With new releases of the kernel coming every two to three months, Linux continues to test the limits of the open-source development process. Moving forward, the roadmap for the open-source operating system indicates a constant drive to add features, while maintaining quality and stability.
To get some perspective on what lies ahead in 2008, we caught up with Linus Torvalds via email. His responses touched on the Linux development process, upcoming features, and whether he's concerned about potential patent litigation.
InformationWeek: Is Linux kernel development proceeding faster than Windows Server development?
Torvalds: I'm the wrong person to ask, for multiple reasons. First off, I'm somewhat biased, of course. But the other reason is that I don't even know -- or really care -- how Windows Server development actually proceeds, so how could I even compare and make an intelligent point?
I simply don't use Microsoft products, not because I hate them, but because they aren't interesting to me.
So, yes, with the above really big caveats, I obviously do believe that Linux development tends to be a lot more efficient than the alternatives -- both inside the kernel but in many ways even more so in all the things going on around it. And I don't mean Windows in particular, I mean any behind-closed-doors-commercial-proprietary model.
And as to why, let me instead answer your second question, because I think that one is more directed.
InformationWeek: In your opinion, where does Linux shine versus Windows? Reliability? Virtualization?
Torvalds: I think the real strength of Linux is not in any particular area, but in the flexibility. For example, you mention virtualization, and in some ways that's a really excellent example, because it's not only an example of something where Linux is a fairly strong player, but more tellingly, it's an example where there are actually many different approaches, and there is no one-size-fits-all "One True Virtualization" model.
There are many different levels of virtualization, and many different trade-offs in efficiency, management, separation, running legacy applications and system software, etc. And different people simply care about different parts of it, which is why the buzz-word "virtualization" shows up in so many places.
And not only do we tend to support many different models of virtualization, but one telling detail may be that I am personally so totally uninterested in it, that I am really happy that I have almost nothing to do with any of them.
And I mention that as a strong point of open source! Why? Because it actually is a great example of what open source results in: one person's (or company's) particular interests don't end up being dominant. The fact that I personally think that virtualization isn't all that exciting means next to nothing.
This is actually the biggest strength of Linux. When you buy an OS from Microsoft, not only you can't fix it, but it has had years of being skewed by one single entity's sense of the market. It doesn't matter how competent Microsoft -- or any individual company -- is, it's going to reflect that fact.