Signs show Linux moving into the driver's seat

Summary:A steady stream of manufacturers are requesting Linux drivers for their hardware, suggesting growing adoption of Linux operating systems among enterprises.

A steady stream of manufacturers are requesting Linux drivers for their hardware, suggesting growing adoption of Linux operating systems among enterprises.

According to Greg Kroah-Hartman, Novell programmer and Linux Driver Project lead, the group of some 400 programmers at the Project receive requests to port existing closed-source drivers to open source drivers for Linux "all the time", and has been "doing a lot of work on this over the past few years".

In an e-mail exchange with ZDNet Asia, he pointed to his blog post of June this year, which said the Project receives on average, two requests a month from manufacturers to have drivers written.

The initiative works with hardware makers to code Linux drivers for their products for free, on the makers' request.

Such drivers have been written "for a wide range of different hardware devices" and been included into the main kernel tree, he said.

Back in 2007, Kroah-Hartman requested for help finding more hardware for which to write device drivers. Some reports online suggested that this was because businesses were holding back from opening their drivers up to the community.

Today, this "problem" has been "solved quite thoroughly", he said.

"All of the major hardware manufacturers told me that there is no problem that needs to be solved in relation to device support on Linux.

"Everything they ship worked just fine with Linux back then, and continues to do so today," he said.

Several hardware makers ZDNet Asia spoke to also said they were working on maintaining Linux compatibility.

Jeff Morris, director of client product management large enterprise and public for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Dell, said in an e-mail the company provides full Linux support for its enterprise servers.

He raised the examples of several Dell consumer-oriented desktops, as well as a corporate PC line which is offered without an installed OS, so that companies can install their own.

"We also worked very closely with our hardware partners and encourage them to create driver support for the Linux distributions we support," he added.

HP's Dennis Mark, vice president and general manager, desktop systems unit, personal systems group, Asia-Pacific and Japan, also pointed to several examples of the PC-maker's products which support Linux.

He said HP would continue looking into ways to provide Linux support.

Kroah-Hartman said Linux has reached mainstream status on the desktop, at least on the enterprise space. "There are very large companies that are well known users of Linux in this manner: all of the movie companies, Ford, Peugeot, all of the Wall Street companies, almost all banks [and] the stock exchanges," he said.

In spite of this, Linux has gained a bad rap within some consumer circles for being difficult to use, or to some, a new ground that consumers are not interested venturing into.

Both Red Hat and Novell last year pulled away from the consumer desktop space.

Red Hat last month reiterated its stance on the desktop space being one that does not pose a viable business option for it.

This article was originally posted on ZDNet Asia.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software

About

Victoria Ho is a tech journalist based in Singapore, whose writing has appeared in publications such as ZDNet, TechCrunch, and The Business Times. When she's not obsessing about IT, you can find her tinkering with music and daydreaming about which guitar to buy next.

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