Reading between the lines of the Linux contributor list

The recently released Who Writes Linux kernel contributor list reveals that some of the usual supporters of Linux — Red Hat, SUSE, IBM, Intel, Oracle — remain firmly behind the open source OS.

There has also been a lot of attention on the other contributors, which now include Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). What I find most fascinating about the Linux contributor list — beyond the increasing rate of code change with some 10,000 patches from 1,000 developers representing 200 companies in each quarterly kernel release — are the contributors that show some new direction and potential for Linux, in this case the processor players.

Whenever the Linux contributor report comes out, there is also typically some focus on those that use the Linux kernel code but do not necessarily appear among its list of core contributors.

One of the most frequent names to come up in this regard is Canonical, backer of the popular Ubuntu distribution.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Microsoft, broadest supporter of Linux

In writing recently about the continuation (451 subscribers) of the Microsoft-SUSE Windows-Linux interoperability and patent agreement, it occurred to me that in a sense, Microsoft is the broadest supporter of Linux in the industry. Microsoft obviously supports SUSE Linux quite deeply given nearly five years of work with its commercial backer. Microsoft somewhat begrudgingly entered into a virtualization agreement with Red Hat, so that both could better support one another’s operating systems and hypervisors. Finally, Microsoft has been among the most aggressive vendors in the industry to back unpaid, community Linux, such as CentOS, for which it unveiled support last month.

Indeed, Microsoft has consistently displayed some respect for Linux in general, including its contribution of code to the Linux kernel under the GPL.

Despite the concerns about Microsoft’s control over SUSE Linux or Linux in general, the fact of the matter is Microsoft’s investment of both dollars, including its SUSE deals worth a few hundred million, and investment of of resources, such as the interoperability work with Novell/SUSE, the kernel contribution, the cross-OS and hypervisor support work with Red Hat and the support of CentOS, Microsoft is significantly supporting Linux development and use in the enterprise.

I wrote last year about the uncertainty around Novell/SUSE kernel contribution given the Attachmate acquisition.

That all-important contribution from one of the key drivers behind the Linux kernel will now likely continue in large part thanks to Microsoft. And while we cannot simply forget Microsoft’s past actions, such as resisting the GPL, the company’s position as a broad supporter of Linux certainly illustrates how we live in a much different Linux landscape today.

Hypervisor fight good for customers, good for FOSS

There have been many changes in the market and technology since Citrix acquired XenSource and a major stewardship stake in the Xen open source hypervisor four years ago. Red Hat’s 2008 Qumranet acquisition and subsequent push behind the Linux-integrated Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor has added to the disruption. One thing, though, remains the same: the intense competition among these open source hypervisors in the enterprise market.

Read the entire article at LinuxInsider.

Linux kernel solid, but what will become of Novell contribution?

The Linux Foundation has just released its annual Kernel Development Report, tracking the amount of changes and contributions to the Linux OS kernel. Similar to last year, there are no real surprises on this year’s report, which provides a good check on who is developing the core of the OS and what they are doing. However, I do have one big question for the kernel and Linux contributions after reading the report: what will become of the Linux kernel work from Novell now that it has been acquired, along with the SUSE Linux technology and business?

We do see consistency again this time on the top kernel contributors, particularly Red Hat, Novell, IBM and Intel. While Red Hat continues toward its goal of a billion dollars in annual revenue (helped along by its cloud computing and PaaS play), the fate and future of Novell and SUSE Linux is less certain. While we do believe the OS itself will live on thanks largely to big enterprise users and developers that are part of the SUSE Linux and OpenSUSE communities, and Novell acquirer Attachmate has signaled continued support, the kernel contribution from Novell developers is really another matter. We will be watching closely to see whether the kernel support continues, but we may see Novell fade on the top kernel contributor list as others, such as Oracle, SGI, Fujitsu, Parallels, Nokia, Google and others may rise.

It is also interesting in the kernel report to see yet more mobile and embedded contributors — including AMD, Freescale, Cavium Networks’ MontaVista, Renesas Technology and others — something we started seeing with last year’s kernel report and expect will continue to grow.

In conclusion, Linux fans should be encouraged by the quality, diversity and new directions of the Linux kernel development community. While there is cause for some concern regarding Novell’s contribution, overall, Linux development seems to be charging ahead.

LinuxCon corrals community, clouds, challenges

I attended the first LinuxCon this week and saw firsthand evidence of a growing, thriving Linux community. Notice I did not call it the Linux kernel community nor Linux development community since it’s much more than the kernel that is key to the fate and progress of Linux, with an increasing role for users as well.

