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Novell's Linux contributions up 250 percent, sales 200 percent in 2007

Novell contributes to the Linux kernel to an increasing degree. It's therefore not surprising to see its sales numbers rising in tandem.

One year ago, Linux kernel development was almost predominately Red Hat's game. Today, Red Hat's lead has dipped considerably, according to a report just released by the Linux Foundation.

Red Hat continues to contribute/sponsor 11.2 percent of the Linux kernel's development, down from 14.4 percent in 2007, while Novell has jumped from an anemic 3.6 percent in 2007 to a robust 8.9 percent in 2008.

Linux Foundation

Perhaps not surprisingly, Novell's share of the Linux market has grown considerably in that same time, with Novell reporting a 200 percent increase in its Linux business over the past year.

So, while Novell crows about its rise in revenue market share in the Linux market, it's the company's development market share that I view as the true leading indicator of its business. Linux sales are up 200 percent, while Linux development is up 250 percent. See a correlation?

In open source, it's all about "owning" the source of code, not necessarily the source code.

Importantly, it's not just Novell and Red Hat who contribute. As detailed statistics demonstrate, the Linux kernel is perhaps the world's largest, most distributed development effort, reflecting its increasing importance to an ever-widening array of disparate parties:

  • The Linux kernel is being developed by nearly 1,000 developers working for more than 100 different corporations;
  • Since 2005, the number of active kernel developers has tripled;
  • Between 70 and 95 percent of those developers are being paid for their work.

This isn't a confederacy of dunces, either, with committee-based gridlock impeding the pace of Linux kernel development. On the contrary, Linux is developed at a fast pace:

  • An average of 3,621 lines of code are added to the kernel tree every day, and a new kernel is released approximately every 2.7 months;
  • The kernel, since 2005, has been growing at a steady state of 10 percent per year.
Linux Foundation

Now if only the U.S. federal government could manage its committees in this way. :-)

As with any open-source community, the vast majority of contributions come from a small group of core contributors:

Over the past three years, the top 10 individual developers have contributed almost 15 percent of the number of changes, and the top 30 developers have contributed 30 percent.

Even so, these numbers illustrate just how impressive (and different) Linux is, as this number would be closer to 85 percent of core development being done by the top 10 to 15 developers in a "normal" open-source project. Clearly, Linux is a true community effort with a very big community.

Novell, to a rising degree, sits at the center of that development. It will be interesting to watch how this translates into revenue for the company over time.