Zack's Kernel News

Zack's Kernel News

Article from Issue 273/2023

In kernel news: Rust in Linux; and Compiler and Kernel Frenemies.

Rust in Linux

A fascinating aspect of Linux kernel development has been the attempts to switch away from C and assembly language to something else like C++. Linus Torvalds is notorious for caring a lot about the beauty of the kernel code as well as important features such as CPU and RAM usage and security. For him to accept any other language, it would have to be a pretty amazing language. For comparison, the developers tried adding C++ support to the kernel in the late 1990s, but it didn't pass muster.

The Rust programming language is the first serious attempt by kernel developers to add support to the kernel since then. Linus allowed a rudimentary first attempt to go into kernel version 6.1 in late 2022. Since then, many more Rust patches have been submitted. Unlike the case with C++, Rust doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon. Instead, it seems as though Linus is fairly committed to giving it a real try.

It's a surprising decision because Rust is so new. Rust was invented in 2006 while C++ was invented in 1979. Even today, Rust has hardly taken over the world. And yet it has been given this amazing pride of place in the Linux kernel. I'm not denigrating! It's fascinating to consider Rust's characteristics that would place it even above C++ as being welcome into the kernel development process. However, it's not at all surprising that Linus would evaluate a new language based on its merits rather than its popularity.


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