The Kernel Is All Paid Up

Tux the penguin

One of the great things about Linux and Open Source in general is that, despite perceptions to the contrary, we aren't going it alone. A number of corporate and institutional sponsors — Red Hat, Google, the Linux Foundation, to name a just a few of the many — back the continued development of Open Source software, contributing not just funds, but employee time to the cause.

The annual linux.conf.au has its share of time-honored features: Open Day, the Penguin Dinner, and of course, Jonathan Corbet's The Kernel Report. The annual talk — established enough to be described as "the usual talk that we know and love" — runs down the latest developments in kernel development and presents a general "state of the kernel" address that hits the high points of where the community is and where it's going.

This year's report, presented last Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand, offered an interesting look not only at where the kernel is, but who was behind it — and who footed the bill. The great revelation, at least as some third-party accounts would have it, is that three-quarters of the code contributed to the Linux kernel comes from developers paid to write it. Corbet reported that just 18% of the work being done came from those without corporate backing, with a mysterious 7% coming from the unknown.

As one might expect, the top corporate contributors were those with heavy investments in Open Source — six percent each from Novell and IBM, eight percent from Intel, and a full twelve percent from Red Hat. The number five position went to a company headlining Open Source news at the moment: Oracle, the great horned beast waiting to devour MySQL, contributed three percent of the kernel's code, far more than Linus himself. (Linus' contribution is, of course, measured by far more than just lines of code.)

None of this will come as a surprise to Linux Journal readers — and we suspect, did not to linux.conf.au attendees or Corbet himself — who will recall all of the above from the second edition of Linux Kernel Development: How Fast it is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing, and Who is Sponsoring It?, published in August by the Linux Foundation.

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Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

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