March 21, 2006 3:36 PM PST

Linux gets built-in Cell processor support

Linus Torvalds released a new Linux kernel Monday that supports features in IBM's Cell processor, includes Oracle software for clustered databases and improves how the open-source operating system runs on multiprocessor systems.

As is customary, Torvalds announced version 2.6.16 on the Linux kernel mailing list Monday.

Linux is technically just a kernel, but the term often is used to refer to the entire operating system built around that kernel. Linux sellers such as Red Hat and Novell use their own variations of the kernel that Torvalds releases at kernel.org, but they generally are reluctant to deviate too far from what amounts to a standard.

The Cell support should mean an easier time for IBM as it tries to encourage people to buy Cell servers later this year. The unusual processor also is used in Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3 game console, but IBM expects it to be used for high-performance computing tasks such as medical image processing as well. Cell has a main PowerPC processing engine supplemented by eight special-purpose cores that run tiny programs of their own.

Programming Cell is tough, but support in Linux could ease the challenges. The new kernel includes the SPU (synergistic programming unit) file system, which lets software control and communicate with the different processor cores.

Cell isn't the only multicore processor where Linux work is taking place. Torvalds accepted a number of patches Tuesday so Linux will run on Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers, according to David Miller, the lead Linux-on-Sparc programmer, who posted the news on his blog.

The UltraSparc T1 has eight cores. Though it typically runs Sun's Solaris operating system, Sun wants to build support for Linux as well.

The new kernel has the Oracle Cluster File System as well. This software governs how a single pool of data is shared by a group of servers, a crucial element of Oracle efforts to make clusters of low-end computers a viable database alternative to expensive multiprocessor servers.

OCFS version 2 is part of Suse Linux Enterprise Server, but Red Hat has its own open-source alternative, the Global File System. GFS isn't part of the mainline kernel, according to the KernelNewbies site.

Linux is most widely used on low-end computers, but work is still under way to adapt it for large multiprocessor systems. One change in this domain is improvement in how Linux handles NUMA--nonuniform memory access.

Large servers most often divide memory so it's in patches near different processors. An operating system tries to make sure a computing task on one processor uses the nearby memory, but sometimes it needs data from a distant, slower-responding area--thus the term "nonuniform" is used to describe access speeds.

The new kernel can move information stored in memory so it's close to the relevant processor without stopping the process using that memory.

See more CNET content tagged:
Linus Torvalds, multiprocessor, kernel, Linux, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server

20 comments

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Tried Linux,,,
It seemed just fine, BUT,,,there is no way that I am going to continue to use cause you have to read way too many manuals just to do basic stuff that Windows or OSX will let me do by just a few clicks at most!

In addition to not being a geek, I don't have the time to search message boards,etc to solve my Linux queries!

Linux is just fine, if you have the time and inclination to learn it, otherwise, it is little more than another way to surf the internet!
Posted by gary85739 (613 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I am sceptical...
Clearly you have never tried Linux as there are no
manuals, unless of course you are speaking about the
online manuals that are easily indexed for you
in the event you have a problem pointing and
clicking your mouse. Try it for real, you won't
be diappointed:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://people.freedesktop.org/~davidr/xgl-demo1.xvid.avi" target="_newWindow">http://people.freedesktop.org/~davidr/xgl-demo1.xvid.avi</a>
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Also...
If Novel's desktop doesn't impress, check out
what Sun has been doing with Linux. I can assure
you that you will be suitably impressed. Considering
this was several years ago, you can clearly see how
far ahead of Windows Linux truly is:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sun.com/software/looking_glass/demo.xml" target="_newWindow">http://www.sun.com/software/looking_glass/demo.xml</a>
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Tried Linux,,,
It seemed just fine, BUT,,,there is no way that I am going to continue to use cause you have to read way too many manuals just to do basic stuff that Windows or OSX will let me do by just a few clicks at most!

In addition to not being a geek, I don't have the time to search message boards,etc to solve my Linux queries!

