LWN conference coverage index
One need only have a quick look at the
understand that our community does not lack for opportunities to get
together. A relatively recent addition to the list of Linux-related
conferences is the series of "Linaro Connect" events. Recently, your editor was
finally able to attend one of these gatherings: Linaro Connect Asia in Hong
Kong. Various talks of
interest have been covered in separate articles; this article will focus on
the event itself.
Linaro is an industry consortium dedicated
to improving the functionality and performance of Linux on the ARM
processor; its list of members includes many of
the companies working in this area. Quite a bit of engineering work is
done under the Linaro banner, to the point that it was the source of 4.6% of the changes going into
the 3.8 kernel. A lot of Linaro's developers are employed by member
companies and assigned to Linaro, but the number of developers employed by
Linaro directly has been growing steadily. All told, there are hundreds of
people whose work is related to Linaro in some way.
Given that those people work for a lot of different companies and are
spread across the world, it makes sense that they would all want to get
together on occasion. That is the purpose of the Linaro Connect events.
These conferences are open to any interested attendee, but they are focused
on Linaro employees and assignees who otherwise would almost never see each
other. The result is that, in some ways, Linaro Connect resembles an
internal corporate get-together more than a traditional Linux conference.
So, for example, the opening session was delivered by George Grey, Linaro's
CEO; he used it to update attendees on recent developments in the Linaro
organization. The Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG) was announced last November; at this point there
are 25 engineers working with LEG and 14 member companies. More recently,
the Linaro Networking Group was announced
as an initiative to support the use of ARM processors in networking
equipment. This group has 12 member companies, two of which have yet to
decloak and identify themselves.
Life is good in the ARM world, George said; some 8.7 billion ARM chips were
shipped in 2012. There are many opportunities for expansion, not the least
of which is the data center. He pointed out that, in the US, data centers
are responsible for 2.2% of all energy use; ARM provides the opportunity to
reduce power costs considerably. The "Internet of things" is also a
natural opportunity for ARM, though it brings its own challenges, not the
least of which is security: George noted that he really does not want his
heart rate to be broadcast to the world as a whole. And, he said, the
upcoming 64-bit ARMv8 architecture is "going to change everything."
The event resembled a company meeting in other ways; for example, one of
the talks on the first day was an orientation for new employees and assignees.
Others were mentoring sessions aimed at helping developers learn how to get
code merged upstream. One of the sessions on the final day was for the
handing out of awards to the people who have done the most to push Linaro's
objectives forward. And a large part of the schedule (every afternoon,
essentially) was dedicated to hacking sessions aimed at the solution of
specific problems. It was, in summary, a focused, task-oriented gathering
meant to help Linaro meet its goals.
There were also traditional talk sessions, though the hope was for them to
be highly interactive and task-focused as well. Your editor was amused to
hear the standard complaint of conference organizers everywhere: despite
their attempts to set up and facilitate discussions, more and more of the
sessions seem to be turning into lecture-style presentations with one person
talking at the audience. That said, your editor's overall impression was
of an event with about 350 focused developers doing their best to get a lot
of useful work done.
If there is a complaint to be made about Linaro Connect, it would be that
the event, like much in the mobile and embedded communities, is its own
world with limited connections to the broader community. Its sessions
offered help on how to work with upstream; your editor, in his talk,
suggested that Linaro's developers might want to work harder to be
the upstream. ARM architecture maintainer Russell King was recently heard to complain about Linaro Connect, saying
that it works outside the community and that "It can be viewed as
corporate takeover of open source." It is doubtful that many see
Linaro in that light; indeed, even Russell might not really view things in
such a harsh way. But Linaro Connect does feel just a little bit isolated
from the development community as a whole.
In any case, that is a relatively minor quibble. It is clear that the ARM
community would like to be less isolated, and Linaro, through its strong
focus on getting code upstream, is helping to make that happen.
Contributions from the mobile and embedded communities have been steadily
increasing for the last few years, to the point that they now make up a
significant fraction of the changes going into the kernel. That can be
expected to increase further as ARM developers become more confident in
their ability to work with the core kernel, and as ARM processors move into
new roles. Chances are, in a few years, we'll have a large set of
recently established kernel developers, and that quite a few of them
will have gotten their start at events like Linaro Connect.
[Your editor would like to thank Linaro for travel assistance to attend
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