Of course, LinuxCon and the accompanying Linux Plumbers Conference (held for the second time since last year are primarily a gathering of Linux kernel hackers and the developers that push the open source OS forward. So it was fitting to have some of the most significant contributors and maintainers gathered to discuss the state of Linux in front of the Linux faithful.

A highlight of the conference for many was a kernel panel featuring Linux creator Linus Torvalds himself, Jonathan Corbet, Chris Wright, Ted Ts’o and Greg Kroah-Hartman, moderated by James Bottomley.

The panel began with some discussion of improvements and efficiences in kernel development and incorporation of new branches and code, with Torvalds indicating his kernel life had gotten a bit more manageable. However, the discussion soon turned to some significant issues, particularly the size and fitness of Linux. What began as a lightweight OS (which is still stripped of parts and used for lightweight embedded and other uses) has grown dramatically over the last 10 years. In fact, in just the last year, 2.7m more lines of code were added to the kernel. Although there is certainly a great sense of vitality around Linux and the kernel, there was also agreement that Linux may be getting too fat. While there was no real solution that emerged, at least it’s clear kernel developers and Linux leaders are aware of the situation.

Another interesting topic and perhaps dilemma for the Linux kernel and its backers: the aging team of core contributors. Also, as highlighted by Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin to open the conference, the Linux community needs to do a better job of reaching out and including women. I would add that there is also a need for greater diversity and geographic representation among kernel hackers, even though we already see a global Linux community with LinuxCon visitors from across Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and elsewhere.

The unmasking of the fake LT was fun, mostly for the rap music video with dancing penguin suit guy, but once again we saw Matt Asay take the prize (this after winning the open source license debate recently). I guess this open source advocate is on a roll.

For my part at LinuxCon, I gave a talk on community Linux — that is unpaid, self-supported Linux — and its impact on the enterprise, with a particular focus on cloud computing. This coincides with a 451 Group report on the same topic. When we wrote our report on community Linux a year ago, we highlighted how community distributions such as CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu are putting competitive pressure on commercial, subscription Linux, such as RHEL and SUSE. We see the presence of community Linux and its impact increasing, though we must point out there are also complimentary effects from community Linux, which grows users, support and the overall Linux ecosystem. Still, we see enterprise organizations using community Linux for some of the same reasons they look to Linux in general: cost savings, flexibility and greater utilization of developers and teams that are capable of supporting themselves.

We had indicated that technology trends such as virtualization and cloud computing tend to favor the established, paid Linux distributions and vendors. In fact, virtualization, cloud and interoperability are key areas where Linux vendors differentiate their paid versions. This continues to be the case, and there is ample room for Linux vendors to continue and deepen that differentiation. However, there will be more community Linux pressure coming from these ‘other’ distributions, and much of it appears to be coming from cloud computing.

We are hearing from vendors and end users that community Linux makes sense for cloud computing. Obviously cost is a big factor, and perhaps bigger give current economic conditions. Also, enterprise organizations are finding that they can support themselves in many situations. Technically, community Linux distributions may also be easier to strip of messaging and other parts for use in cloud building. Community Linux may be growing its presence in cloud computing, with vendors such as Convirture, rPath, RightScale and others incorporating it into their technologies and strategies. However, when it comes to offering Linux in the cloud, we again see this favoring the more established, more accepted commercial distributions of Linux.

None leading Linux kernel development

After reading the latest update on Linux kernel development, highlighted by 451 Group colleague Dan Kusnetzky, I have a few observations to share.

First off, to answer Dan’s question, ‘Are you surprised?,’ I don’t think there were any real surprises. We see a list of the companies that are most aggressively and persistently pushing Linux and also a legacy lead for the vendors that embraced Linux long ago — Red Hat, IBM, Novell and Intel — compared to those that took longer to come around or are newer to the scene — SGI, Fujitsu, Monta Vista, Google. Another thing that stands out is the increasing number of hardware, virtualization and mobile vendors that are among significant Linux contributors — Analog Devices, Freescale, MIPS Technologies, Marvell, Movial and Nokia, for example.

