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Goodbye Linux 2.6, Hello Linux 3.0

  • July 26, 2011
  • By Sean Kerner

It's not every week a new major kernel version is released. This past week, the Linux Planet witnessed the Linux 3.0 release, the first major since the 2.6 kernel came out in 2003. It's a number change that has more to do with history than technology, but it is a significant milestone nonetheless. The Linux kernel wasn't the only part of the Linux ecosystem with updates this week: Oracle, Red Hat and SUSE all pushed out new releases as well.

1. Linux 3.0

In many open source software projects a major version change signifies a major change in an application, often one that changes binary compatibility; that's not the case with Linux 3.0.

Linux 3.0 is a numerical change because Linus Torvalds decided it was time to move away from 2.6.x, as the version numbers were getting too big. The last 2.6.x release was the 2.6.39 release that came out in May. The 3.0 release is also intended to help signify a major milestone for Linux. Linux is now 20 years old, and the move to the 3.0 kernel is a way to help mark the event.

"There are no special landmark features or incompatibilities related to the version number change, it's simply a way to drop an inconvenient numbering system in honor of twenty years of Linux," Linus Torvalds wrote in the mailing list announcement for Linux 3.0.

Although the Linux 3.0 kernel is not a ground-breaking release, it does contain multiple updates of note. Among the major features is the first full inclusion of the Xen hypervisor for virtualization. Xen has been outside of the mainline kernel for years, and it is now finally part of the kernel, making it potentially easier for users and vendors to work with and use. Xen, however, faces a battle against rival virtualization technology KVM, which has been in the Linux kernel since 2007 and enjoys the support of Red Hat and IBM among other big Linux contributors.

No, Linux 3.0 isn't the big break like Linux 2.6 was as compared to the 2.4 kernel, but it's still a noteworthy milestone. Twenty years of Linux is a big deal.

2. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7

While Xen is just now making its way into the mainline Linux kernel, Red Hat walked away from Xen for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL) release that debuted in November 2010.

That doesn't mean Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) has abandoned Xen altogether though. RHEL 5.x still supports Xen and got an incremental update this past week to RHEL version 5.7.

The RHEL 5.7 release includes some enhanced performance and feature support for Xen as well as KVM. Additionally, Red Hat has included the OpenSCAP Framework, providing users with an open source implementation of the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) framework. SCAP is a framework for creating a standardized approach for maintaining secure systems.

RHEL has been in the market since 2007, and Red Hat continues to update its feature set. While many users are making the move to the new RHEL 6, Red Hat isn't leaving RHEL 5.x users behind.

3. Oracle Buys Ksplice

Updating a Linux system can sometimes require a system reboot, which is not ideal for mission-critical systems. One way around the patching reboot issue is to use technology from Ksplice that enables reboot-less patching.

Last week, Oracle acquired the company behind Ksplice in a bid to improve its Oracle Enterprise Linux support offerings. Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) publicly stated it would not be supporting Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with Ksplice. Hence, this move could give Oracle a new point of competitive differentiation against its rivals in enterprise Linux support.

Although Oracle will not support other enterprise Linux distros with Ksplice, it's not blocking free use for community distros. This confirms that it is a move designed not to block community, but rather to gain enterprise advantage.

4.Oracle Releases VirtualBox 4.1

Ksplice isn't the only interesting open source technology Oracle was active with last week. VirtualBox 4.1 was released, providing new cloning and networking features for the popular open source virtualization technology.

Oracle acquired VirtualBox as part of its acquisition of Sun. While some open source projects under Oracle's leadership faced challenges, VirtualBox continued to push forward with new features and continued community adoption.

5. SUSE Studio 1.2

One of the easiest ways to deploy Linux is by way of a Linux appliance, and one of the easiest ways to make a Linux appliance is with SUSE Studio, which enables users to build a software appliance on top of SUSE's Linux offerings.

This past week, Attachmate's SUSE Linux division updated SUSE Studio for the first time since Novell acquired the company earlier this year. Since the acquisition, Attachmate has spun out SUSE as a separate business unit.

One of the key additions with SUSE Studio 1.2 is support for IBM System Z mainframes. The new SUSE Studio 1.2 Advanced Edition will now enable users to build a software appliance that can run on the cloud, x86 servers and mainframes, which could enable a new era of application portability.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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