Super-long-term stable Linux Kernel arrives


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When I recently reported that the long-term support for some Linux kernels would be cut, people were upset. Mind you, the Linux kernel community knew that very few people were using these graying kernels, but it still got under people’s skins. For those folks, and for those who actually need a kernel that will be supported for ten years, the Linux Foundation Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project is expanding its super-long-term stable (SLTS) kernel program by introducing the 6.1-based SLTS kernel series

This isn’t the first STLS kernel. There are already ones for 4.4, 4.19, and 5.10. What this means is that CIP will provide extensive support for at least a decade after arrival.

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Now, CIP systems are not for general-purpose Linux devices. They consist of CIP kernel and Debian 11, Bullseye-based systems that provide run-time environments that work with industrial hardware using CIP reference hardware

To ensure the extended lifespan of these kernels, CIP adopts a streamlined approach by focusing on actively supported kernel features for its target architecture. Specifically, SLTS kernels are meant for embedded Linux systems. It comes in two versions: 

  • The tiny profile is built from Debian source code and is useful for devices with storage restrictions, extreme performance and flexibility requirements, and low-complexity applications.

  • The generic profile is built from Debian binary packages and covers devices that require more functionality, less performance and flexibility requirements, and more storage.

Simultaneously, the project also adopts some non-invasive backports from more recent mainline kernels. Primarily, this is to facilitate compatibility with emerging hardware. The CIP project’s members define this scope’s parameters.

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That’s because CIP’s primary mission isn’t the desktop or server. Instead, it’s all about establishing an open-source foundation of embedded industrial-grade Linux. This foundation aims to facilitate the deployment and incorporation of software building blocks essential for civil infrastructure projects. 

This distribution is for technical systems responsible for the supervision, control, and management of infrastructure. This includes electric power generation and energy distribution, oil and gas, water and wastewater, healthcare, communications, transportation, and community management. 

The name of the CIP’s game is to speed up the implementation of civil infrastructure systems by building upon existing open-source foundations and expertise without reinventing non-domain-specific technology. This, in turn, will help establish de facto open standards by providing a base layer reference implementation for mission-critical services such as electrical power grids, oil and gas pipelines, and emergency telecommunications systems.

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Commenting on this development, Yoshi Kobayashi, the CIP Technical Steering Committee Chair, emphasized, “The CIP kernels receive the same meticulous attention as regular Long-Term-Stable (LTS) kernels during their development and review. Our developers actively engage in the review and testing of LTS kernels, contributing significantly to the overall quality and security of the platform. One noteworthy aspect is our ongoing work to enhance the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 62443 security standard, which aims to bolster the resilience of critical infrastructure systems.”

Today, most infrastructure software is made up of a hodgepodge of incompatible, proprietary software programs. If all goes well, the CIP’s ultimate goal is to provide a free, universally adopted Linux that governments and countries around the world can depend on for their civil infrastructure. 


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