But what really stands out to me is the leading contributing entity to the Linux kernel: ‘none.’ This, along with the ‘unknown’ category that slips in between top contributor Red Hat and second-largest contributor IBM, accounts for more than a quarter of the kernel contributions (18.2% from none and another 7.6% from unknown). Does this mean that pizza-eating developers who don’t make any money are the main contributors to Linux? Certainly not. We know that most open source software developers have ‘day jobs’ working on other software, sometimes proprietary. Still, given our research on community Linux and its impact on the paid Linux market, it is interesting to see that there is still plenty of community development going on, even while corporate support and involvement continues to grow. This also coincides with survey findings from open source support vendor OpenLogic that indicate while customers prefer open source software with commercial support options, they also prefer software developed and backed by multiple vendors or a community.

One other point on the latest contributor report. Similar to last year’s report release and my attendance at the first Linux Plumbers Conference, we heard complaints about Ubuntu distributor Canonical’s contributions, or lack thereof, to the Linux kernel. So by this logic, Microsoft is contributing more and doing more for Linux than Canonical? Microsoft’s recent contribution of GPLv2 Linux drivers, delays notwithstanding, marks perhaps a greater kernel contribution from Microsoft than what is coming to the kernel from Canonical. However, I would reiterate that by contributing, refining, advancing and innovating outside of the kernel — which appears to have plenty of contributors, momentum and growth — Canonical is helping stretch Linux in new directions, such as desktop PCs and netbooks and cloud computing environments.

In the end, all contributions to the Linux kernel and the Linux OS have significance. The detailed reports so thoughtfully and well laid out by the good folks at the Linux Foundation can be useful and enlightening to let us know who is developing the core of the open source operating system (as well as how fast — an already fast rate of change in which the number of lines of code added to the kernel daily nearly tripled since 2008). However, the report should not serve as the sole indicator of an individual or organization’s contribution to Linux. If it does, then hats off to ‘none’ and ‘unknown.’

CAOS Theory Podcast 2009.07.24

Topics for this podcast:

* The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation
* Microsoft contributes Linux kernel drivers under GPLv2
* Linux and open source loom large in cloud computing

iTunes or direct download (29:45, 6.9 MB)

Microsoft contributes to Linux kernel: a CAOS Theory Q&A

Microsoft has announced that it is to contribute code to the Linux kernel development effort under the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. What on earth does it all mean? Here’s our take on the situation. With thanks to Jay Lyman for his contribution to the following:

Flying Pig

Q. This is a joke, right?

A. Not at all, although if any announcement is better suited to the image above, we can’t think of one. Microsoft has announced that it is going to contribute code to Linux under the GPLv2.

Q. What code is Microsoft contributing?

A. Microsoft is offering 20,000 lines of its own device drivers to the Linux kernel that will enable Linux to run as a guest on its Hyper-V virtualization technology. Specifically, the contributed loadable kernel modules enable Linux to run in ‘enlightened mode’, giving it efficiencies equivalent to a Windows virtual machine running on Hyper-V.

Q. Why is Microsoft doing this?

A. Red Hat and Novell’s Linux distributions already support enlightened mode, thanks to the development work done by both in partnership with Microsoft. One benefit for Microsoft of contributing to the kernel is that it reduces duplication of effort and the cost of supporting multiple, unique implementations of Linux. Once the code has been accepted into the kernel, Microsoft will use the kernel tree code as the basis for future virtualization integration development.

It also means that community Linux distributions will be able to use the code, which opens up more opportunities for Microsoft in the hosting market, where adoption of community Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS is significant. It also therefore slightly strengthens the challenge those community operating systems can make to Red Hat and Novell, which are more direct commercial challengers to Windows.

Make no mistake about it, Microsoft’s contribution is driven by its own interests. While it must serve and respond to enterprise customers that continue to drive the use of multiple operating systems and mixed environments, Microsoft also benefits by differentiating its Hyper-V virtualization technology from virtualization leader VMware. We believe Microsoft sees an opportunity to make virtualization with Windows more Linux-friendly than VMware.

Q. What’s in it for Linux?

A. The interoperability benefits previously reserved for ‘approved’ Microsoft partners will now be available licensed under the GPLv2, and available for all Linux distributions – commercial or community – without the need for a formal partnership.

The contribution of device drivers to the Linux kernel as been a sticking point for the Linux development community in the past as developers have struggled to encourage vendors to contribute driver code to the kernel. Microsoft is therefore setting something of a precedent and could encourage other vendors that have been reticent to contribute their drivers to do so.

The seal of approval Microsoft has given to the GPLv2 is also not to be overlooked. If Microsoft can find a way to contribute to Linux projects, many other organisations may also be encouraged to do so.

