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The Scalability of Linus

pickens (49171) writes | about 4 years ago

Linux 1

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 to accomplish," argues one user and 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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1 comment

How does one "scale" Linus? By scaling back Linus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33000730)

Linus actually does a lot less work today than he has in the past. That's a good thing. He brags about it openly, because he knows it's a sign that his workflow and process are good. Most of the "work" involved in patches is taken care of before Linus actually needs to see them (he can see them before then, of course, but it's not essential that he does), because they are worked out on various mailing lists, included in others' trees, etc, until they are ready for merge into the final kernel.

How is this all possible? Tools.

The "burnout" message is from 1998, which is pre BitKeeper, let alone Git. A lot has changed since then, and one of the most fundamental is that GNU Patch is almost always no longer part of the toolchain, and hasn't been to any real extent for nearly a decade. Better tools allow Linus to do less work, and Linus doing less work gives Linus enough time to work out ways to do even less work. (Laziness is a Virtue)

We've moved from "This is the way to do things, it's a lot of work." to "Use these tools to make things easier" (This was possible because of BitKeeper)
And more importantly: we've moved from "Use these tools to make things easier" to "If things are difficult, your tool is broken. Fix it." (This was possible because of Git. ie, a tool which not only supported bitkeeper-like workflows, but which was maintained by some of the same people who do kernel work)

We have already achieved "the scalability of Linus". Nothing to see here, move along.

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