2009 Linux Symposium
Your editor made a brief visit to the
Montreal for the first time. One of the talks which could be seen during
that short time was an update on kernel.org, presented by John Hawley. It
was an interesting look into a bit of infrastructure that many of us rely
upon, but which we tend to take for granted.
The "state of the server address" started off with the traditional display
of bizarre email sent to kernel.org. Suffice to say, the kernel.org
administrators get a lot of strange mail. They also have no qualms about
displaying that mail (lightly sanitized) for amusement value.
The board of kernel.org is currently made up of five people: H. Peter
Anvin, Jeff Uphoff, Chris Wright, Kees Cook, and Linus Torvalds. Linus, it
is said, never attends the board meetings; John assumes that he's busy
doing something related to the kernel. Peter continues to serve as the
president of the organization, doing the work required to keep it as a
nonprofit corporation in good standing.
Much of the rest of the work is done by John, who was hired in September,
2008, to be the first full-time system administrator for kernel.org. He is
employed by the Linux Foundation to do this job.
Over the last year, kernel.org has handled the mirroring a of a number of
major distribution releases. They have added two new distributions (Gentoo
and Moblin) to the mirror network, and Slackware is being added into the
mix now. A number of new wiki instances have been added to wiki.kernel.org. John says that wikis
are easy to create; he encourages relevant projects to ask for a kernel.org
wiki if it would be helpful.
Internally, kernel.org runs on ten "disgustingly nice" machines donated by
HP. John was strong in his praise of HP and ISC (which provides the bulk
of the considerable bandwidth used by kernel.org); without them, kernel.org
would not function the way it does. Beyond ISC, there are a couple of
machines hosted at the OSU open source lab and one at Umeå University
in Sweden. A lengthy process has finally gotten all of these machines
upgraded to Fedora 9 - just in time, John noted wryly, for Fedora to end
support for that distribution. So another round of upgrades in in the
works for the near future.
Another significant change over the last year is the adoption of GeoDNS for the kernel.org
domains. GeoDNS enables the DNS server to take the location of the
requesting system into account and return the addresses of an appropriate
set of servers. So kernel.org users now use local kernel.org mirrors, even if
they do not explicitly ask for one using a country-specific host name.
One upcoming initiative is archive.kernel.org. This site is
intended to be a permanent archive for older distribution updates. Should
somebody find the urge to, say, install Red Hat Linux 5 on a system,
it can be satisfied by a visit to archive.kernel.org. Filling in the
archive is a work in progress; a number of older distribution releases seem
to have fallen off the net. But, experience shows, many of the older
releases will be located over time.
Another work in progress is "boot.kernel.org". This site is intended to be
a repository of network-bootable distributions. The distributor can
create a tiny boot image which does little more than setting up the network
and downloading the next stage from boot.kernel.org. The idea here is
that it will become easy to boot rescue or live CD distributions from the
net. Distributions which support network installation can also be hosted
on boot.kernel.org. This feature should be ready for a public launch
sometime in the near future.
John closed with more amusing email. But, silliness aside, it seems clear
that kernel.org is on a solid foundation. It is supporting our community
areas going well beyond the kernel itself, and it looks well set to
continue doing so for some time.
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