THE NUMERATOR

Who funds Linux development?

It is often assumed mostly volunteers develop Linux. But major information technology firms invest funds and employee time into the developing the Linux operating system kernel. The biggest single group, "None," consists of developers working on their own time. But the lion's share — 86.1 percent of contributions — was from organizations. (At least one company will not be contributing any longer: SGI claimed bankruptcy earlier this month.)
The Top 10 Sources of Linux Enhancements 
Organization
No. of changes submitted
Percent of changes
1. None
11,594
13.9
2. Unknown
10,803
12.9
3. Red Hat
9,351
11.2
4. Novell
7,385
8.9
5. IBM
6,952
8.3
6. Intel
3,388
4.1
7. Linux Foundation
2,160
2.6
8. Consultants
2,055
2.5
9. SGI
1,649
2.0
10. MIPS Technologies
1,341
1.6

Source: Linux Foundation

Editor's note: At least one company will not likely be contributing any longer: SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics Inc.) recently declared bankruptcy and was sold last month to Rackable Systems.

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 18, 2009 Filemon

Arty, The distinction does make sense because it shows how much private investment is behind Linux. Linux Foundation is a private organization even if it exists only for Linux. It needs money to exist and it uses it to make contributions. Anyway, even if we go with your 1/3 individual and 2/3 organization share, this means that Linux owes a lot to private companies who are paying real money to professional programmers under regular working conditions. It would be interesting to see how each one of these companies is getting a return on their investments. In other words: is it profitable to invest on Linux?

Tue, Apr 21, 2009 Arty Wright

This article seems to form a conclusion from the numbers that's a bit misleading. Although there are many organizations supporting LINUX, it is difficult to include "Unknown," which probably represents individual contributors who didn't check the box. Likewise, those who registered as "Consultants" probably represent individual contributors, and the Linux Foundation exists for Linux and is not really like these other organizations. That means the balance is closer to 1/3 individual and 2/3 organizational. Since all Linux contributions are "open," this distinction is meaningless anyway. Of much more interest is whether ORACLE will use its new ownership of Sun to leverage commercialization of Linux.

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