Inside IBM's Linux Technology Center

By Joe Barr, LinuxWorld.com |  Development



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So what does the LTC actually do for Linux? Frye observed that in the open source community, everyone basically works on what they are interested in. LTC employees are not free to hack whatever Linux-related code they want, but the LTC works on aspects of Linux that are of interest to IBM.



You can visit the LTC homepage to find out exactly what those aspects are. (See Resources for a link.) The LTC page has references and links to many different Linux-related projects. Frye cited scalability, serviceability, reliability, test, systems management, and journaling filesystems as being important to IBM. That list is long, but not all-inclusive.



The LTC team consists of people from nearly every part of IBM. Frye is obviously proud of the quality of his team. He told me, "We have built a group in the LTC that really takes some of the best from a number of different IBM groups." Those groups include Sequent, OS/2, Tivoli, AIX, and S/390. The LTC isn't very old, but has already made important contributions to Linux.



Did you read about the recent joint effort by Oki Data and IBM to provide Linux drivers for Oki Data printers? That falls under the umbrella of the Omni printer project, which provides GPLed drivers for nearly 300 printers; 8 months ago, that number was only 50. Did you read or hear comments about the size of the latest patch for the 2.4 kernel? That's because of all the S/390-specific code that went in -- courtesy of the LTC.



I mentioned earlier that IBM is "making a positive contribution" to the open source community. I'll give an example. IBM has worried about the scheduler at the heart of the Linux kernel. Some of IBM's code for the scheduler was accepted, but the company wanted to make it perform better on high-end machines. Linus Torvalds has rejected much of IBM's work on the scheduler because of concerns about performance at the low end. That creates an opportunity for a head-on collision between a giant corporation and the leader of the Linux hackers.



Is there trouble or conflict brewing as a result? Not a bit. IBM has a project in plain sight on SourceForge to rewrite the scheduler from scratch. According to Frye, the scheduler project is "one of the projects that the kernel development conference next month is invited in to hear about, and I think that the meritocracy will apply to this project as well, in that if we show that we have a good design for the scheduler, that it improves scalability [and] doesn't substantially impact performance in a small number of processes, we'll get accepted." Call it enlightened self-interest or whatever you prefer, but I like IBM's approach. Especially because in the past few months, the trade press has raised the specter of IBM "hijacking" Linux for its own purposes.



What else is on the LTC event horizon?

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