Big Business backs Linux

Big Business backs Linux

Summary: Open-source software development has become corporate software development. Deal with it.


Believe it or not, there is still this illusion that Linux and open-source software is written by counter-culture, C++ programming cultists living in their parent basements or huddled together in Cambridge, Mass. group-houses. Please. That is so twenty-years ago. Today, as the Linux Foundation reveals in its latest analysis, Linux Kernel Development: How Fast it is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing, and Who is Sponsoring It (PDF Link), it's big business that's making Linux in 2010.

Yes, there is a political agenda that can go with Linux and free and open-source software. It tends to be a mix of libertarian and liberal ideas and its main focus is on free "as in speech, not as in beer" software. For more on that side of free/libre/open source software (FLOSS), I recommend you visit the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Still, while the FSF's Gnu General Public License (GPL) was, and is, vital to Linux, businesses are what drive the day-in, day-out development of Linux, and most other open-source programs.

To be specific, the Linux Foundation found that "over 70% of all [Linux] kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work." There is still a lot of work being done by "amateurs," about 18.9%; although I'm not sure how "amateur" a programmer can be whose work is accepted into the Linux kernel.

Still, while there are thousands of Linux developers, most of the work falls on the shoulder of a few programmers. To quote from the report, "Despite the large number of individual developers, there is still a relatively small number who are doing the majority of the work. In any given development cycle, approximately 1/3 of the developers involved contribute exactly one patch. Over the past 5.5 years, the top 10 individual developers have contributed 10% of the total changes and the top 30 developers have contributed almost 22% of the total. "

Most of these developers work for technology companies. The top-ten breakdown looks like this:

Company/Organization  Percentage of committed changes

  • Red Hat                          12.4% Novell                              7.0% IBM                                  6.9% Unknown                         6.4% Intel                                 5.8% Consultants                     2.6% Oracle                              2.3% Renesas Technology        1.4% The Linux Foundation      1.3% Academics                       1.3%

Of that group, the only one you probably don't know on sight is Renesas Technology. It's one of the world's largest manufacturers of micro-controllers and semiconductors. The others need no introduction. I will say, however, with Novell now going into the hands of Microsoft, cough, Attachmate, I do worry about how much Novell will be contributing in the future.

I was also interested to see that Linux's developers do indeed appear to be graying. Linus Torvalds, for example, does not appear in the top-30 list of individual developers. As the report explains, "Linus remains an active and crucial part of the development process; his contribution cannot be measured just by the number of changes made. We are seeing a similar pattern with a number of other senior kernel developers; as they put more time into the review and management of patches from others, they write fewer patches of their own."

So, here we have an aging group of developers working, for the most part, for major companies on a gigantic software project. Funny,  that doesn't sound that radical to me. Linux, and its development, has become just as mainstream as any proprietary software project.

That's not to say that they're the same. Thanks for the freedom of open-source software, bugs are found and fixed far faster than they are in proprietary programs and new ideas can be rapidly introduced and tried out.

No, what's important about how Linux and open-source software is created isn't the side issues of politics or how its developers are perceived; it's that its fundamental methodology produces better software. That's why businesses invest in Linux's development. Linux works. If it didn't, big business wouldn't bother with it.

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

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  • I guess,....

    according to most MS fan boys, Linux is still a failure. Funny how biased minds can distort reality.
    • From what I been told by the ABMer's

      you have to have 70% of the market to be a success, so maybe the bias is shared equally from both sides? You know, where MSSQL is a failure because Oracle has a larger DB share? Where Dell is a failure because Apple sells more laptops. Where XBox360 is a failure because it only outsells PS and Wii by a small margin. Windows 7 is a failure because its still less then XP.

      You know, those kind of biased statements.
      John Zern
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @John Zern - Now now John, don't poke the trolls with sharp barbed sticks like that. You know it only annoys them! ;)
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @John Zern

        Just so you know, Xbox 360 is not outselling the Wii.
        Aeon Locke
      • Go back to flipping burgers John...

      • zkiwi, is that the best you can do?

        Hmmm. Did the burger thing annoy you? look, I wasn't trying to offend you or anyone else (as I feel the job you do is very important) but come on, is that the best you can do, take what I said and repeate it back?