Q. I guess Linux is no longer “a cancer” then?

A. Exactly. Back in 2001 Steve Ballmer told the Chicago Sun-Times* “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.”

Reviewing the statement in the context of today’s announcement demonstrates how much progress Microsoft has made in the intervening years to understand open source licenses. Contribution to Linux, or to any other project under the GPL, would have been unthinkable at the time, and is still barely believable today. The announcement is likely to challenge perceptions of Microsoft’s strategy when it comes to open source, Linux and the most popular open source license.

*The original article is no longer available online. Plenty of references are still available, however.

Q. What does this say about Microsoft’s overall strategy towards open source?

A. The contribution is a significant sign that Microsoft is now prepared to participate with open source projects on their own terms by using the chosen license of that project and making contributions directly to the chosen development forge of that project. Microsoft continues to use its own CodePlex project hosting site for code releases, but if an existing open source project uses SourceForge then Microsoft has acknowledged that the best way to engage with that community is on SourceForge. Don’t expect this to be the last contribution Microsoft does under the GPL.

Microsoft is now becoming more proactive in how it engages with open source under a strategy it describes as ‘Open Edge’ (which we have previously mentioned here and here. Whereas Open Core is used by commercial open source vendors to offer proprietary extensions to open source code, Open Edge is Microsoft’s strategy to encourage open source development and application deployment on top of its suite of commercial software: Windows, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, SQL Server etc.

The Open Edge strategy is rooted in attempting to ensure Microsoft’s commercial products continue to be relevant to the ecosystem of developers and partners that the company has attracted to its software platform. It is also a continuation of the realization that if customers and developers are going to use open source software, Microsoft is more likely to retain those customers if it helps them use open source on Windows et al.

For more details on Microsoft’s strategy towards open source, its partnerships with open source vendors, and its contributions to open source projects, see The 451 Group’s formal report on the contribution to Linux (the report will shortly be available via this link ).

Q. How is the contribution to the Linux kernel being handled?

A. The contribution is being made via an alliance with the Linux Kernel Driver Project and its maintainer, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who will steward the contribution into the Linux kernel code base. (Greg has a post up about it here).

Q. What are the intellectual property issues?

A. The copyright for the code will remain with Microsoft, with the contributor credit going to its engineering lead, Hank Janssen, group program manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center.

Q. And patents?

A. If we were putting money on the most likely conspiracy theory to emerge in response to this news it would be that this is a Trojan horse and Microsoft is contributing code to Linux that it will later claim patent rights over. Whether that is even theoretically possible depends on your understanding of the GPLv2.

The GPLv2 contains an implicit patent promise that some would say makes a Trojan horse impossible. However, the FSF obviously thought it necessary to introduce a more explicit patent promise with the GPLv3 to remove any doubt.

Ultimately this is a question for a lawyer, or an eloquence of lawyers (yes it is ironic, apparently). In the meantime, it is our understanding that Microsoft’s understanding is that contributing code using the GPLv2 includes a promise not to charge a royalty for, or assert any patents covering, the code being contributed.

Q. What about Microsoft’s prior claim that Linux infringes its patents?

A. Microsoft really dropped the ball on its communication of the suggestion that free software infringes over 200 of its patents, and tensions with free and open source software advocates are likely to continue to be tested by Linux-related patent agreements, such as the one struck with Melco Holdings last week, which have driven scepticism and mistrust of Microsoft among some key open source supporters.

Absent the company giving up on software patents altogether, we believe that in order to convince those FOSS advocates that it is serious about co-existence, Microsoft needs to find a way to publicly communicate details about those 200+ patents in such a way that is not seen as a threat and would enable open source developers to license, work around, or challenge them. We also believe that the company is aware of this, although finding a solution to the problem will not be easy. But then neither was contributing code to Linux under the GPLv2.

UPDATE – It has subsequently become clear that there were two important questions that were not answered by our Q&A. Those have been covered by an addendum – UPDATE.

TomTom Linux impact light hit so far

I’ve been talking to device manufacturers and the Linux-centered software providers that feed them code for mobile phones, TV set-top boxes, industrial control, automotive technology, medical devices, military uses and a slew of other categories commonly classified as embedded devices, and I can definitively report that I am not hearing or sensing any fear, uncertainty or doubt (FUD) as a result of Microsoft’s TomTom patent suit.

