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The big guns of Linux kernel development

Open source has moved way beyond the unwashed masses as big companies dominate the development of the Linux kernel.

The Linux Foundation recently released an updated study of Linux development statistics that reveals interesting statistics relating to who actually writes the kernel that allows others to build on top.

More than 70 percent of total kernel contributions come from developers working at large companies including obvious participants like Red Hat, IBM, Novell, and Intel as well as other less obvious small companies such as Parallels.

  1. Red Hat: 12.3%
  2. IBM: 7.6%
  3. Novell: 7.6%
  4. Intel: 5.3%
  5. Independent consultant: 2.5%
  6. Oracle: 2.4%
  7. Linux Foundation: 1.6%
  8. SGI 1.6%
  9. Parallels 1.3%
  10. Renesas Technology: 1.3%
  11. Academia: 1.2%
  12. Fujitsu: 1.1%
  13. MontaVista: 1.1%
  14. MIPS Technologies: 1.1%
  15. Analog Devices: 1.0%
  16. HP: 1.0%

Another interesting fact is the rate of development and constant refactoring of the kernel code. An average of 10,923 lines of code are added with an average of 5,547 lines removed every day, ensuring that the code is high quality and relevant for the most important implementations of the kernel.

A sidebar to the initial data is the fact that much of the development is done by users who don't necessarily identify themselves as employees of specific organizations, even if they are. Running the numbers by code "signoff" reveals other intriguing statistics about who's contributing code:

  • Red Hat 36.4%
  • Google 10.5%
  • Novell 8.2%
  • None 6%
  • Intel 6.4%
  • IBM 5.3%
  • Linutronix 2.8%
  • Linux Foundation 2.7%
  • Consultant 1.9%
  • Hansen Partnership 1.6%

As the report notes, the Linux kernel remains one of the largest and most successful open-source projects, able to sustain both rapid growth and rapid change. And, importantly, the distributed development efforts mean that development can continue on even if certain companies opt out of future efforts.

Perhaps Linux is the only truly future proof technology?

Follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom.