Paid developers power the Linux kernel

Contrary to open-source folklore, it is mostly paid developers who are building the Linux kernel.

The Linux Foundation is releasing its "Who Writes Linux" analysis, illustrating who crafts the code, the pace of its evolution, and which companies are behind the kernel's development.

Kernel development follows a time-based release model with a new release occurring every two to three months. This is designed to help speed the development for all Linux distributions so that each one doesn't need to make kernel-specific updates or changes. More than 6,100 individual developers from more 600 different companies have contributed to the kernel since 2005, according the report.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, expects that Linux will continue to grow dramatically in the foreseeable future and that the growth will come not just in traditional IT systems like servers, but in mobile and perhaps someday on the desktop.

Zemlin also noted that development is coming both from individuals and corporations, illustrating that communal and commercial efforts can work together. As CITO Research CTO Dan Woods wrote this week in Forbes:

The success of Linux also shows that bizarre hybrid governance models can be successful if everyone is motivated and aligned. IBM, Intel, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Oracle, NEC and others collectively pump hundreds of millions of dollars into developing Linux.

According to the report, the top 10 contributors, including the groups "unknown" and "none" make up nearly 70 percent of the total contributions to the kernel. Even if one assumes that all of the "unknown" contributors were working on their own time, more than 70 percent of all kernel development is still done by developers who are being paid for their work.

Who writes Linux?
Who writes Linux? Linux Foundation

That Linux is primarily developed by paid developers should come as no surprise considering that Linux enables many companies--hardware, software, and online services--to be more competitive in their markets and to find new ways to generate revenue.

For more information, see kernel.org.

About the author

Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.

 

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