I wrote last month that the controversial MS TomTom suit was not aimed at Linux as much as TomTom and some market categories for Microsoft. While we must all remind ourselves that anything may be possible considering court rulings and Microsoft strategies, I don’t see Microsoft’s TomTom suit as truly aimed at Linux. If it is, I don’t see it having much, if any, impact on Linux. Many bloggers and posters are indicating that this suit is Microsoft’s effort to address the traction of embedded Linux, but I’m not seeing any signs of impact. In fact, the suit may end up driving embedded Linux forward and growing adoption even more if we look to the past.

I still have my suspicions and concerns (i.e. the netbook market) about Microsoft, but I believe previous challenges to the IP of the Linux kernel — both in the courtroom and the public arena — indicate the open source operating system is sound in both body and spirit. I am reminded of a poignant statement from former OSDL executive director Stuart Cohen (who now heads enterprise collaboration play CSI. As the SCO case against IBM and Linux and the world was in its seventh death stage, Cohen argued SCO’s case and allegations over Linux did more to bolster the enterprise credibility and acceptability of Linux than anything else.

I don’t necessarily see the same effect from the TomTom suit since, at least publicly, Microsoft is not making the case that it is Linux on the line. I can report that there does not seem to be any slowdown or hesitation in the embrace of Linux for embedded devices. Perhaps that is the reason that Microsoft has chosen to play down any implications for Linux and open source, rather than puff them up as it has done in the past. If Microsoft or anyone else challenges the IP integrity of the Linux OS, it is likely to reinforce the idea that the open source software is legitimate, licensed, covered by copyright, and absolutely appropriate for enterprise, embedded and other commercial uses, at least that’s what history tells us.

Linux – the OS that keeps on giving

Most Linux users and supporters are well aware of the openness, collaboration and flexibility that mark the OS and its distributions, but we’ve received some more tangible gifts from the Linux community recently as we enjoy the holidays. We also see the OS continues to run strong in a variety of settings, and this is best-evidenced by the latest releases of the most popular distributions.

The first gift was more of a Halloween present with Canonical’s October release of Ubuntu 8.10. Highlights of the update to the popular desktop and server-striving Linux: new, easier 3G wireless network support, greater USB portability, new guest sessions and Gnome 2.24, which features new IM, multi-monitor, time tracking and other support. The 8.10 release, which focuses a bit more on performance improvements rather than polish, nonetheless should keep current Ubuntu users happy and continue to draw in others with its ease of use.

We also had a significant update from Red Hat and the Fedora community with the anticipated release of Fedora 10 in November, which also marked five years of this Linux distribution that serves as a desktop and server OS and also a community development OS for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. While it had some server and administration highlights centering on virtualization, remote management and security, Fedora also had some nice improvements for ordinary Linux users. Atop the list as a Linux-wide trend that may prove critical to winning desktop share, and this is Fedora’s faster boot up time. The Fedora 10 update also adresses some lingering audio issues in Linux with an ironed out PulseAudio. Fedora 10 also features an improved NetworkManager and updated Gnome and KDE desktop environments.

In the days leading up to the holidays, we received yet another Linux update in the form of the latest OpenSUSE 11.1, which serves similarly to Fedora as its own distribution and the foundation and testbed of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise. OpenSUSE 11.1 is the first release developed with the new OpenSUSE Build Service 1.0 and under a simpler license with no EULA. It features a full range of updates and improvements: new Linux kernel for broader hardware support, including video cameras; Nomad remote desktop, new YaST system management and partitioner and — there’s a theme here — the latest Gnome and KDE versions.

Given all of the new and interesting features out there, I’m tempted to use some of my holiday free time to play with all three distributions. Even though I haven’t installed and tried all three yet, I think these latest Linux distributions demonstrate quite clearly that Linux is leading the way to the future of the OS.

Pressure, progress flow at Linux Plumbers Conference

This week’s Linux Plumbers Conference in Portland was a great opportunity for many of the Linux kernel community people to get together, challenge one another, hash out some differences and hone their similarities and synergies. What strikes me as perhaps most interesting is that while there was some discord felt throughout the event among the different Linux camps, this conglomerate of developers representing a range of different vendors in a variety of different ways all do one thing common to all of them: push the kernel forward.

