Report reveals new data on Linux kernel development: how fast is it going, who is doing it, and who is sponsoring it  

SAN FRANCISCO, April 3, 2012 – The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux, today announced the immediate release of its latest report “Linux Kernel Development: How Fast It is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing and Who is Sponsoring It.”  

The report is released on roughly an annual basis to help illustrate the Linux kernel development process and the work that defines the largest collaborative development project in the history of computing. It covers work completed through the Linux kernel 3.2 release, with an emphasis on the releases made since the last update to this report in December 2010 (2.6.36 to 3.2).  

Key findings from this year’s paper include:

  • More than 7,800 developers from almost 800 different companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005. Just since the last report, more than 1,000 developers representing nearly 200 companies have contributed to the kernel.
  • Seventy-five percent of all kernel development is done by developers who are being paid for their work. Long believed to be a basement community of developers, the Linux community is a worldwide, professional network of the best software talent in the world. This army of developers together builds the foundation from which innovations such as Android, cloud computing, KVM, Xen, and more are born and succeed.
  • The top 10 organizations sponsoring Linux kernel development since the last report (or Linux kernel 2.6.36) are Red Hat, Intel, Novell, IBM, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Nokia, Samsung, Oracle and Google.[1] Mobile and embedded companies have been increasing their participation in recent years, not only adding more hardware support to the kernel but also taking responsibility for the advancement of core kernel areas.  
  • For the first time, Microsoft appears on list of companies that are contributing to the Linux kernel. Ranking at number 17, the company that once called Linux a “cancer,” today is working within the collaborative development model to support its virtualization efforts and its customers. Because Linux has reached a state of ubiquity, in which both the enterprise and mobile computing markets are relying on the operating system, Microsoft is clearly working to adapt.
  • The rate of change since the last report is high and increasing, with between 8,000 and 12,000 patches going into each recent kernel release every two to three months. That’s nearly 6 new patches per hour since the last release of this report.    

“Linux is the platform for the future of computing. More developers and companies are contributing to the advancement of the operating system than ever before, especially in the areas of mobile, embedded and cloud computing,” said Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer services, The Linux Foundation. “The increasing participation represents the power of Linux to quickly adapt to new market opportunities, lower costs, and provide sustained long-term support.”  

The report is co-authored by Jon Corbet, Linux kernel developer and editor of LWN.net; Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer and Linux Foundation fellow; and Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer services at The Linux Foundation.

To download the full report, please visit The Linux Foundation’s Publications website at: https://go.linuxfoundation.org/who-writes-linux-2012

The paper is being released today at The Linux Foundation’s Annual Collaboration Summit, the only invitation-only event where a cross-section of leaders from the Linux developer, industry and end user communities meet face-to-face to tackle today’s most pressing opportunities for the platform. The Summit serves Linux Foundation members, workgroup contributors and community members and is designed to accelerate collaboration and problem solving by bringing key stakeholders together in a neutral setting.  

Keynote speakers include executives and developers from Facebook, Huawei, Intel, NYSE Technologies and more. For more information or to access the live streaming video, please visit: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/collaboration-summit   


[1] This top 10 list omits categories “none,” “unknown,” “consultant,” and “academia” in order to provide a snapshot of the organization sponsoring the most work. See the full report for information on these categories and the full list of sponsors.

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