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Linux 6.7: Welcoming Intel IFS and Meteor Lake, Bidding Farewell to Itanium

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Linux 6.7 roars in with Intel hardware boost, new Bcachefs file system, and says goodbye to aging Itanium.

2024 is off to a roaring start in the open-source world with the release of the Linux 6.7 kernel.

The Linux 6.7 kernel is the first kernel release of 2024 and follows the Linux 6.6 release that debuted in October 2023. The Linux kernel is the fundamental building block within the broader Linux operating system. Various vendors, such as Red Hat, SUSE and Canonical, offer commercially supported Linux distributions. The development of the Linux kernel follows a collaborative process, resulting in regular releases occurring approximately every six to 10 weeks.

It took just a bit longer than usual for Linux 6.7 to be released, thanks in part to the fact that there were eight release candidates and the Christmas holiday period. It’s also worth noting that Linux 6.7 is one of the largest kernel releases.

“6.7 is (in number of commits: over 17k non-merge commits, with 1k+ merges) one of the largest kernel releases we’ve ever had, but the extra rc8 week was purely due to timing with the holidays, not about any difficulties with the larger release,” Linux creator Linus Torvalds wrote in his release message.

In with the new: What’s new in Linux 6.7

With so many code commits, sifting through the long list of updates in Linux 6.7 is not trivial.

Prarit Bhargava, distinguished engineer with Red Hat, told SDxCentral that there are some particularly noteworthy updates from a hardware perspective.

“We’re excited to see improved x86 microcode loading in the 6.7 kernel, as well as support for Intel IFS (In-Field Scan) Gen2, which enables CPUs to detect hardware problems that other code-error checks may not catch,” Bhargava said. “The latest kernel release also has several improvements to power management with Intel Meteor Lake, including auto-detection of workload types.”

Bhargava also highlighted improvements to AMD Seamless Boot and enhancements to KVM (Kernel virtual mode) allowing large virtual CPU support. Linux is commonly used as the base operating system for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and the boost to KVM will benefit cloud operators.

While CPU enablement and improvement are a big part of Linux 6.7, networking is also in the mix.

“There’s also an overall enhancement to networking for single TCP flows, in which testing has shown a 20% performance improvement,” Bhargava said.

File systems expand with Bcachefs and F2FS improvements

File systems that enable system storage and access are a fundamental part of any operating system; with Linux 6.7, the open-source kernel is adding more options.

The Bcachefs file system debuted in Linux 6.7, providing a new type of copy-on-write (COW) highly resilient file system. According to Bcachefs developers, the Bcachefs file system has various advantages over other Linux file systems.

“Bcachefs is a feature-complete file system while also containing extra features such as checksumming and multidevice functionality within a file system,” the Bcachefs FAQ states. “Bcachefs is safer to use than btrfs and is also shown to outperform zfs in speed and reliability.”

The Flash-Friendly File System (F2FS), which has been in the Linux kernel for several years, is also getting a boost. In Linux 6.7, F2FS is able to support larger page sizes.

“In this cycle, we introduce a bigger page size support by changing the internal F2FS’s block size aligned to the page size,” the Linux kernel commit for the F2FS update states. “We also continue to improve zoned-block device support regarding the power-off recovery.”

Out with the old: Goodbye Itanium

Linux kernel releases aren’t just about adding new features, they are also often about removing old features that are no longer in demand.

In Linux 6.7, support for Intel Itanium (IA-64) is being dropped. Intel originally positioned itanium as a next-generation architecture of 64-bit processors. Intel stopped making and shipping the Itanium in 2021.

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