One of the biggest ripples at the three-day conference, which drew about 350 Linux plumbers (the developers who work on the kernel, libraries, utilities, interfaces and other code that are Linux), was Greag Kroah-Hartman’s opening keynote, which included some less than favorable references to Ubuntu distributor Canonical and its contributions to the kernel. Much of the discussion, like most of those from the LPC, centered on technicalities and distinctions. Talk about Canonical’s actual kernel system contribution, and it may be minimal compared to leaders Red Hat and Novell. However, consider Canonical’s work on Gnome, KDE, desktop packaging and installation, and its code contribtion is much more significant. So goes the reasoning of Canonical CTO Mark Zimmerman, who also complains that Kroah-Hartman was not prominently identifying himself as a Novell employee during his keynote and criticism of Canonical.

Kroah-Hartman — rightfully a respected kernel and Linux community contributor, participant and leader — does seem to be taking a bit of a confrontational approach to Canonical. Consider that much of the LPC discussion I heard and was involved in centered on his employer Novell, its partnership with Microsoft and lingering resentment and skepticism over the deal. While I think the partnership is proving beneficial to both vendors, particularly with a focus on interoperability over IP and patent issues, there is still some apprehnesion, particularly among up-and-coming developers, about what Microsoft’s involvement in Novell’s Linux business will mean. Novell continues to employ and support some of the brightest kernel hackers, including Kroah-Hartman and many others. It is the second largest contributor of changes to the Linux kernel, behind only Red Hat. Nevertheless, the developer focus of LPC offered a developer-centric view, and many of the people I talked to have higher regard for Red Hat, and some, yes, for Canonical because of Novell’s involvement with Microsoft. We must also consider other factors and contributions to fully appreciate the significance of the collaboration, multiple players and vendor-neuatral approach in Linux. As for Red Hat, it maintains perhaps the most enterprise-effective yet open Linux developer communities in the industry (including Fedora). Beyond its code contributions, Canonical has arguably done more for Linux usability than any other single entity, all while maintaining an open, active developer community.

In another example of free and open source software communities airing and ironing out their differences, we had the Firefox EULA brouhaha this week (subsequently resolved with little fanfare). Who was it urging calm, respect, practicality and patience: Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth. That alone speaks to not only his own leadership, but also to the leadership, positive impact and contribution of Canonical. It is one of many contributions made by many different organizations and individuals, all of which should be considered in the context of the larger Linux ecosystem and what they do for it.

The Linux lowdown from the source

The Linux Foundation has put out a fascinating study on Linux kernel development, who’s doing it and how fast things are moving. In reading through the report, I’ve picked out some of the statistics and points that stood out to me:

There have been almost 10,000 patches in each recent ~quarterly Linux kernel release. Releases include work from ~1,000 developers and ~100 companies. Since 2005, Linux has had more than 3,600 individual developers and more than 250 companies contributing to the kernel.

The individual development community has tripled in the last three years. The top 10 developers have contributed 15% of changes, and the top 30 developers have contributed 30% of changes to the kernel.

Linus Torvalds is 27th on the list of contributors with most changes over the last few years. He has 495 to his name. The list is led by Al Viro, with 1,571 changes, David S. Miller with 1,520 changes and Adrian Bunk with 1,441 changes. Andrew Morton is fifth with 1,222 changes and Greg Kroah-Hartman, co-author of the report, just edged out Linus to rank 26th in contributed changes at 496.

In terms of the companies contributing to Linux, the bulk of contributions come not from any individual companies, but in true Linux and open source fashion from community developers. More than 11,500 or 14% of kernel changes have come from developers with no commercial entity backing their Linux development. Another 13% of changes come from developers with ‘unknown’ commercial affiliation. When we get to actual companies, Red Hat leads with 9,351 kernel changes, or 11.2%. Next is Novell with 8.9%, IBM with 8.3% and Intel with 4.1% of kernel changes. Others with more than 1% of contributed kernel changes include: Linux Foundation, SGI, MIPS Technologies, Oracle and MontaVista.

As further evidence of increasing commercial support and contribution to Linux, the report authors said despite the large number of kernel changes coming from those with no or unknown commercial affiliation, more than 70% of all kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work.

From the 2.6.11 kernel to the 2.6.24 release (1,140 days), there were an average of 2.8 accepted patches applied to the Linux kernel tree per hour. An average of more than 3,600 lines of code is added to the Linux kernel tree every day. Since 2005, the kernel has grown at a steady rate of 10% per year.

The Linux Foundation, which rightly points out that vendor participation is strategic and competitive rather than charitable, concludes that current work on server, desktop and embedded Linux should sustain the growth of Linux development. The latest Linux Foundation study serves as a good measure of where the OS is today and how it is progressing. It also highlights why Linux remains a shining example of how open source software development is supposed to work.