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    SubjectStreams and Linux
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    [Red Hat firmly off, Linux hacker hat firmly on]

    > pennies worth. All of the following is my personal opinion, worth
    > every penny you have paid for it. :-)

    I can't be bothered to even discuss the more stupid poltical aspects
    of all this. I'm just going to explain technical issues - nothing more
    or less.

    > "convert" Streams code to "Linux-specific" alternatives necessarily
    > preclude this kind of "conversion" as an option. Given this
    > premise, we have two alternatives:

    The are several things people muddle up

    1. Streams

    This is an API design for layered networking. Even the inventor
    of the streams concept said of the way it was used
    "The idea loses something when it is shouted"

    Streams are technical very flawed and not a good thing to put in
    a kernel. Indeed our Solaris, SunOS, SCO etc emulation layers
    turn streams into sockets as fast as possible. (note btw ibcs2
    does this -without- kernel patches), as could Caldera. Although
    for the syscall registering issue there may be a sane reason for a
    registering those. Ask Linus.

    2. TLI/XTLI

    These are the interfaces _most_ people actually use. TLI and XTLI
    isolate the user from the innards of streams. TLI is actually
    very flexible, it tends to be unpopular with non commercial people
    because TLI programming is painful.

    Alexey Kuznetsov wrote a complete TLI emulation over sockets layer
    for Linux. Entirely in user space. Its free, it exists it addresses
    most of the issues people often think are "streams". This TLI
    implementation is free software.

    So most TLI/XTLI applications are sorted. Finally almost all
    applications in the commercial world are written to the socket API
    (maybe emulated onto TLI). Thats another reason vendors are running
    from streams as fast as they can.


    > Besides, despite the strongly-held opinions of many persons, the
    > jury is still out on whether or not "Streams performance" is all
    > that bad. And even if the performance of Streams _is_ that bad,

    The jury returned the final verdict about four years ago. There is no
    argument about the technical flaws in streams: SGI do not use streams
    internally for networking, Sun moved away from streams for the performance
    parts of their networking (their papers imply what actually occurs is
    "Hi Im a streams module but I do Sun funky network too" "Hi Im the other
    module on this stack right now, I also do sun funky networking - lets
    stuff this streams shit and talk sanely"). Sun moved socket() and friends
    back into the kernel. Sequent moved sockets and socket API stuff back into
    the kernel. Unixware Im reliably informed is currently doing the same.

    So from a technical point of view streams is dead. There are people who
    worked on streams for years at companies like Spider, who specialised
    in making streams go as fast as is possible who will tell you it doesnt
    go fast enough and equally importantly you cannot make it scale if you
    want to be top of the pile.

    Thats the technical status.

    > isn't the most important issue. If I had a choice between _no
    > application_ and a _slow application_ which met my critical needs,
    > I'd choose the latter 100% of the time. Would you?

    The Linux kernel is a technical project. Streams are "not interesting"
    technically. Productization is a vendor issue.

    > a mistake to tie "NetWare on Streams" with "NetWare performance".
    > The two are entirely unrelated.

    Indeed - netware is fast "despite streams" and "despite the netware
    protocol weaknesses" - its a victory of sheer human stubbonness and hacking
    skill over technically poor tools. You may care to benchmark netware 3
    versus netware for unix on pure packet turn around time for a null NCP
    operation. Now compare it with 2.1.x knfsd (socket based kernel code)
    turning around an NFS no-op.

    You will find it interesting.

    > A: Because certain extensions to the kernel must be made in order to
    > support the Streams loadable module. For example, Streams
    > introduces some new system calls which are NOT present in the base
    > kernel (e.g. putpmsg, getpmsg). The kernel system-call table must
    > be modified to support these Streams entry points.

    Syscall numbers you didnt register with Linus as far as I can tell, which
    means since 2.2 uses more numbers you are likely to see breakages. Irrespective
    of any streams issues those two calls as NULL hooks you could get dropped
    into 2.1.x. Ask Linus - he did it for AFS. I cannot put anything like that
    into 2.0 until it has official 2.1.x syscall numbers from the man himself
    or I cause a back compatibility monster with a syscall numbering collision.

    > that the kernel changes required to support a loadable Streams
    > module are strikingly tiny. But there is such a "religious"
    > opposition to Streams among _kernel developers_ that they refuse to
    > allow even these tiny patches into the "base kernel". They seem to

    It is entirely a technical opposition.

    > fear the introduction of support for a Streams module as such a
    > terrible "pollution" of their kernel that they have not and
    > apparently will not allow it to happen. So Caldera is stuck--the

    Putting support for something in the kernel implies a maintenance commitment
    that in this case is not there. Ask Caldera or any vendor about the effect
    of shipping a package you cant maintain. They can write in big letters
    "this package is an add on its not supported", it makes no odds. So there
    are real issues adding anything to a kernel - especially as its damned
    hard to remove something from the kernel, even when its way more dumb than
    say streams

    That said I see no reason why Caldera shouldnt ask and get a pair of syscall
    numbers from Linus they can hook.

