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The Scalability of Linus 239

Posted by kdawson
from the single-point dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Katherine Noyes writes at LinuxInsider that it may be time for Linus Torvalds to share more of the responsibility for Linux that he's been shouldering. 'If Linux wants to keep up with the competition there is much work to do, more than even a man of Linus's skill [can] accomplish,' argues one user. The 'scalability of Linus' is the subject of a post by Jonathan Corbet wondering if there might there be a Linus scalability crunch point coming. 'The Linux kernel development process stands out in a number of ways; one of those is the fact that there is exactly one person who can commit code to the "official" repository,' Corbet writes. A problem with that scenario is the potential for repeats of what Corbet calls 'the famous "Linus burnout" episode of 1998' when everything stopped for a while until Linus rested a bit, came back, and started merging patches again. 'If Linus is to retain his central position in Linux kernel development, the community as a whole needs to ensure that the process scales and does not overwhelm him,' Corbet adds. But many don't agree. 'Don't be fooled that Linus has to scale — he has to work hard, but he is the team captain and doorman. He has thousands doing most of the work for him. He just has to open the door at the appropriate moment,' writes Robert Pogson, adding that Linus 'has had lots of practice and still has fire in his belly.'"
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The Scalability of Linus

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  • by psergiu (67614) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:32AM (#33002162)

    "What If Linus Torvalds Gets Hit By A Bus?" - An Empirical Study
    by Leonard Richardson

    Published on segfault.org 02/23/2000

    http://www.crummy.com/writing/segfault.org/Bus.html [crummy.com]

    It even coined the "Bus factor" phrase:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor [wikipedia.org]

    • by js3 (319268)

      I don't think Linux will die without Linus, but as long as he's there, he'll be the cock-block until he gets run over by a bus

      • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:05AM (#33002494)
        The problem is not if it will die. Linux itself will likely live on. The question lies in what will ultimately happen to it. There needs to be a succession path, even if it's just that Linus keeps 100% of the control while he's on work, and passes it off only when he gets burnt out or worse.

        Supposing he does get hit by a bus, there will be months of infighting as big egos clash trying to decide who gets control of the kernel. There'll be those who think the official repository should be managed by committee, those saying the single person structure maintained. The subsequent fight will blow out of proportion which will generate many forks and ultimately and dangerously you will end up with uncertainty.

        The best outcome is that there's a plan in place for exactly this kind of situation. That way Linux can remain what Linus wants it's to be in case of his demise rather than to throw it to the dogs and then see what's left over after the frenzy dies.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mewsenews (251487)

          Supposing he does get hit by a bus, there will be months of infighting as big egos clash trying to decide who gets control of the kernel.

          Respectfully, this isn't what I see happening. Linus seems to be a nose-to-the-grindstone pragmatist and the only person who hopes to succeed him will not arrive through politics. The currently official kernel organization might collapse in bickering if Linus gets hit by a bus, but the true workers will quickly find someone like Linus to quietly organize their efforts and

    • I fixed the wiki article to better represent the reference it had. You can thank me latter.
    • by swillden (191260)

      It even coined the "Bus factor" phrase:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor [wikipedia.org]

      That article didn't coin the phrase. I don't know where it originated, but I remember hearing and using it in the mid-90s.

  • and what (Score:2, Insightful)

    by segin (883667)
    Linux is Linus's creation, he should have ultimate commit decision power
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      just because he started a open-source project does not mean he owns it. It's like the stock market, as soon as the comited patches dwarf your original work, you are not the dominant share holder.

      • Re:and what (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Aladrin (926209) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:44AM (#33002302)

        It's his project, no matter the contributions of others. Anyone is free to fork it. They are not free to take the actual project from him.

        He is free to run it as a dictatorship or a democracy. It's his project.

      • "just because he started a open-source project does not mean he owns it."

        To all practical purposes he does own his tree. And due to the GPL license that's no problem at all: you can own your own tree as soon as you want and be as zelous or as liberal as you want with it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dangitman (862676)

          And due to the GPL license that's no problem at all: you can own your own tree as soon as you want and be as zelous or as liberal as you want with it.

