Linux kernel LTS with extended support

The Linux LTS (Long-Term Support) kernels are receiving and extended support starting from release 4.4. Iliyan Malchev from Google announced this at a presentation on Android’s Project Treble.

Linux kernels are all around us. You can find them in most ARM devices, Android devices, IoT solutions and most of things considered “smart” these days. Since it is so widely spread it’s more likely to get targeted. You can defend against these malicious attacks by updating every time a new version is released.

The average time between major kernel version releases is 70 days. This is way too frequent for updating to the new kernel version every time, so LTS kernels were introduced with two years of support. Devices running on LTS kernels are only updating bug and security fixes without disrupting current behavior with new functionalities.

Malchev, during his presentation, dropped the news of the Linux kernel tripling the lifecycle of its LTS releases, saying, “Greg Kroah-Hartman has given me permission to announce this here: He will extend LTS to six years, starting with kernel 4.4.” Kroah-Hartman, the maintainer of LTS kernel releases, confirmed the news on Twitter, saying, “This is going to be fun!” When asked if this six-year LTS would be available to everyone, Malchev added, “LTS is LTS. Greg Kroah-Hartman, the LTS maintainer, is committing to do a six-year LTS. Not because of Google or Android or Treble, but because everything is on LTS; it’s not on upstream.”

The new extended support period now will give any company plenty of time to develop a new device, get it to market and still leaving plenty of time in the hands of users. For example Google currently provides two years of major OS updates on its phones and three years of security updates, maybe this announcement is a first step in extending that.

Malchev said Kroah-Hartman would “announce [six-year LTS] at after this keynote,” but so far the site hasn’t been updated. The release page still lists “Feb 2018” as the end-of-life date for version 4.4, but with this change it should be more like “Feb 2022.”

This not only good news to Android users or PC users who are running Linux on their desktops, but system administrators or website designers/administrators as well. The ability to operate your server for more than half a decade without a big installation seems pretty nice.




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