Oracle updates its Linux kernel with new advanced file system

Oracle's Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel Release 2 supports the cutting-edge Btrfs file system

Oracle has updated the kernel of its Linux distribution to take advantage of the latest Linux advances, the company announced Tuesday.

It also previewed a number of new features, including a module for the widely anticipated DTrace Linux debugger.

Version 2 of Oracle's Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel, the company's version of the Linux kernel that powers its Oracle Linux distribution, is the first to be based on version 3.0 of the Linux mainline kernel, released last July.

"Many of the improvements in the kernel come from within the mainline kernel," said Sergio Leunissen, Oracle's vice president for Linux product management and business development. "We do a lot of testing on the mainline kernel with [heavy duty] workloads relevant for our customer base."

With this update, Oracle Linux will be among the first Linux distributions to offer full support for the new Btrfs file system, which could help organizations manage large amounts of information. It will also put into production the latest kernel advances such as better memory management and better support for virtualization.

Linux 3.0 was the first version of the kernel to support the Btrfs next-generation file system. Btrfs can manage up to 16 exabytes of data in one namespace, which should ease the burden of data management for organizations with that much material. It provides the ability to automatically back up data and a way to do RAID backups without external controllers. It also is optimized for solid-state hard drives, rather than the drives based on spinning disks.

"Btrfs is a fully featured file system and I think the consensus will be that it will be the future default file system for Linux," Leunissen said.

With regard to memory usage, the Linux kernel now can automatically organize memory blocks in larger segments, which, in turn, reduces the amount of processing needed for memory management. This version of the kernel is also the first with built-in support for the Xen hypervisor, which should speed performance of virtual guests using that hypervisor.

In addition to these updates, Oracle's version of the kernel will feature two notable technical previews of technologies being planned for future editions of the software. While neither technology is ready for production use, both can be tested by administrators who want to plan for the future.

One new feature is a built-in DTrace module. DTrace is a tool for dynamically tracing program threads as they run. Long available for the Oracle Solaris operating system, this highly regarded debugging tool has been coveted by Linux developers, who have long wished for a version of the software for Linux.

Also borrowing from Solaris is another preview technology called Linux Containers. Like Solaris Containers, Linux Containers allow multiple isolated Linux deployments to run, in a low-overhead virtualized mode, on the same kernel. The administrator can set the amount of resources each virtualized deployment, or container, may use.

This new kernel, based on Linux 3.0.16, can be installed on version 5 or 6 of Oracle Linux. Oracle Linux is based on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution. This version of the kernel provides all the same RHEL functionality to end-user applications. Oracle also maintains a version of its kernel that is 100 percent internally compatible with Red Hat's own kernel.

Oracle is not alone in updating its Linux distribution with the latest mainline kernel. Last month, Suse updated its Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), which also takes advantage of the many new features in Linux 3.0 as well.

Users can install the new kernel without rebooting their systems, using Oracle KSplice software.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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