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Oracle's 'State of the Penguin' Updates Penguinistas of Multiple Persuasions

Oracle Linux users in North America are gathering online tomorrow (Thurs. May 6, 10am PT) for the latest edition of the State of the Penguin. Wim Coekaerts, Oracle Software Development SVP and Linux Foundation Vice Chairman, will be leading what promises to be an enlightening conversation about the industry landscape, customer use cases, and the latest Oracle Linux technologies, including containers, KVM, open-source contributions, and developer tools, all to help Penguinistas "explore possibilities and update your plans."

Coekaerts' co-host for the event will be Sergio Leunissen, VP in Oracle’s infrastructure engineering team. Leunissen currently leads initiatives to deliver solutions for developers on Oracle’s operating system and Oracle Infrastructure Cloud, and he’s responsible for Oracle’s presence on GitHub.

I had the opportunity to talk with Coekaerts about the event last week. He's widely described as an "industry luminary," an appellation I found to be something of an understatement. He led the last online State of the Penguin, held six months ago.

"We're trying to provide an update on a regular basis to users of Oracle Linux, specifically, but also Linux in general," Coekaerts told me. "We want to let the community know what we're doing, and the 'state of the penguin' was just sort of a good headline for that."

The event will take the form of an informal Zoom chat, Coekaerts said, without the usual structured Power Point presentations offered by most webinars (though there will be some slides). It's planned as a true Q&A session, reminiscent of the original "state of" events at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference.

The event definitely gives Big Red a stage to blow its own horn about its contributions to the Linux community. Coekaerts reminded me that Oracle is consistently among the top three or four contributors to the Linux kernel, that the company is consistently adding features and lots of lines of code, all of which is readily available for code review.  

"People don't realize how many code reviews we do," he said, "and they sometimes forget that doing code reviews and sign-offs is a big part of why Linux is as good as it is. Everyone looks at everyone else's code and provides comments and they formally say, I put my name on this, I looked at it and I agree that it's good code. A lot of that stuff is done by the people in our team."

I asked Coekaerts what was top-of-mind for him as the "state-of" event approaches. He pointed to the work his company has done on Linux on ARM-based chips. "We put a lot of effort into making Linux run really well on ARM on the server," he said, "and we've been applying all the knowledge we've gathered over the years on how to make a good server platform from an operating system point of view. We're taking that knowledge and basically applying it to ARM, because, although it has been around a long time for 32-bit servers, it has not for 64-bit servers."

He also pointed to the work Oracle has done on security around the QEMU hosted virtual machine monitor.

"The way QEMU works, it's one process that runs along with the VM," he explained. "And so there has been a concern that if the VM has a sort of backdoor into QEMU, you get to the host and there's a control platform. We have done a huge amount of work separating that, so there's one process running for managing QEMU, and another process that actually contains the stuff the VM needs. We've isolated the address space, and that's very important from a security point of view. And there's nothing in this that's specific to Oracle. Everyone else can make use of it."

Coekaerts' team is also working on a new memory access strategy that takes into account the drive toward higher core counts, and the resulting contention on locks in the kernel.

"What tends to happen as the cores grow is that people run more processes, so there's more contention on locks in the kernel," he explained. "So, as we run the database, for example, we discovered that there are significant performance impacts on getting access to virtual memory."

Coekaerts' team also came up with a new way of dealing with memory access called "Maple Tree."

"It went upstream into the kernel," he said. "I think it's a good example of how we try to make Linux better, in general."

Coekaerts felt it was important to mention that the complete Oracle Linux kernel, with the complete change logs starting from Linux 3.0, are available on GitHub. "Every change we make, all the errata, every bug fix—it's all publicly out there," he said.

With the release of Oracle Linux 8.4 on the horizon, attendees can also expect to get a peek at the roadmap, Coekaerts said, including an update on the Ansible product, Oracle Linux Automation Manager, the upcoming Oracle Cloud Native Environment 1.3 (basically an uptake of the latest version of Kubernetes), and upcoming releases of Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) for Oracle Linux.

There's more on the agenda, and Coekaerts had a lot to say, but I don't want to give away any plot twists. Anyone can register to attend the event.

Posted by John K. Waters on May 5, 2021