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Linux lab raises awareness of kernel development process

Nov 27, 2003 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 24 views

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) announced a new initiative today aimed at raising awareness about how the Linux kernel is developed. With the highly-anticipated release of the final Linux 2.6 production kernel due shortly, OSDL is taking a series of steps to increase customer confidence in using Linux, the group said.

The new Linux kernel will be used by tens of millions of people in new ways, not only on servers and in telecommunications networks, but also on desktops and in consumer electronic devices. Among the Lab's first steps in this new initiative is the creation of a simplified graphical model that illustrates how software code is contributed to the Linux kernel.

(Click above image to enlarge)

“OSDL firmly believes that the Linux kernel development process, under the guidance of Linus Torvalds, has proven to be an extremely effective means to produce powerful software for more than 10 years now,” said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL. “Recent public criticism of the Linux development process shows a lack of understanding as to the rigor imposed by Linus himself and the development community at large. It is a process built on the scientific method of peer review.”

OSDL summarizes the Linux development process as follows . . .

The Linux operating system kernel is the result of the efforts of its creator, Linus Torvalds, and thousands of dedicated software developers from around the world. These developers are self-organized into specific subsystems defined by a developer's interests and technical expertise (for example, I/O, storage, networking). Each of these subsystems has a domain expert developer, called the subsystem maintainer, who oversees the work of others. Subsystem maintainers review the code submitted to them and orchestrate broader peer review of code to ensure its quality.

All Linux code, both the current version and that submitted for future inclusion, is also available on-line for public examination. This allows literally thousands of interested parties to scrutinize submitted code in what amounts to a massive code review. Only when a subsystem maintainer accepts software code is it passed along to one of the two developers at the top of the Linux hierarchy, Torvalds himself or Andrew Morton.

Torvalds maintains the “development kernel” where new features and bug fixes are tested. Morton maintains the “production kernel” which is the version release for public use. Torvalds is the final arbiter of what is included in Linux. OSDL, with the help of Torvalds and Morton, created a simplified Linux Development Process graphic to help illustrate these key points (shown above).

Over the years Torvalds has enhanced the Linux development process itself to accommodate its increasing complexity and scope. The process is expected to continue to evolve in the future, but the basic structure has remained constant since the creation of Linux in 1991.

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