news to me was the effort IBM made to investigate and view Linux from every angle before making that decision, and one of the main considerations was that “Linux would run on everything.” IBM realized that the community would make Linux run on everything from the very smallest computers to the very largest, and to them, this created real value for the OS that could not be matched by any other operating system.

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