    > cases (e.g. NetWare for Linux), the software under consideration is
    > proprietary and hence is not a candiate for a "freeware"
    > reimplementation.

    Actually there is MARS_NWE which is effectively exactly that. Caldera are
    really selling a "branded" genuine netware. That I suspect makes the case
    even more awkward for a rewrite. Again your cite is a political and
    productization issue.

    > A: I've been truly amazed at the "group opinion" on this subject.

    If you were technically aware of whats going on in networking you wouldnt
    be. Streams is being dropped globally. Streams was originally a victory
    of standards people over sanity, its now being blasted into oblivion because
    1. Networks have sped up by a factor of 100 in 3 years - Memory hasnt
    2. Network performance is the hottest checklist item and its going to grow
    faster and faster.

    > Most people say that opposition to Streams is on technical grounds,
    > but I believe the real opposition is a political one. Many people

    I've never seen Linus with a political agenda. And even the people who get
    political about streams (eg Larry McVoy) do so from a technical base point.

    > be going out of their way to make Streams painful for everyone, as
    > if to fulfill their own prophecies on the "badness" of Streams.

    They don't need fulfilling.

    > The fascinating thing going on here is the fear of the "success" of
    > Linux: If someone wrote a "major application which depended on

    It wouldnt be a success - it would be an app that screws the future of
    the Linux networking stack. Right now we are the most shit hot piece of
    PC networking software on the planet. The only people who can touch us
    are FreeBSD (who also dont do streams).

    Having an application that is streams dependant that makes it hard to break
    the streams stuff isnt acceptable from a purely technical standpoint. Nor is
    it good for the long term future of Linux.

    What it means 3 years down the line is Linux would be bottom of the webstone
    benchmark and all the nice "linux is fast" graphs that sell Linux webservers
    will be gone, dead and history.

    Linux is _technically superior_ - that is its fundamental superiority. The
    core Linux product must continue to be so and the Linux core team agenda
    is purely technical superiority

    > the masses. (Not to mention David's unsupported assertion that the
    > mere presence of Streams in the kernel cause the kernel itself to
    > slow down--this just ain't so.)

    It does. We cannot do zero copy page flipping in a streams environment. When
    we do that the GCOM code _will_ probably break. I suspect it'll break in a
    fixable way where it'll be even slower again but with 1Gigabit networking
    once the cards support it , non zero copy networking is _not_ an option if
    we want to stay top of the pile. So we will end up breaking the GCOM stuff
    possibly pretty badly although I hope not, there is no malice in breaking
    of things.

    Another very worrying issue is field of interest in the support. Caldera
    ship only x86 Linux. Has anyone ever even verified the GCOM streams code
    is 64bit clean big and little endian, alignment clean, copes with ARM
    packing rules and all the other little portability wonders the mainstream
    code has to meet.

    > I disagree with David's assertion that Streams will "creap" [sic]
    > like a "fungus" into the rest of the kernel. Streams has a
    > well-defined kernel interface that is not likely to change much

    No streams does NOT have a well defined kernel interface. It has a poorly
    defined set of interactions with core Linux data structures. You may not
    be a good enough programmer to see that - I don't know your background. I've
    worked on Linux since it appeared, I've worked for people like 3Com who
    had this problem badly. Anything that has data structure interfaces with
    other code leaks through the structures over the boundary, or ties down
    those structures.

    Streams depends on the sk_buffs in the kernel. In a zero copy world those
    buffers may well just not exist any more

    > it's maintained by some nice guys at Gcom, NOT the _kernel
    > developers_. Linux Streams (LiS) has a lifetime of its own

    For how long. Who maintains it if Caldera pull out of Linux to concentrate
    on DOS only. Who maintains it if Caldera decide GCOM are charging too much.
    Are Caldera committed to 2.2 support of it, have they discussed getting
    the syscall numbers (which is all the actually need) from Linus ?

    > A: This remains to be seen, but a couple come to mind. Firstly,
    > Caldera's NetWare for Linux (NW4L) would definitely NOT be on Linux
    > were it not for Streams. You can decide for yourself whether or

    These are entirely non-technical issues, and you seem to be a bit short
    of actual examples except the netware client, which has a free version
    shipped in the standard kernels.

    The decisions people like Linus and Davem make on what goes into the
    kernel are purely technical ones. If Caldera think there is a market in
    shipping a modified "streams aware" kernel good for them. Streams is a
    marketing and productization issue not a technical issue. Streams ran out
    of technical arguments a very long time ago. Right now every vendor is
    trying to figure out how to get streams OUT of their box while keeping
    legacy API compatibility code from bloating the kernel another 200 K.

    We don't want to put that 200K in. Maybe to Caldera its a worthwhile
    commercial product. As I've said - reserve your syscall numbers I cannot
    see an opposition to that. Thats the advice I gave in 1996 or so when
    this first came up.

    Alan


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