          No, you can't. The GPL places limits on both liberalness and zealotry.

          The license prohibits liberalness, because you are only allowed to share source code under strict conditions. It prohibits zealotry, because it ensures that others are free to fork a project and not bow to your vision of a project.

          • "The license prohibits liberalness, because you are only allowed to share source code under strict conditions. It prohibits zealotry, because it ensures that others are free to fork a project and not bow to your vision of a project."

            Never the less he and he alone maintains the reference kernel source. That's a potential problem. Or- explain to me why it isn't.

            • Re:and what (Score:4, Insightful)

              by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:31AM (#33003550)

              Never the less he and he alone maintains the reference kernel source. That's a potential problem. Or- explain to me why it isn't.

              It is only the reference insofar that distributions tend to work off of it. It would be just as easy for them technically to use a random other git tree as the reference, if they chose to do so. However, Linus is doing such a good job these days that non-enterprise distributions just stick with his sources + a limited set of patches. If he stops doing a good job (like in the hit-by-bus scenario which seems so popular), there are several well-maintained trees to pick from, and Linux would only be a little worse off.

              The most important advantage of Linus is that his decisions are almost universally respected. It would be difficult even for David Miller and Alan Cox to get the same universal buy-in, and Andrew Morton is possibly too nice for the job.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by steveb3210 (962811) *

            The license prohibits liberalness, because you are only allowed to share source code under strict conditions.

            What in the hell are you talking about? The GPL restricts your ability to share binary-only versions of your tree. It explicitly requires you to *always* share your source code when you are making a public release. There are no limitations at all.

  • food (Score:5, Funny)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:43AM (#33002290)

    ...and still has fire in his belly

    Perhaps he should eat less Mexican food.

  • by AbbeyRoad (198852) <p@2038bug.com> on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:47AM (#33002316) Homepage

    The Linux kernel is not a company. Free software projects are a new kind of entity.

    The debate is still open about whether it is correct to level "They should..." instructions at this kind of entity.

    Possibly "I should..." statements are more appropriate.

    -paul

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      It's also possible to found your own nation every time you disagree with a new US law. But it's certainly not realistic or practical to do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:50AM (#33002342)

    That will solve this problem once and for all.

  • PREPARE THE ELECTRODES!
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:58AM (#33002438)
    We've been on 2.6.X since 2003. Somebody needs to pull the cork out ...
  • Linus 'has had lots of practice and still has fire in his belly.

    He should really lay off the vindaloos

  • Here I was thinking that this was some article about whether or not Linus Torvalds should or could have children.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      er, are you implying the three he has now have the mailman's eyes....???

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tjebbe (36955)

      Perhaps on a related note, I was thinking that while Linus has obviously scaled vertically to his full extent, there is still plenty of room for him to scale horizontally.

  • Linuxinsider (Score:5, Informative)

    by Airline_Sickness_Bag (111686) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:21AM (#33002684)

    Anything from Linuxinsider I would take with a healty dose of skepticism - it's better known for their anti linux shills.

  • The failure in the argument is to assume that Linus' kernel is in any way "official". Distribution maintainers don't think that way at all.

  • by Bobtree (105901) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:37AM (#33002892)

    Linus is monolithic.

  • Open source?

  • by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#33004432)

    Linus is at the top now because he does a very good job and people trust him. The actual development is done by thousands of developers (around 3000 contributors / release currently), number increasing. It sales just fine.

    The way he is accomplishing this, is by using a network of trust (he talk about it in his talk about git [youtube.com]).

    This is very scalable, as he is not actually checking out every peace of code, he just merges them.

    What would happen if he would suddenly go crazy or hit by a bus? The answer is simple: one of the core maintainers, like for instance Andrew Morton would take over the position. General development would continue as it is now, as Linus talked often about how and why he runs things the way he does, and many people agree with him there.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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