Kernel Developer Panel – Moderator Grant Likely, Panelists: Kristen Accardi, Stephen Hemminger, Kevin Hilman, Greg Kroah-Hartman, Julia Lawall

Is there room for more developers in the kernel community?

We actually need more people, there are many drivers and subsystems that are not maintained. Maybe people hesitate to contribute because they’re not sure if they’re doing it the proper way. There is a mentorship program (Outreachy) but that’s 4 months and after that they are often a bit lost about what to do next. One thing kernel developers can do is to help a maintainer a bit e.g. when they go on vacation. And of course, doing reviews. In this community, nobody is going to tell you what project to work on, you have to take initiative and submit a patch. People should be invited more to become a maintainer.

Are we able to handle the complexity that we currently have in the kernel?

Yes, we’re doing complex things because it’s complex hardware, but we are fortunate to have all the code so you can actually look at what’s going in. But we do need to step up with CI etc. to handle things better.

There is actually also an opposite movement, with better APIs that hide some of the details. There is also a lot of infrastructure to write tools to analyse or modify code.

A lot of networking stuff is moving to userspace or ASICs. Does this make sense or are we creating fragmentation?

The kernel community doesn’t have a problem with fragmentation, it’s the people that do it that have a problem.

Can we handle the complexity of the different power management use cases?

There is indeed a lot of diversity in different needs from the hardware. But the kernel philosophy is not to do policy, so the complexity is largely pushed into userspace. The big piece that is happening lately is getting energy awareness in the scheduler, and it’s still going to take a while to figure out how to do that and how it interacts with the existing device PM subsystem.

How do we handle the issues of securing integrity of the systems and of data?

Mainly, detecting and fixing bugs (using static analysis and testing). IoT devices can never be updated, but that’s foolish.

What is the thing you’re most excited about

  • All of the different devices that are coming, e.g. IoT, for which we can create technical solutions.
  • It’s one of the few projects that works across a really wide variety of countries and cultures.
  • With kernelci, Kevin is getting more hardware and he’s excited to see all of that.
  • Seeing the bizarre new driver types that result in new subsystems.
  • The kernel is an infinite source of things to be cleaned.

What are the areas that need more focus?

  • Scaling, we need more maintainers.
  • Maintainer burnout.

We have maintainers who have been in their roles for many many years; do we encourage people to look for others to help them. You have to push the maintainers to give their thing away (without giving up maintainership).

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