“Don’t break your users and create a community culture”, says Linus Torvalds, Creator of Linux, at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon + Open Source Summit China 2019

4 min read

At the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s flagship conference, KubeCon + CloudNativeCon + Open Source Summit China 2019, Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux and Git was in a conversation with Dirk Hohndel, VP and Chief Open Source Officer, VMware on the past, present, and future of Linux. The cloud Native conference gathers technologists from leading open source and cloud native communities scheduled to take place in San Diego, California from November 18-21, 2019.

When I think about Linux, Linus says, I worry about the technology and not care about the market. In a lot of areas of technology, being first is more important than being best because if you get a huge community around yourself you have already won. Linus says he and the Linux community and maintainers don’t focus on individual features; what they focus on is the process of getting those features out and making releases. He doesn’t believe in long term planning; there are no plans that span more than roughly six months.

Top questions on security, gaming and Linux’s future, learnings and expectations

Is the interest in Linux from people outside of the core Linux community declining?

Linus opposes this statement stating that it’s still growing albeit not at quite the same rate it used to be. He says that people outside the Linux kernel community should care about Linux’s consistency and the fact that there are people to make sure that when you move to a new kernel your processes will not break.

Where is the major focus for security in IT infrastructure? Is it in the kernel, or in the user space?

When it comes to security you should not focus on one particular area alone. You need to have secure hardware, software, kernels, and libraries at every stage. The true path to security is to have multiple layers of security where even if one layer gets compromised there is another layer that picks up that problem. The kernel, he says, is one of the more security conscious projects because if the kernel has a security problem it’s a problem for everybody.

What are some learnings that other projects like Kubernetes and the whole cloud native world can take from the kernel?

Linus acknowledges that he is not sure how much the kernel development model really translates to other projects. Linux has a different approach to maintenance as compared to other projects as well as a unified picture of where it is headed.

However other projects can take up two learnings from Linux:

  • Don’t break your users: Linus says, this has been a mantra for the kernel for a long time and it’s something that a lot of other projects seem to not have learned. If you want your project to flourish long term you shouldn’t let your users worry about upgrades and versions and instead make them aware of the fact that you are a stable platform.
  • Create a common culture: In order to have a long life for a platform/project, you should create a community and have a common culture, a common goal to work together for a long term.

Is gaming a platform where open source is going to be relevant?

When you take up a new technology, Linus states,  you want to take as much existing infrastructure as possible to make it easy to get to your goals. Linux has obviously been a huge part of that in almost every setting. So the only places where Linux isn’t completely taking over are those where there was a very strong established market and code base already. If you do something new, exciting and interesting you will almost inevitably use Linux as the base and that includes new platforms for gaming.

What can we expect for Linux for the second thirty years? Will it continue just as today or where do you think we’re going?

Realistically if you look at what Linux does today, it’s not that different from what operating systems did 50-60 years ago. What has changed is the hardware and the use. Linux is right in between those two things. What an operating system fundamentally does is act as a resource manager and as the interface between software and hardware. Linus says, “ I don’t know what software and hardware will look like in 30 years but I do know we’ll still have an operating system and that will probably be called Linux. I may not be around in 30 years but I will be around in 2021 for the 30 year Linux anniversary.”

Go through the full conversation here.

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