|< Free Open Study >|| |
The Linux world is a very active place. Believe it or not, this book really focuses exclusively on traditional applications of Linux systems. In fact, there's a great deal of research and engineering going on to push Linux (the kernel) in directions that few—or perhaps even no—operating systems have gone before. Here are a few initiatives, traditional and otherwise, that may impact the future of Linux.
The world today is an increasingly complicated and dangerous place, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of computing. Information security has become the top priority of many major corporations, and undoubtedly interest will only continue to grow.
Linux, of course, gets its share of this attention. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), for example, is spearheading an effort to develop a "Security-Enhanced" Linux kernel, SE-Linux. You can find more information at http://www.nsa.gov/selinux/. The NSA also supports many smaller-scale security-related projects. Private companies and other organizations are also developing technologies such as encrypted filesystems, secure networking and VPN technologies, and kernel-level security features.
As information security becomes increasingly prominent in the industry, watch for similar progress to be made in the Linux arena.
There is much debate today (some objective, much not so objective) about whether Linux (as a kernel) is "ready for the enterprise." The answer to this is probably a matter of professional opinion, and like anything else, there are things Linux is good at and things it is poor at. This situation is also true for whether Linux is "ready for the desktop."
However, it's an indisputable truth that a vast amount of engineering effort is taking place to improve the performance of the Linux kernel in a number of areas. Some of these improvements are to make a good thing better, and others are to address pronounced weaknesses. Effort is ongoing in both server and desktop performance areas.
For example, there are a number of projects to improve the kernel's performance and features as a server. There are several journaling filesystems in development, with status ranging from production-ready to deep academic research. On the desktop side, there are several efforts to improve the responsiveness of the core "virtual machine" to provide for smoother performance on desktop systems.
With companies joining the free and open source software movement (and providing the accompanying financial resources), you should expect to see a lot of progress on Linux and Linux-based operating systems in the coming years. Who knows, maybe someday Linux really will achieve world domination.
Some people claim that there's a sea change underway in the computing industry. The point to rapid growth in the wireless and "embedded systems" markets as proof that the world is migrating away from wired desktop systems toward the somewhat ill-defined notion of "mobile computing." Here again, Linux is being stretched and squeezed to fit into this potential new world order.
Like any new area, this is an extremely nebulous field. It's hard to pin down exactly what "embedded computing" means, for example. However, given current trends, you can be pretty sure that wherever the world goes, Linux will be there, too. There are a number of companies that are working toward scaling Linux to fit into embedded devices, and there are even several companies releasing actual handheld computing devices that run Linux.
There's already at least one Linux-based PDA on the market—namely, Sharp's Zaurus SL-5500 product, which you can find today in your local electronics store.You can find information on the Zaurus at Sharp's web site (http://www.sharp-usa.com).
Actually, Linux itself (that is, the kernel) is pretty lean and mean to begin with, so it takes a comparatively small amount of effort to get Linux to run on embedded devices. However, by now you should realize that most of the real work gets done not by the kernel, but by the distribution that runs on it. So, the task of developing embedded Linux is less a task of kernel development than it is developing the distribution—the user interface, system libraries, and so on. Expect to see a lot of work in this area in coming years, as well.
|< Free Open Study >|| |