A Tokyo Travelogue

Corbet's picture

So I’ve just returned from Tokyo, where I attended the 2009 Kernel Summit and the first ever Japan Linux Symposium. My body clock is expected sometime later this week. It was a tiring but rewarding week, and not just because the sushi was so good.

The Kernel Summit went well. There are not a whole lot of earthshaking decisions to report from there; the real news seems to be that the process is working quite well despite the record pace of change and no serious changes are required.

Perhaps the most interesting session was how Google uses Linux, led by Mike Waychison. Mike gave us a much clearer view of how the Linux kernel is employed in Google’s production systems than we have ever had before. It was interesting to see the extreme pressures put on Linux by Google’s workload and the equally extreme responses that Google has had to make.

People in the community often complain that engineers who go to work for Google disappear into a black hole and are never heard from again. At the Summit we got a sense for what goes on in that black hole. We also learned a bit about how much it has cost Google to stray as far from the mainline kernel as it has. There is now an effort underway there to work more with the development community and run something which looks more like a mainline Linux kernel. Google should benefit through lower development and maintenance costs and a better ability to get support from the community. And the community will benefit from Google’s contributions and its experience running massive clusters of Linux systems at the limit of their capabilities. It looks like a winning move for everybody involved.

The Japan Linux Symposium was the first large-scale development conference to be held in that part of the world. It was a great success. Developers from all over east Asia come to present their work and talk with their peers. For the curious, I’ve written up a report from JLS with more information. JLS plans to return next year, and I can only wish it the best success.

It’s worth noting that everything worked exceptionally well for a first-time conference. Our Japanese hosts welcomed everybody and treated them to a well-run event. The Linux Foundation folks did a great job, but that’s just normal for events they work on anymore. Overall, it’s hard to find something to complain about, with the possible exception of the damage done to my wallet in all those Akihabara technology stores. There may be some stress when family finances are next discussed, but that’s life.