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On the scalability of Linus

Jul 15, 2010, 04:34 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonathan Corbet)

"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. There are many maintainers looking after various subsystems, but every patch they merge must eventually be accepted by Linus Torvalds if it is to get into the mainline. Linus's unique role affects the process in a number of ways; for example, as this article is being written, Linus has just returned from a vacation which resulted in nothing going into the mainline for a couple of weeks. There are more serious concerns associated with the single-committer model, though, with scalability being near the top of the list.

"Some LWN readers certainly remember the 2.1.123 release in September, 1998. That kernel failed to compile due to the incomplete merging (by Linus) of some frame buffer patches. A compilation failure in a development kernel does not seem like a major crisis, but this mistake served as a flash point for anger which had been growing in the development community for a while: patches were increasingly being dropped and people were getting tired of it. At the end of a long and unpleasant discussion, Linus threw up his hands and walked away:

"Quite frankly, this particular discussion (and others before it) has just made me irritable, and is ADDING pressure. Instead, I'd suggest that if you have a complaint about how I handle patches, you think about what I end up having to deal with for five minutes."

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