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Intel CTO: Open source ecosystem is “poorly written”

Chipmaker calls on industry to improve contributions

A stylised picture of some code being affected by graphical errors

Intel’s new CTO Greg Lavender has decried the overall quality of code within the open source ecosystem, arguing that the industry at large needs to get better at the contributions it makes to the Linux kernel.

“Here’s an interesting fact I’ve learned at Intel after 11 months,” he said; “there’s a huge amount of the open source ecosystem that is just poorly written. They do bad thread-locking, they do spin locks that waste CPU cycles and burn power.”

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“The whole industry, I think, could contribute a lot better quality code into the open source ecosystem, and that’s what we want to do with the Linux kernel in particular, and make it more resilient to badly-written code in the application layer.”

He also committed to helping address the problem through Intel’s own development efforts. The company has been the largest contributor to the Linux open source ecosystem for several years, and Lavender has been busily hiring open source luminaries from the likes of Apple and Netflix to help achieve this.

The comments came as part of Intel Vision 2022, where the company shared updates on its strategy and roadmap with customers and partners. Along with various announcements around new data centre GPUs and a new 12th-generation workstation chip, a large part of the conference focused on Intel’s new “software-first strategy”.

As part of this effort, the chip manufacturer bought Granulate last month, a company focused on automatic optimisation of Linux-based server processes, and CEO Pat Gelsinger has promised that more acquisitions are coming. 

“So I acquired [industrial Linux specialists] Linutronix back in February,” Lavender said, “but we keep them independent; still driving the open source Linux ecosystem, not polluting it. But at the same time, we want to drive more real-time Linux capabilities because for the edge and automotive industry and other places, that’s a good investment to make.”

“Our open source commitment is back. I brought it back, Pat brought it back, and you’ll see a lot more from us.”

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