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Linux turns 25: Containers, cloud and IoT present new opportunities

By Matthew Finnegan | Aug. 26, 2016
The open source OS still has room to grow

Maintaining a focus both on the development of enterprise distributions and other fast-moving areas such as the internet of things will be a challenge, according to Igor Ljubuncic, principal engineer at Rackspace.

"Overall, the kernel development will remain tightly controlled and focused on the business, both in the short and long term," says Ljubuncic. "This model is not likely to change much, even though there will be more collaboration across industries."

He adds that the biggest challenges, however, come from the rest of the ecosystem: "This is going to keep on evolving at an exponential pace, to the point where the increased fragmentation will become unsustainable and there will be a convergence toward standards, most likely forced by the big players."


Another of the major successes for Linux in recent years has been the huge interest in containers - described by some as a potential replacement for virtual machines.

Cloud Foundry CEO, Sam Ramji, highlights Google's donation of cgroup -- a key element of the Linux kernel that enables containerisation -- as perhaps "the most significant change to the trajectory of Linux" and one which will continue to meet demand for cloud applications and the internet of things.

"Containers as a metaphor for isolation has made Linux not only the default operating system for cloud computing, but the standard to which even Windows aspires," he says, adding that containers in Windows "are based on the interfaces standardised in Linux."

"In the next several years as cloud computing dominates IT, Linux will need to support complex cloud provider relationships ("multi-multi-tenancy") and ever-more secure and lightweight compute packages for IoT deployments. I expect that we'll see a lot more development of Linux capabilities for containers in the near future."

Internet of Things

Earlier this year the Linux Foundation announced the Zephyr project -- a small-footprint kernel designed for running on IoT devices with limited resource.

Cloud Foundry's Ramji says the approach used in IoT projects could have an impact on wider Linux development.

Ramji explains: "Dynamically generated microkernels such as demonstrated by Unik can help bind the application to 'just enough OS' for deployment to global clouds, local clouds, and even IoT environments including devices and gateways."

"This will probably put pressure on Linux to demonstrate just how small and finely tuned it can get. Will it make sense to dynamically generate Linux distributions to support applications in a container-based data centre? The drive for compute density is going to be a high-priority area for Linux."

Last week Google also announced it is working on its own operating system, Fuschia, which doesn't make use of the Linux kernel. This could one day offer an alternative platform for Android and other small computing devices, but it is extremely early days for the project.


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