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Linux 3.8 'Unicycling Gorilla' Accelerates Server Filesystems

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted February 19, 2013


Some Linux kernel releases have more colorful names than others. Linux creator Linus Torvalds released the Linux 3.8 kernel on Monday, giving it the codename Unicycling Gorilla.

The release could have just as easily been given a more mainstream date-driven name as well.

"The release got delayed a couple of days because I was waiting for confirmation of a small patch, but hey, we could also say that it was all intentional, and that this is the special Presidents' Day Release," Torvalds wrote in his Linux 3.8 release announcement message. "It sounds more planned that way, no?"

The Linux 3.8 release is the first new Linux kernel release of 2013 and follows the Linux 3.7 kernel, which debuted in December. Among the big items in the Linux 3.7 release was improved support for the ARM processor architecture. In contrast, the Linux 3.8 kernel does not add an processor architecture; instead, it is removing one. Linux - Rounded

Linux 3.8 is the first Linux kernel since the creation of the open source operating system by Linus Torvalds to not support the Intel 386 chip architecture. The change is technically known as "Nuke 386-DX/SX support."

"This tree removes ancient-386-CPUs support and thus zaps quite a bit of complexity," Linux kernel developer Ingo Molnar wrote in the Linux Kernel Mailing list message to Linus Torvalds, proposing the removal of 386 support. "Unfortunately, there's a nostalgic cost: your old original 386 DX33 system from early 1991 won't be able to boot modern Linux kernels anymore. Sniff."

Filesystem Improvements

The Linux 3.8 kernel provides a number of filesystem improvements to Linux users and servers. Among them is the new F2FS (Flash Friendly FileSystem) that is being contributed by Samsung.

"F2FS is a new file system carefully designed for NAND flash memory-based storage devices," Samsung explains. "We chose a log structure file system approach, but we tried to adapt it to the new form of storage. Also, we remedy some known issues of the very old log structured file system, such as snowball effect of wandering tree and high cleaning overhead."

Btrfs

Linux 3.8 also introduces performance improvements to the next generation Btrfs filesystem, now used by multiple Linux distributions. Btrfs will benefit in Linux 3.8 from the enhanced use of scrub code.

"The scrub code is the most efficient code to read the allocated data of a disk, i.e. it reads sequentially in order to avoid disk head movements, it skips unallocated blocks, it uses read ahead mechanisms, and it contains all the code to detect and repair defects," Linux kernel developer Stefan Behrens wrote in his kernel commit message.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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