        Look: to be honest, cyberslammer comes off as a 16 year old with a degree in burger preperation (he has General Zod as his avatar?) So that's what the comment's all about.

        If I offeneded you as you hold that same position, I really do appologize, I meant no disrespect by it.
        John Zern
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @John Zern How's my burger coming Johnny Boy? Found my post predicting Windows 7 would fail yet?

        Keep looking, I'm sure you'll find it someday.

        Don't forget to wipe down the counters at the salad bar.
        • RE: Big Business backs Linux

          @cyberslammer2 Truth be told, I hold a Master's Degree in IT Mr. Burger Flipper.

          I'm quite proud of my accomplishments, and I make quite a bit of money for a 16-year old who worships General Zod.

          Sorry if you're jealous.
      • Well Cyberslammer, I guess that beats my job

        of actually <i>running</i> our IT dept as Director of Information Technology.<br>Well better go check on my Windows servers...Yep they're all still running.<br><br>I guess I just got lucky this week...
        John Zern
      • @JZ

        I was equating your posts with his. Lacking in quality, speedily prepared and unhealthy. Pity you missed that implication. Now go back to flipping burgers, please.
      • At least John can make an argument.

        @zkiwi: [i]Go back to flipping burgers John..[/i]

        Unlike yourself.
      • girl , girl ,girl you start a fight without me not fair

        @John Zern
        Mr zern was not flipping burger please a bit of respect for the burger industries , how the hell were suppose to get fat eating salad ... Mr Zern is working at a adult video store cleaning messy vhs and part time repairing computer for the fry's ........

        And before anybody ask how the hell i know that well as a homeless alcoholic i hobo to the south east winter

        John im sorry it was a open door i didn't mean disrespect honestly
        Have a nice evening
      • what your running a IT dept as Director of Information Technology

        @John Zern
        After all you accept the job at the DOD for cleaning the wikileak mess .... good luck

        Im sorry John this will be a long night
      • Mr. cyberslammer2, I seriously doubt

        that you hold a Master's degree in IT.

        Your statements to date would indicate you lack the maturity to undertake and obtain such a level of education. Your posts are of that of a person begging for attenetion.

        Those I do know that have such a level of education do not bother themselves or others with taunts of "my technology makes me cool, look at me", or of distain for having chosen a product other then that of your preference.

        You seem to thrive on insulting those who use a Microsoft or other non "Designed in Cupertino Assembled in China" products, hardly the course someone with a Master's Degree would take.

        I would agree with Mr. Zern, and many others, when stating that I believe that you are possibly quite young, and do not have the degree you claim you do.

        You sound like a small child that feels he must prove to everyone around him that he is every bit as equal as they are, even when those around him are adults.
        Tim Cook
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @Mr. Spock Gee Mr. Spock, would you like me to scan my transcripts and send them to you proving I graduated with a 3.5 average for my Masters? Scan my undergrad transcripts? How about my certifications? Better yet, how about my DD-214 from 10 years in the military, or my commissioning certificate....

        Any of those prove who and what I am? Or would you discount that too and say I faked it all?
      • DD-214???


        What were you discharged for? did you annoy the hell out of the military too?

        God bless 'em for putting up with it for 10 years, that's about 10 more than I would've given you.
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @SonofaSection8 No loser, it's called an HONORABLE DISCHARGE...something you probably never had because to you being the son of a sailor makes you a vet. Go swab a deck.
      • ah...


        and I'm guessing [i]you're[/i] the reason there is a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military now, huh?
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @sonofasailor<br>How about you keep your homophobic ass-hattery to yourself, jackhole?<br><br>@ Mister Spock<br>As someone who continually posts not only with the pseudonym of a fictional character, but actually AS that character, you are in NO position to call ANYONE on their maturity.<br><br>@ ItsTheBottomLine<br><br>I would point out that CyberSlammer, like myself, mostly posts on topics related to Apple, only in response to the inaccurate posts of others. Others like yourself. So it is a bit ironic that you are here calling him out on this, since if it were not for trolls such as yourself (who haunt ZDNet looking for articles about a company you hate, and have no personal interest in, just to bad mouth it) neither of us would have occasion to post much of anything.<br><br>Care to differ? Please post a list of threads where either of us made any top level posts.
      • RE: Big Business backs Linux

        @Sonofasection8, MrSpock.