August 19, 2009

Updated Study Reveals More Developers Working on Linux Kernel

After 16 months, The Linux Foundation has published an update to its April 2008 study on Linux kernel development. The new report, written by original authors and kernel developers Jonathan Corbet and Greg Kroah-Hartman, and the Linux Foundation’s Amanda McPherson, reveals that a net of 2.7 million additional lines of code have been added to the Linux kernel in those 16 months.

The August 2009 Update of “Linux Kernel Development: How Fast is it Going, Who is doing it and Who is Sponsoring it?” illustrates a large and distributed developer and corporate community that supports the expansion and innovation of Linux, by companies which are otherwise fierce competitors in other areas of technology.

The updated study reveals that since April 2008, there has been a 10 percent increase in the number of developers contributing to each kernel release. This level of activity has resulted in an average of 5.45 patches being accepted per hour, an increase of 42 percent since the original study.

Other findings of the paper include:

  • Every Linux kernel is being developed by nearly 1,000 developers working for more than 200 different corporations. This is the foundation for the largest distributed software development project in the world. Since 2008, the number of individual developers has increased by 10 percent, reflecting the ubiquity of Linux across industries.
  • More than 70 percent of total contributions to the kernel come from developers working at a range of companies including Red Hat, IBM, Novell, Intel, Oracle, Fujitsu, among many others. These companies, and many others, find that by improving the kernel they have a competitive edge in their markets. Red Hat, Google, Novell, Intel and IBM top the list of companies that employ developers who are reviewing and approving Linux development.
  • An average of 10,923 lines of code are added a day, representing a rate of change larger than any other public software project of any size. An average of 5,547 lines are removed every day, ensuring that the code is high quality and relevant for the most important implementations of the kernel.

Corbet and Kroah-Hartman, also members of the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board (TAB), reviewed the last six kernel releases, from 2.6.24 through 2.6.30, representing about 500 days of Linux development. The report goes into detail on how the Linux development process works, including who is contributing, how often and why.

The whitepaper, also available here at, concludes that some of the accelerated pace of development can be attributed to new demand for Linux in emerging markets, such as netbooks, auto and energy, as well as to the establishment of the new linux-next tree (a staging area for the next kernel cycle that enables the development process to scale more rapidly).

”This paper shows that the pace of Linux development continues to grow, with more individuals and more companies supporting Linux kernel development with every release cycle,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation. “With the increasing use of Linux in new markets and the dedication of the development community and corporate sponsors, the number of contributors will continue to grow, ensuring a vibrant ecosystem to support the platform.”

Corbet and Kroah-Hartman will participate on a panel at LinuxCon, which will be focused on the kernel development process and which will explore some of the trends surfaced in the new study. Linux creator Linus Torvalds and kernel community members James Bottomley, Arjan van de Ven, and Chris Wright will join them on the keynote panel Monday, September 21, 2009 at 2 p.m. PT.

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