Linux 2012: 5 Things to Watch
As we begin 2012, Linux is 20 years old and showing no signs of slowing down. 2012 should be another solid year for Linux growth and expansion in a number of areas with new development in the kernel, distros and on architectures big and small.
1. Linux Kernels
In 2011, we saw the 2.6.37, 2.6.38, 2.6.39, 3.0 and 3.1 kernels. In 2012, expect to see at least that number of releases, if not more. Remember, the 3.1 kernel cycle was impacted by a security breach issue on kernel.org, which (slightly) slowed down the cycle.
The 3.2 kernel is due out early in the new year, giving Linus Torvalds' and the global community of kernel developers a good start to the year,too.
In terms of new features in 2012, as always architecture and driver updates are top of mind. Improvements in virtualization, specifically KVM, are always in the merge queue, too.
The kernel tends to keep adding new filesystem support as well. Time will tell whether yet another new filesystem will land in 2012 or if this will be a year of continuous improvement for ext4, btrfs and the myriad other filesystems Linux already supports.
2. Linux on ARM
One area likely to be the subject of aggressive development in 2012 is the ARM chip architecture support in Linux.
Linux has supported ARM for some time, but new efforts, including HP's Moonshot project with help from Calxeda and Canonical. are pushing ARM into the server space. The transition of ARM to servers will likely lead to more development work upstream in the kernel as the new workload use cases pushes ARM in new ways.
3. Ubuntu 12.04
It's only once every 18 months that Ubuntu pushes out its version of an enterprise release. In Ubuntu's lingo it's a Long Term Support (LTS) releases, providing five years of support on the desktop and the server.
The 12.04 release due out in April is codenamed the Precise Pangolin, and it is a big release for Ubuntu for a number of reasons. On the desktop, it will mark the formal enterprise debut of the controversial Unity interface. While it is true that there are plenty of business users that will use non-LTS releases (meaning they've already seen Unity), this will be a new thing for many. It will be interesting to see how the enterprise base responds to the new interface and whether any concessions or major changes are included in the LTS to keep business customers happy.
The Ubuntu 12.04 release will also be the formal LTS debut of Ubuntu's OpenStack based version of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). Ubuntu had previously based its LTS cloud technology on Eucalytpus.
4. Fedora's Beefy Miracle
While Ubuntu release names have always been a bit offbeat, those from Fedora have been relatively bland. That will change with the Fedora 17 release, codenamed the Beefy Miracle.
While a name alone doesn't define a distro, early indications are that the Fedora community is doing what it can to 'relish' this release. The feature submission deadline for Fedora 17 is currently set for January 24th with a feature freeze set for February 7th. General availability for Fedora 17 is currently set for May 8, 2012.
5. Desktop Revolt?
2011 was a year of controversy in the Linux desktop with both the GNOME Shell and Unity interfaces. Those two GNOME offshoots debuted radically new user interfaces, which were not always met with universal praise. KDE, xFCE and LXDE are options (as are others), and there were likely more than a few former GNOME users that migrated.
Forks like MATE and now Linux Mint's Cinnamon interface have emerged to provide GNOME-like alternatives. 2012 is likely to produce more of the same. Only time will tell if the GNOME Shell and Unity developer communities are able to improve their respective desktops enough to keep users before they move to the alternatives.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.