Red Hat is the top Linux kernel contributor, but what about Canonical?

Red Hat dominates Linux kernel development, but does Canonical show other ways to contribute?

No surprise, but Red Hat remains the top corporate Linux kernel contributor, as reported by SDTimes. As I've reported before, Red Hat is the top Linux contributor by a wide margin , with IBM, the next biggest corporate contributor, coming in nearly seven percentage points behind Red Hat.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, a Novell employee and prominent Linux kernel developer, recently called out Red Hat's contributions (good) but has taken far too much time to criticize Canonical, creator of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, and its apparent dearth of contributions (not-so-good).

Mark Shuttleworth defends Canonical's contributions to Linux, and I tend to side with him on this. He writes:

We focus most of our effort on integration. Our competitors turn that into "Canonical doesn't contribute" but it's more accurate to say we measure our contribution in the effectiveness with which we get the latest stable work of upstream, with security maintenance, to the widest possible audience for testing and love. To my mind, that's a huge contribution.

Canonical contributes significantly to the ease of use of (desktop) Linux, and recently upgraded its efforts . These are important contributions.

Regardless, as I wrote back in 2006 when Oracle tried to undermine Red Hat by offering a competing Linux distribution without matching its ambition with Linux kernel contributions, those who contribute most profit most, at least when selling a Linux distribution. In open source, it matters a great deal that you not only offer source code, but also that you're the source of the code.

Those who contribute have the closest thing to "control" that true open-source communities provide. This is a key source of pricing power.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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