One of the many valuable things that come out of the Linux Foundation is an annual review of Linux kernel development. It's just released the 2013 edition (freely available upon registration), and the news is resoundingly good. Here are the key points.
Nearly 10,000 developers from more than 1,000 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005. Just since the last report, more than 1,100 developers from 225 companies have contributed to the kernel. In fact, more developers and companies are contributing to Linux than ever before with Linux kernel 3.10 seeing the most developer contributions ever.
That's a healthy sign for two reasons. First, there is always a concern that the supply of skilled coders willing and able to contribute to the kernel might dry up, which would mean big problems for the entire open source ecosystem. Happily, there is no hint of that. Also good to note that companies continue to flock to support free software: that, too, is an indication that Linux remains relevant across a wide range of applications.
Mobile and embedded companies are increasing their investments in Linux. Linaro, Samsung and Texas Instruments together increased their aggregate contributions from 4.4 percent during the previous version of the paper to 11 percent of all changes this year. Google's contributions are also up significantly this year.
That will come as no surprise to anyone that has been following this space. Android is obviously one example of open source being used in that field, but there are many others. Less well known, perhaps, is the popularity of open source in embedded systems. Again, that's pretty unsurprising given that those producing such embedded systems need a very low-cost, powerful, stable and customisable solution, and Linux fits the bill on all counts. Indeed, there is no other option that satisfies those requirements so well. In short, embedded systems suppliers would be crazy to use anything else.
The Top 10 organizations sponsoring Linux kernel development since the last report include Red Hat, Intel, Texas Instruments, Linaro, SUSE, IBM, Samsung, Google, Vision Engraving Systems Consultants and Wolfson Microelectronics. After appearing on the list for the first time in 2012, Microsoft notably dropped off the list entirely this year. A complete list of the top 30 organizations sponsoring this work is included in the paper.
Those appearing among the top 10 sponsoring the Linux kernel development include leading open source companies likes Red Hat and SUSE, industry giants like IBM, Samsung and Google, as well as less well-known names like Vision Engraving Systems Consultants – anyone ever heard of them before? The fact that Microsoft has dropped out suggests that its commitment to open source was as tenuous as many of us suspected...
The rate of Linux development is unmatched. The average number of changes accepted into the kernel per hour is 7.14, which translates to 171 changes every day and more than 1,200 per week.
Although that rightly notes the incredible pace of development within the kernel, I'd like to highlight something else: the fact that this is taking place in a completely distributed fashion. That's amazing testimony to the skills of the leaders of the Linux project, and to the power of the open source development methodology It's further proof that this approach really is a great way of writing good code, and another reason we should be grateful to the Linux Foundation for producing these reports.