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Linux 2017 in Review: Five New Linux Kernels Debut

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted December 29, 2017

Year after year, Linux development continues to move forward and 2017 was no exception. Over the course of 2017, five major Linux kernel milestones were released, providing new driver support and expanded functionality for the kernel that powers the majority of enterprise server systems in use today.

Linux 4.10

The first new Linux kernel of 2017 debuted on Feb. 19 with Linux 4.10. Linux Servers in 2017Among the noteworthy additions in the Linux 4.10 kernel was preliminary support for the new IEE 802.11ai Fast Initial Linux Setup (FILS) WiFi networking approach that offers the promise of extremely fast connections for wireless networks.

On the whole, 4.10 didn't end up as small as it initially looked," Linus Torvalds wrote in his release announcement for Linux 4.10. "After the huge release that was 4.09, I expected things to be pretty quiet, but it ended up very much a fairly average release by modern kernel standards."

Linux 4.10 also introduced  Virtual GPU support, or what Intel calls GVT-g for KVM.

Linux 4.11

Linux 4.11 was officially released  on April 30.

Among the capabilities introduced in Linux 4.11 are improvements to scaling and swapping Solid State Drive (SSDs) for storage. In a kernel commit message, Intel developer Ying Huang wrote that the coming generation of SSD devices have latencies that are down to sub 100 usec, which is within an order of magnitude of DRAM memory.

Linux 4.12

The third major release of the Linux kernel in 2017 debuted on July 2 with Linux 4.12.

Linux 4.12 introduced a pair of new scheduling systems for Linux, including the Budget Fair Queuing (BFQ) I/O scheduler.

"BFQ grants exclusive access to the device, for a while, to one queue (process) at a time, and implements this service model by associating every queue with a budget, measured in number of sectors," developer Paolo Valente wrote in his commit message.

Linux 4.13

Linux 4.13 became generally available on Sept. 3 over the Labor Day weekend.

Linux 4.13 debuted the new Kernel Transport Layer Security (KTLS) implementation, providing improved HTTPS encryption performance.  Normally TLS encryption is handled outside of the Linux kernel in what is known as the user space section of Linux.

"In-kernel implementations provide new opportunities for optimization of TLS," Facebook engineer Dave Watson wrote in a research paper. "Our implementation saves up to 7 percent CPU copy overhead and up to 10 percent latency improvements when combined with the Kernel Connection Multiplexor (KCM)."

Linux 4.14

The final Linux kernel of 2017 was the 4.14 release, which arrived on Nov. 12. Linux 4.14 has been designated as a Long Term Support (LTS) release and will be receiving security updates for at least the next two years.

Among the new capabilities that landed in the Linux 4.14 update is the possibility for larger memory capacity utilization.


Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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