Who helps make Linux? Microsoft.

In the Linux Foundation's latest list of who contributes the most to building Linux, we find, besides the usual suspects -- Red Hat, Intel, and Novell -- Microsoft.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Linux is made by corporations... including Microsoft.

Linux is made by corporations... including Microsoft.

Every year, The Linux Foundation compiles an analysis of who actually contributes the most to Linux's code (PDF Link). In the last year, 2011, besides the usual suspects, which includes Red Hat, Intel, Novell, IBM, Samsung, Oracle and Google, you'll also find some you didn't expect to see such from such as Nokia and, drum-roll please, Microsoft.

Microsoft has significantly contributed before to Linux. In the past though its main contributions have been to its own Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor drivers. Hyper-V is Microsoft's 64-bit hypervisor-based virtualization system. It's Microsoft's answer to VMware and Linux's own native Kernel-based Virtualization Manager (KVM).

Microsoft wants both Linux to run Server 2008 R2 instances and for Windows 2008 R2 to run Linux instances using its own virtualization tools. Microsoft has been working on this for some time with Novell, now SUSE. The results, according to Microsoft sources, have been outstanding.

According to The Linux Foundation, this is "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 top ten corporate contributors to Linux code by percentage of accepted code additions and changes are:

1. No company affiliation:17.9% 2. Red Hat: 11.9% 3. Novell/SUSE: 6.4% 4. Intel: 6.2% 5. IBM: 6.1% 6. Unknown: 5.1% 7. Consultant: 3.0% 8. Oracle: 2.1% 9. Academia: 1.3% 10. Nokia: 1.2%

While The top ten contributors, including the groups "unknown" and "none" make up over 60% of the total contributions to the kernel, the Foundation points out that even if you assume that "all of the 'unknown' contributors were working on their own time, over 75% of all kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work."

The idea that Linux is a hobbyist operating system created by techies living in their parents' basements is a delusion. Linux's developers by and large are corporate programmers working for billion dollar companies such as Red Hat.

The Linux Foundation also pointed out that, "Samsung and Texas Instruments (TI), both of which are prominent mobile and embedded companies. In recent years, the level of participation from this sector has been growing rapidly. It is worth noting that these companies are not only adding more hardware support to the kernel, they are also taking more responsibility for the advancement of core kernel areas like the scheduler and memory management." With Android back in as an offical part of the mainline Linux kernel, we can expect to see Samsung, TI, and Google to become even bigger Linux kernel players in 2012.

If you look at who reviews the code and signs off on it, rather than just writing it, you'll find some very familiar names. Linux's top code gatekeepers include Greg Kroah-Hartman, David S. Miller, John W. Linville, Linus Torvalds, and Andrew Morton. The corporate affiliations are also a who's who of Linux companies. Here, you'll find Red Hat at the top with an amazing 37.7%, followed by Novell/SUSE with 13.4%.

"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, the Linux Foundation's VP of marketing and developer services,. "The increasing participation represents the power of Linux to quickly adapt to new market opportunities, lower costs, and provide sustained long-term support."

With everyone, including Microsoft, supporting Linux, I'd say she's right.

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