There’s a new technology in town for the Linux operating system called Ksplice Uptrack. With this system in place you can now update your system – even the kernel – without a single reboot. Let me say that again – EVEN THE KERNEL! What exactly does that mean? You know all of those promises made by other OS vendors who claim a near 100 percent uptime with their machines? What happens to those machines when you install a service pack that does anything to the kernel? Time for a reboot. (Actually it doesn’t even require a kernel-level update to require a reboot.)

We all know (or should know) that the Linux operating system is an amazingly stable OS. Uptime numbers can be staggering in comparison to other OSs. I can go months on end without a single reboot – only to have to do so when the kernel was touched by an upgrade. And now that the ante has been seriously upped, because even those kernel updates won’t mean a reboot.

Zero reboots. Period.

But how does it work? Actually it’s quite simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Install Uptrack from Ksplice.
  2. Use the Ksplice Uptrack GUI to handle the updates for your kernel.
  3. End of story. It’s the new world order – get used to it.

Okay, let’s take a closer look at how this works. If you go to the Ksplice How It Works page you will find download files for:

  • Ubuntu 9.10
  • Ubuntu 9.04

As well, a trial server for the following Enterprise Linux distributions:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5
  • CentOS 4/5
  • Debian 4.0/5.0
  • SuSE 10/11
  • Ubuntu 8.04

If you’re using Ubuntu, download the correct version  for your release and let GDebi handle the installation for you. During the installation you will have to agree to a license, after which the installation will complete.

Once complete, KSplice Uptrack will open to inform you if there are any updates available for your system. Figure A shows KSplice with an update available.

All you need to do is click the Install All Updates button to apply any available kernel updates.

Once this process is complete you can close the KSplice Uptrack Manager and go about your business. No rebooting need apply.

There is also a panel icon for the application that will notify you if any updates are available.

Which updates?

You may notice that KSplice does not handle ALL updates to your kernel. There is a reason for that. Approximately 88% of kernel updates do not require any custom code in order to work with KSplice. The remaining 12% can be altered with 1-12 lines of code in order to work. With that 100% of kernel updates can be done without a reboot. Here’s how KSplice works:

  1. A bug or security hole is discovered in the Linux kernel.
  2. Developers fix said bug or hole.
  3. KSplice software analyzes the fix and creates an update image which can be implemented without reboot.
  4. KSplice Uptrack Manager picks up fix and applies it to your computer.

During the process your service will be interrupted for 0.7 milliseconds. That’s it. Imagine having as near to 100 percent uptime as possible (minus the .7 milliseconds necessary to apply any KSplice fix) on your servers or desktops? Well…it’s now possible.

I’ve used KSplice on my Ubuntu systems and have yet to have to reboot a single machine. Now my only concern is Mother Nature and the great power outages (that can be averted thanks to UPSs and generators.)

Final thoughts

I’m not going to stick my finger in the air and proclaim, “We’re number one” here. But I can’t imagine the competition being able to match a feature like this in the near future. Linux has been handed what could be the Holy Grail of uptime. Along with the amazing improvements the distributions have made in the last couple of years, Linux is on the cusp of something very, very special.

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