Linux lab nabs another key developer

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has some talented company at his new job.

On Wednesday, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), the industry consortium that hired Torvalds two weeks ago, announced that it has also signed up Andrew Morton, the man who Torvalds chose in January of this year to maintain the upcoming Linux 2.6 kernel.

The idea to have Morton, an Australian, work at OSDL came from Torvalds, as the 2.6 maintainer was casting about for ways to have what amounted to a full-time volunteer job sponsored. "Linus suggested, 'Maybe OSDL would help you out,' and that's what did happen," said Morton.

Morton is a well-regarded developer who has been heavily involved in developing the experimental 2.5 kernel, which will form the basis of 2.6.

"Andrew is already doing a ton of cool 2.5 stuff and he has the right people skills, which are really important for a kernel maintainer. He's also fairly independent and not the kind of person people fear can be led astray from doing the right thing. Most importantly he has (as Linus would put it) 'taste,'" said Linux developer Alan Cox in an e-mail interview.

Morton's new job as 2.6 maintainer does not appear to be far away.

A pre-release version of the 2.6 kernel will probably come out "in the next few weeks," Morton estimated. The pre-release, which would be called 2.6.0pre1, would be a sign that the Linux 2.6 kernel was nearing completion. "(It's) our way of telling the world, 'Hey, we need more people to start testing this, please,' and also telling the developers that things are starting to shut down."

The move is the latest in a series of steps that OSDL has made to increase its profile in the Linux industry. "Our role is really (to be) a place where the development community, the IT vendors, and the user community can all come together," said Stuart Cohen, OSDL's chief executive officer.

"We are transforming OSDL from a passive to an active organization," said Steve Geary, director of Hewlett Packard's Linux and Open Source Lab, and a participant in OSDL. When it was established in 2000, OSDL was designed to give Linux developers access to the expensive multiprocessor systems that they might not otherwise be able to afford, but in the last two years OSDL has expanded its charter, fostering carrier-grade Linux and data center Linux development projects.

Not counting Torvalds and Morton, OSDL now employs eight kernel developers working on Linux's I/O subsystem, TCP/IP stack, and in performance tuning, as part of an effort to "really bolster our work with the development community," Cohen said.

To get enterprise users more involved, OSDL will gather ten to fifteen enterprise Linux users at its first customer advisory board in New York this July. "We want to identify the things that are needed. If DaimlerChrysler (Corp.) is going to roll out a global enterprise deployment of Linux, what is it that they need?" Cohen said.

The increased visibility from the recent hires hasn't hurt OSDL's recruitment efforts, Cohen said. "I'm getting a lot of resumes and a lot of emails from people who want to come work for me now that Linus and Andrew are here," he said.

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