Linux 5.10 LTS Will Only Be Maintained Until EOY 2022 Unless More Companies Step Up

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 27 January 2021 at 10:36 AM EST. 44 Comments
Announced a few years ago was the notion of "extended" LTS kernel versions whereby the long term support cycle would span six years rather than the usual two years for LTS kernels in providing maintenance and bug/security fixes to the codebase. This means Linux 5.4 LTS is supported until the end of 2025, Linux 4.19 until the end of 2024, and even Linux 4.14 until the start of 2024. But with the recently minted Linux 5.10 LTS at least for now it's only being committed to maintenance until the end of next year.

There's been differing remarks/indications for how long the Linux 5.10 long-term support cycle would last with many expecting six years given that's what has been happening on recent LTS kernels -- even the Linux 4.4 kernel is being planned for maintenance until February 2022 and Linux 4.9 until 2023. Linux stable maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman has now provided a more transparent answer on the Linux kernel mailing list stemming from the talk over how long Linux 5.10 will be maintained.

At least as of now, Linux 5.10 LTS will just be maintained for two years or until the end of year 2022. It may ultimately be maintained for six years, but at least for now there haven't been any companies/organizations committing the resources that is making him say yes to that six year period. This is similar to the dance that normally has to happen each year following a new Linux Long Term Support kernel.

Greg commented, "I want to see companies _using_ the kernel, and most importantly, _updating_ their devices with it, to know if it is worth to keep around for longer than 2 years. I also, hopefully, want to see how those companies will help me out in the testing and maintenance of that kernel version in order to make supporting it for 6 years actually possible. So, are you planning on using 5.10? Will you will be willing to help out in testing the -rc releases I make to let me know if there are any problems, and to help in pointing out and backporting any specific patches that your platforms need for that kernel release? When I get this kind of promises and support from companies, then I am glad to bump up the length of the kernel support from 2 to 6 years, and I mark it on the web site. Traditionally this happens in February/March once I hear from enough companies."

This conversation all started from a Broadcom engineer voicing his opinion over a two year LTS kernel being insufficient.

Greg further added in another post, "So far the jury is still out for 5.10, are you willing to help with this? If not, why are you willing to hope that others are going to do your work for you? I am talking to some companies, but am not willing to commit to anything in public just yet, because no one has committed to me yet."

Principally he is after more organizations to help test release candidates and commit any necessary resources to making it make sense for him to continue the LTS stable maintainership beyond two years. (Greg for his part as a fellow at the Linux Foundation stewarding the stable kernel already receives around a $322k USD annual compensation package and another estimated $45k in additional compensation, per the most recent Linux Foundation reports.)

With Linux 5.10 set to be the default kernel of Debian 11 "Bullseye", used by the next Google Android release, and seeing other usage planned, we'll see soon if the decision is made to maintain this kernel for six years or if it will officially go end-of-life at the end of 2022.
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