Contributions to Linux by an Illinois Undergraduate

Contributions to Linux by an Illinois Undergraduate

The Linux operating system runs on millions of hardware devices. Ninety percent of all cloud infrastructure is powered by Linux, including supercomputers and cloud providers, 74% of smartphones globally are Linux-based, and even NASA’s Mars helicopter runs Linux. The Linux kernel, as the core of the operating system, manages the hardware resources like CPU, memory, and peripheral devices and provides programming interfaces to user applications.

A programming enthusiast who began writing Python code during high school, recent computer engineering graduate YiFei Zhu (BS CE ’21) has parlayed his knowledge and skills into impactful contributions to Linux, arguably the most widely used system software in the world.

During the summer of 2020, Zhu interned remotely at Google’s Network Infrastructure team, improving the eBPF subsystem’s storage features in the Linux kernel. eBPF is a trending technology that allows running sandboxed programs in the Linux kernel without changing kernel source code or loading kernel modules.

Google uses eBPF for critical network operations, such as network configuration and traffic control. Zhu’s work improves the shareability and flexibility of eBPF storage, enabling many new use cases. The Linux kernel adopted his work and is also used by Google’s large-scale production network infrastructures.

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