General open source articles

Who and why is developing the Linux kernel

TuxMore than 85% of the updates in the Linux kernel are developed by the large IT companies such as Red Hat, Novell, IBM, Intel and others.
According to a research done in behalf of The Linux Foundation only about 13% of the developers are into the kernel development mainly as a part of their hobby.
The kernel developers have different goals – some of them are working on the support of their own devices and others are simply keeping up with the users’ needs.

GNU/Linux is a complicated system including thousands of various software packages starting from the most popular – GNU, X.org and the desktops Gnome and KDE , and ending with specific for every distribution packages.

Each project’s team of developers have their own approach to the project , used tools , methods of planning and organizing the work etc.
The Linux kernel has it’s own place among all the other applications. It is the part that determines the work of the GNU/Linux system on various hardware platforms and the support for all the devices out there. That is why the characteristics of the process of it’s development can be used (in a certain degree) as an indicator for the whole system.

The LF research encompass a three-year time period of kernel development (from v2.6.11 to v2.6.24) and focuses on characteristics such as frequency of the updates and versions, size of the source code and it allows us to figure out who is actually developing the heart of Linux.

The statistics shows that that an average new version is released every 2.5-3 months (60-100 days).
This is mainly because of the chosen in 2005 development model, which aims at minimizing the time between the development of new features and support for new devices and including them into the kernel and also decreasing the need for modification by the distribution creators.
The number of the updates/patches added to the kernel has a trend of increasing. When we have these two characteristics in mind we can point out that there are 2.83 patches per hour that are added to the kernel.
This means that in the source code every day there are 3000 lines added and more than 1400 being modified.
The number of developers that took part in the creation of v2.6.24 is 1057 – twice as big as the one for v2.6.11.
We also realize that only the 10 leading developers have done about 15% of the work , and the next 30 – about 30%.However , this does not prove the idea that Linux is a system developed mostly by fans.

The number of the companies involved in the kernel development is increasing although not all of the companies working with open source need to add updates.
The four largest kernel developers – Red Hat, Novell, IBM and Intel have added more than 32% of the updates (during the time of research) and the overall percent of updates done by developers working for these companies is more than 70%.

The main purpose for taking part in the kernel development is different for the different companies.
The group that includes IBM, Intel, HP, SGI, MIPS and others aims mostly in the kernel support for their own products.
Others such as Red Hat, Novell, Monta Vista are adding new features in order to attract the users’ attention which increases the interest towards the distribution as an end product.
A third group of companies like Sony, Nokia and Samsung are working on the kernel so they can make it work withe the systems of their own devices – phones , handhelds etc.

From this research we can get to the conclusion that the Linux kernel is a great example of a successful cooperation between companies different in size and production, and their contribution to the developing process can be a warranty for the project’s independence and stability.
This demonstrates the advantages of the open source development model and is also a guarantee of the open source concept included in the GNU/GPL licenses that are provided to developers and end users.

If you need more details along with statistics and diagrams – check the original source of this article.

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