Linux is just fine, if you have the time and inclination to learn it, otherwise, it is little more than another way to surf the internet!
Posted by gary85739 (613 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I am sceptical...
Clearly you have never tried Linux as there are no
manuals, unless of course you are speaking about the
online manuals that are easily indexed for you
in the event you have a problem pointing and
clicking your mouse. Try it for real, you won't
be diappointed:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://people.freedesktop.org/~davidr/xgl-demo1.xvid.avi" target="_newWindow">http://people.freedesktop.org/~davidr/xgl-demo1.xvid.avi</a>
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Also...
If Novel's desktop doesn't impress, check out
what Sun has been doing with Linux. I can assure
you that you will be suitably impressed. Considering
this was several years ago, you can clearly see how
far ahead of Windows Linux truly is:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sun.com/software/looking_glass/demo.xml" target="_newWindow">http://www.sun.com/software/looking_glass/demo.xml</a>
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Use of Linux on 'majority of computers'....
One comment in this article caught my attention, where Stephen mentions, "Linux is most widely used on low-end computers...."
Now, I'm not sure where that bit of information was sourced from, but from what I understand, about half the servers on the internet are running a Linux OS, and I'd doubt that most of these are low-end machines. I'm sure Google is not using low-end hardware to run their entire server farm. IBM and other top-tier hardware makers certainly would not label the type of computers they're marketing as Linux machines to businesses as low-end.
Perhaps the desktop market end users have distros installed on lower-end computers, but most sources estimate that 'Desktop Linux' makes up a small percentage of overall usage.
Posted by MyBrotherSteve (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually...
One major incentive for businesses to switch to linux (server or desktop) is that they can run it on their existing hardware instead of having to upgrade to support the latest MS bloatware or over-priced Unix boxes.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Use of Linux on 'majority of computers'....
One comment in this article caught my attention, where Stephen mentions, "Linux is most widely used on low-end computers...."
Now, I'm not sure where that bit of information was sourced from, but from what I understand, about half the servers on the internet are running a Linux OS, and I'd doubt that most of these are low-end machines. I'm sure Google is not using low-end hardware to run their entire server farm. IBM and other top-tier hardware makers certainly would not label the type of computers they're marketing as Linux machines to businesses as low-end.
Perhaps the desktop market end users have distros installed on lower-end computers, but most sources estimate that 'Desktop Linux' makes up a small percentage of overall usage.
Posted by MyBrotherSteve (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually...
One major incentive for businesses to switch to linux (server or desktop) is that they can run it on their existing hardware instead of having to upgrade to support the latest MS bloatware or over-priced Unix boxes.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Relevance
Without meaning to sound ignorant - in what way does your comment about your experience with Linux (presumably on a desktop level) have to do with a story on a number of features being added to the kernel that isn't likely to affect you?
Posted by fromz (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Relevance
Without meaning to sound ignorant - in what way does your comment about your experience with Linux (presumably on a desktop level) have to do with a story on a number of features being added to the kernel that isn't likely to affect you?
Posted by fromz (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Niagara support is the big news
Having support for Sun's T1 processor has to be the big news here. I expect T2000 and T1000 servers will outsell any Cell machines this year, especially when Sun announces its forthcoming Blade Servers.
Posted by hutchike (157 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Niagara support is the big news
Having support for Sun's T1 processor has to be the big news here. I expect T2000 and T1000 servers will outsell any Cell machines this year, especially when Sun announces its forthcoming Blade Servers.
Posted by hutchike (157 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try Linspire or some "ready made" distro
The ability to tweek Linux is always there, but if you need something "out of the box" just choose a distro for that purpose.
Posted by lgmbackman (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try Linspire or some "ready made" distro
The ability to tweek Linux is always there, but if you need something "out of the box" just choose a distro for that purpose.
Posted by lgmbackman (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Wildly used" is a number of digits here
To count dollars as the "wildly used" is harder.
The more that 350 supercomputers out of 500 running Linux is wildly more dollars than 350 desktop computers running Linux, and who knows if the number of embedded devices running Linux is not higher both in numbers and in dollars.
Counting the use of Linux is difficult and will probably stay so as the number of Windows machines turned into Linux machines is not counted in any (of the more or less worthless) statitics.
Posted by lgmbackman (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Wildly used" is a number of digits here
To count dollars as the "wildly used" is harder.
The more that 350 supercomputers out of 500 running Linux is wildly more dollars than 350 desktop computers running Linux, and who knows if the number of embedded devices running Linux is not higher both in numbers and in dollars.
Counting the use of Linux is difficult and will probably stay so as the number of Windows machines turned into Linux machines is not counted in any (of the more or less worthless) statitics.
Posted by lgmbackman (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OpenSPARC T1 Support!!!
Now - that is the BOMB!

Linux on a truly Open Source Processor... the highest
throughput processor in the industry!

Nice to know Linux can be hacked into a Playstation - the real
news is the 1U high Open servers what will support it!

You can't pack higher performance into a rack at a cheaper price
any other way... OpenSPARC and Linux downloaded off the Web!
Posted by DavidHalko (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OpenSPARC T1 Support!!!
Now - that is the BOMB!

Linux on a truly Open Source Processor... the highest
throughput processor in the industry!

Nice to know Linux can be hacked into a Playstation - the real
news is the 1U high Open servers what will support it!

You can't pack higher performance into a rack at a cheaper price
any other way... OpenSPARC and Linux downloaded off the Web!
Posted by DavidHalko (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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