The 2008 kernel summit

Corbet's picture

The agenda for the 2008 kernel summit has been posted. The summit is an annual, invitation-only event which is typically attended by 70-80 developers. It is a rare opportunity to bring part of the kernel community together for focused discussions on topics which affect the kernel as a whole.

What sorts of topics are those? In recent years, the summit has tended to emphasize process-oriented issues - those are the kinds of discussions which are hardest to have over electronic mail. So, for example, there will be a discussion on just when device drivers should be merged. There is a weak consensus that getting drivers into the kernel early is a good idea, but there are hazards there too: a premature driver merger can freeze a bad user-space API in place, and the UVC webcam driver, merged very late in the 2.6.26 cycle, brought a security vulnerability with it. So the real answer to “when should drivers be merged?” has yet to be found; we’ll see if the summit discussion gets any closer.

One of the reasons why the kernel process works as smoothly as it does is that many of its subsystems are strictly independent of the others. A developer working on sound drivers need not worry about breaking the memory management code, for example. Some subsystems have strong ties with others, though; for example, i2c drivers end up being core subcomponents of video drivers, hardware monitoring subsystems, and quite a bit more. In cases like this, making changes which don’t break other parts of the kernel can be hard; there is a session this year dedicated to figuring out ways to make that interaction have more smoothly.

Other process-oriented discussions include a session on tools, kernel quality (a perennial kernel summit topic), documentation, helping new developers join the community, and the organization of the kernel summit itself.

There will be some more technical sessions as well. The interaction between filesystems and the block layer is one of those; there is a lot happening in the filesystems area currently, and that has implications for how the higher-level code works. Boot-time tools - currently maintained independently by each distributor - will be discussed with an eye toward unifying some of that code. Improving suspend and resume - another longstanding topic - will be back this year. And, of course, there is no escaping a discussion on tracing, an area where Linux should excel but where things have not, yet, come together as they should.

Finally, for the third year, the kernel summit will hold an election for the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board (TAB). Six of the board’s ten slots will be filled this year; as of this writing, there are ten candidates (including five incumbents). This time around, the election has been made part of the joint reception with the Linux Plumbers Conference, which will allow more people to participate in the process.

It’s worth noting that, among many other things, the Linux Foundation has helped with the organization of both the kernel summit and the Plumbers Conference. There have been few developer-oriented events in the United States in recent years; I’m actually looking forward to going to a conference which doesn’t involve customs formalities. Thanks to the Linux Foundation (and the many other people involved) for helping to make these events happen.