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Linux Kernel Work Picks Up Speed

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A year after Linux kernel development was cleft in three, users and vendors report the process has improved the speed and quality of development.

When developers opted to nix a separate 2.7 kernel development at the Linux Kernel Developers Summit last summer, the decision spawned three 2.6 trees: the mainline or stable kernel, known as 2.6.x, maintained by Linux founder Linus Torvalds; the 2.6-mm, or staging tree, where technologies are tested before being added to the mainline kernel; and the 2.6.x.y kernel, for bug fixes.

"The hierarchy in the community has flattened, so now you have small teams of experts working at consensus level rather than having a maintainer and all the subordinates," said Dan Frye, director of IBM's Linux Technology Center in Beaverton, Ore.

"We are just delighted. The stuff our enterprise customers need is getting done, and that is translating into shipments of high quality from the distributions," Frye said.

The companies that produced the Linux distributions, such as Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc., also now have greater choice about which build of the kernel best suits their customer needs rather than having to wait for the final stable release, Frye said.

One of the biggest consequences of the three-pronged development approach, "was that Linus started trusting the subsystem maintainers more, which helped speed up the process," according to Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Linux kernel developer with Novell, in Portland, Ore.

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