OSDL Upgrades Linux Kernel Testing

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a consortium of technology companies and workplace of Linus Torvalds, has announced a major upgrade to its Scalable Test Plaform (STP) enterprise-grade testing services for the Linux kernel.

Introduced in 2001, STP provides a set of test suites on a wide range of hardware platforms so developers can validate Linux kernel code changes for performance and stability. It is available at no cost on the OSDL Web site.

The upgrade marks an important step forward for Linux, said IDC vice president of system software research Dan Kusnetzky. He told LinuxInsider that as Linux continues its march from academic and scientific platform to corporate option, it needs test beds like that provided by the OSDL.

“As the operating system progresses, thare are requirements for sophisticated system network and other types of management tools,” he said. “What the OSDL is providing fits perfectly with this. I’d rate this upgrade as a good thing.”

Revving Up STP

The OSDL created STP to make the organization a leader in Linux testing. It invested more than $15 million in data-center testing systems as a result.

The development of the new STP release, version 3.0, was focused on adding the capability for the STP test framework to keep track of patches applied to any open-source application as well as the kernel, according to OSDL acting director of engineering Craig Thomas.

In a LinuxInsider interview, Thomas noted that before STP 3.0, the framework only managed patches applied to the Linux kernel. The new feature allows developers to test a patch against a known source tree for their application, then compile the code through several cross-compilers, and run tests against the patched application on different hardware in OSDL’s lab.

“The advantage of STP is that it allows a developer to create an experimental build and then obtain results from a variety of tests against it,” said Thomas.

Another change is in the interface, for better usability. OSDL has organized the selection of tests into categories, to allow developers to focus on specific elements of a software package. Thomas noted that the tests are categorized for elements of kernel testing, such as memory, database and performance.

“Other improvements are smaller, but help the advanced tester,” he said. “For instance, in addition to specifying a lilo string for booting, you can now specify custom environment variables and sysctl settings.”

Big Step Forward

The features in STP 3.0 represent a major advancement, according to Thomas. In the past, the framework was used to run automated regression tests against the Linux kernel. Now, the framework can provide the same capabilities to other applications.

He added that the test results are stored in a database, so testers and developers can compare any test run against a previous test run to determine whether there are any differences in results.

“This framework allows for a greater level of system testing that has been lacking for open source projects,” said Thomas.

It also has been done with the help of the Linux community. OSDL did a hefty amount of bug cleanup and feature additions on the basis of notes that were submitted via the STP SourceForge project.

“In the spirit of open source, we have been updating and releasing improvements since the 1.0 release,” Thomas said. “We have also been adding new test cases and we are working to add more.”

Community Effort

Beyond giving developers fresh testing tools, STP 3.0 is both an indication of the sentiment of the Linux community as well as an outcome of it, the OSDL believes.

Thomas said, “[T]here is a great appreciation by the community for people who find defects in Linux software. Many want to know what is wrong so it can be fixed.”

He added that the STP framework makes it possible to run a large variety of tests against the kernel and then look for possible regressions in performance or functionality. That, he noted, is important for Linux and the open-source community.

“Automated test frameworks such as STP help catch regressions earlier in the development cycle,” he said. “Therefore, fixes can be made sooner.”

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