An Interview with DEC

David Rusling and Jon “maddog” Hall talk about Digital Equipment Corporation and the porting of Linux to the 64-bit Alpha.

We could use some more tuning of the compiler optimization sequences which the gcc compilers generate for the super-scalar Alpha architecture. Likewise, certain math libraries need to be optimized and made available in source code format, not only for the Alpha, but for other ports as well.

We would like to see a virtual porting and certification lab on the Internet, so applications developers who do not have Alpha systems can port and test their applications. This would also be a good idea for some of the other ports, such as SunSPARC, PowerPC, etc.

Testing and benchmarking of Alpha systems running Linux under different load types, creating meaningful benchmark results would also be useful.

Doing real work in large-scale distributed computing with “clusters” of Linux systems would also provide helpful information.

Also needed is a defined set of applications program interfaces (APIs) and application binary interfaces (ABIs) that fit across a variety of Alpha Unix and Linux systems (FreeBSD, netBSD, Linux, Digital UNIX and a variety of other Unix systems) so that commercial application vendors could create shrink-wrapped applications for a larger audience than any one Unix system could attract. Applications tested against the ABI should be able to run on any Alpha Unix/Linux system.

David Rusling:

I agree. The future of Linux (all flavours) rests on its ability to attract applications. Whilst the normal engineering set of tools (Emacs, LaTeX, Tk and so on) works quite happily on all of the Linux platforms, Linux needs more of the marketing and presentation tools. It needs a viable desktop environment. That can either be the ability to run Windows applications via Wabi or it can be native applications conforming to some interface specification. The free software world is unfortunately less interested in WYSIWYG applications than in writing operating systems.

One option I find really attractive is the idea that Java applications could run under Linux as well as, if not better than, any other operating system incorporating a Java Machine.


While Digital has allocated four engineers, one product manager and one very over-worked marketing manager to the task, we realize none of this could be possible without the long hours contributed by the Linux community.

We want to help the community move Linux along the path that they feel is the best.

David Rusling is Principal Engineer of European Semiconductor Applications Engineering, Digital Equipment Co. Ltd.

Jon “maddog” Hall is Senior Leader of Digital UNIX Base Product Marketing, Digital Equipment Corporation