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Some updated statistics on the Linux kernel

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Aug. 20, 2009

The Linux Foundation (LF) has finished publishing a new update to its April 2008 study on Linux kernel development.

This updated report is written by the original authors and kernel developers Jonathan Corbet and Greg Kroah-Hartman.

The new report finds that since April of last year, there has been a ten percent increase in the number of Linux developers contributing to each kernel release and that about 2.7 million new lines of code have been added to the 2.6 kernel.

This increased level of activity has resulted in an average of 5.45 new patches being accepted every hour, a 42 percent growth since the original study.

Some of the accelerated pace of development can be attributed to new demand for the Linux OS 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.

However, this new update takes back the same title “Linux Kernel Development: How Fast is it Going, Who is doing it and Who is Sponsoring it?”

It is available today at:

This Linux community paper illustrates a large and distributed application and system developer as well as a corporate community that supports the expansion and innovation of Linux, a very stable and scalable operating system that has become a common resource developed on a massive scale by companies who are fierce competitors in other areas.

Report authors Corbet and Kroah-Hartman, also members of the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board have reviewed the last 6 kernel releases, from 2.6.24 through 2.6.30, representing about 500 days of Linux development.

The new report goes into detail on how the Linux development process works, including who is contributing it, how often, why, etc. etc.

Some of the report's highlights include:

  • Who is Writing Linux? -- Every Linux kernel is being developed by almost 1,000 developers working for more than 200 different companies. This is the very foundation for the largest distributed software development project in the world. Since last year, the number of individual Linux developers has increased by ten percent, reflecting the popularity of Linux across many industries.
  • How Fast is Linux being Developed and Released? -- Approximately 2.7 million new lines of code have been added to the Linux kernel since April 2008 alone. An average of almost 11,000 new lines of code are added on a typical day, representing a rate of change larger than any other public software project of any size. Also, about 5,547 lines are removed every day, ensuring that the code is of the highest quality and relevant for the most important implementations of the Linux kernel.
  • Who is Sponsoring Linux? -- More than 70 percent of all contributions to the Linux kernel come from developers working at a range of companies including Red Hat, IBM, Novell, Intel, Dell, HP, Oracle, Fujitsu, among many others. These companies find that by improving the Linux kernel, they have a more competitive edge in their own markets. Overall, Red Hat, Google, Novell, Intel and IBM top the list of the largest organizations that employ Linux developers who are reviewing and approving Linux development as a whole.
  • Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation says ”this paper demonstrates that the actual pace of Linux development continues to grow very rapidly, with more individuals and more companies supporting Linux kernel development with every release cycle."

    He added "with the increasing use of the Linux operating system in new markets such as the mobile communications industry and the great dedication of the Linux development community and corporate sponsors, the sheer number of contributors is expected to continue to grow, ensuring a vibrant ecosystem to support this great and reliable computer and server platform.”

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    Source: The Linux Foundation.

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