Linux kernel community grows, but elite group remains

A report from the Linux Foundation details individual kernel contributions and suggests enterprise use is expanding

Developers tied to companies and foundations ranked next, with Red Hat in the lead (11.2 per cent), followed immediately by Novell (8.9 per cent), IBM (8.3 per cent), Intel (4.1 per cent) and the Linux Foundation (3.5 per cent) on the list of 30. A slew of other corporations round out the list with smaller contributions, such as Oracle (1.3) and Fujitsu (.5 per cent).

"What we see here is that a small number of companies is responsible for a large portion of the total changes to the kernel. But there is a 'long tail' of companies which have made significant changes,'" the report said.

Zemlin suggested this is set to accelerate, given that many new products using Linux will hit the market in coming months: "Think about how many of those people will become kernel code contributors."

Despite all the activity, the kernel project is in no danger of being hijacked by particular corporate interests, he said: "The companies understand the principles of the development process and the rules by which people participate. They understand it is built on trusting relationships, both individually and from a corporate perspective."

Greg Kroah-Hartman, one of the report's authors and number 26 on the top 30 individual contributors' list, works on the kernel as part of his job at Novell but did it as a hobby prior to that, he said via e-mail last week.

Kroah-Hartman echoed Zemlin in discussing the kernel community's growth.

"If you look, there is no huge majority of a single company doing all of the work with no one else," he wrote. "It is spread out over a handful of very involved companies, and a large number of semi-involved companies. Because no one company controls it, everyone works together, which is a requirement in order to do this kind of development."

"Why wouldn't Linux be appealing to corporations and they support it?" he also noted. "When was it last considered 'grassroots?' Seriously, anyone who has had any glimmer of kernel experience has been instantly snapped up by corporations hiring them to do this kind of thing full time for a very long time now."

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