Linux Unites With Android, Adds Business-friendly Features
By Jason Kennedy, PCWorldMar 19, 2012 6:10 pm PDT
Linux founder Linus Torvalds announced the release of the 3.3 Linux kernel on Sunday, bringing a host of fixes and updates that were long overdue–most importantly, the merging of Android into the main Linux source tree.
Now, developers and hardware vendors can plan to build (and build on) Android-compatible Linux devices, and utilize Linux advances that haven’t made it to Android beforehand. The code integration, a long time in coming, puts to rest the idea that ideological and technical differences would interfere with ever bridging the two kernels.
Since Android is open source, anyone can work on its code to create something new and wonderful; Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which is using the older Android 2.2 kernel, springs to mind. And with this merging of code, a much wider base of programmers will be able to work on additions and enhancements to improve Android.
This means that the Linux community can now fully support the Android mobile OS, and that theoretically you’d be able to boot an Android device with an unchanged, base Linux 3.3 kernel.
For typical users, there won’t be a noticeable change, but for Android developers it will be a godsend enabling easier migration and support for issues that crop up when working on new kernels for phones or customized ROMs. (A ROM is a customized image flashed on your rooted or “jailbroken” mobile device to add extra functionality, such as overclocking or further customization.)
It might also lead companies beyond Amazon try to make a play at creating their own mobile operating systems, based off of Google’s Android success.
In addition, this release offers a ton of changes to benefit enterprise-level companies running Linux systems.
Another important change is teaming, a replacement for the current bonding driver that is used in the creation of virtual interfaces. You will now be able to make a virtual interface that merges together multiple ethernet devices for speed and reliability applications. Teaming is a large improvement over the current round-robin style mode on virtual interfaces, which had each interface sending a packet at a time, one after the other.
Version 3.3. also introduces the new capability to restripe Btrfs, the scalable Linux filesystem designed for large enterprise storage systems. Striping means creating a logical volume atop multiple drives. Your system will see one disk, and your data will span from one to the next to maximize the speed in which it’s accessed. You can have many drives connected in this fashion, and when they fill up, re-striping the drives is a chore for systems as the data has to be moved in the proper order.
But now, if you run out of space in a striped volume, you can add a disk and re-stripe the logical volume over all of the disks. This will be a godsend to IT departments that currently only run time-consuming drive replacements at night. The new Btrfs can pause and resume a balance operation, give updates as to status of the distribution, and even restripe between RAID levels.
The addition of Open vSwitch to the mainline Linux kernel is another important addition. Open vSwitch will replace the Linux bridge in the case of more complex switching needs, such as for virtualized server environments. It supports all of the management interface standards, and it’s compatible with modern switching chipsets. Being able to change to a different RAID level in Btrfs is an added bonus, and the newly included balancing and debugging tools will keep that operation easy to manage and efficient.
With additional updates to network priority traffic, EFI boot support, memory management, cryptography, and security, the 3.3 kernel is a big deal. It even introduces support for a new hardware architecture, TI C6X from Texas Instruments. If your business runs the cutting edge of Linux hardware and software, this is an upgrade you don’t want to miss.
Jason Kennedy is an IBM-trained systems administrator turned writer interested in all things Linux, mobile, and science-related. He’s a curator of terrible sci-fi movie and book knowledge, and a reformed competitive FPS and MMO gamer. Find Jason on Twitter and Google+.