Microsoft Enters Top 20 Linux Contributors List

Microsoft’s corporate u-turn to open source software is starkly illustrated after it was revealed that Redmond for the first time has made the list of the top 20 contributors to the Linux operating system.

The Linux Foundation’s latest report “Linux Kernel Development: How Fast It is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing and Who is Sponsoring It,” covers work completed through the Linux kernel 3.2 release, with an emphasis on the releases made since the last update to this report in December 2010 (2.6.36 to 3.2).

Linux Commitment

Ranking at number 17 on the list of contributors to the Linux kernel, Microsoft, the company that once called Linux a “cancer,” is now working within the collaborative development model to support its virtualisation efforts and its customers. Because Linux has reached a state of ubiquity, in which both the enterprise and mobile computing markets are relying on the operating system, Microsoft is clearly working to adapt. In other words, some might recall the old adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Interestingly, Nokia, Microsoft’s close ally in the mobile space with Windows Phone, ranked seventh on the list of contributors to the Linux kernel – just ahead of key Linux supporters Oracle and Google.

“Linux is the platform for the future of computing,” said Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer services at The Linux Foundation, in a statement. “More developers and companies are contributing to the advancement of the operating system than ever before, especially in the areas of mobile, embedded and cloud computing. The increasing participation represents the power of Linux to quickly adapt to new market opportunities, lower costs, and provide sustained long-term support.”

In addition, the Linux Foundation said more than 7,800 developers from nearly 800 different companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005. Just since the last report, more than 1,000 developers representing nearly 200 companies have contributed to the kernel.

In addition, despite being an open source OS 75 percent of all Linux kernel development is done by developers who are being paid for the work. Long believed to be a basement community of developers, the Linux community is a worldwide, professional network of the best software talent in the world. This army of developers together builds the foundation from which innovations such as Android, cloud computing, KVM, Xen, and more are born and succeed.

Top Contributors

As recorded by the Linux Foundation, the top 10 organisations sponsoring Linux kernel development since the last report – or Linux kernel 2.6.36 – are Red Hat, Intel, Novell, IBM, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Nokia, Samsung, Oracle and Google. Mobile and embedded companies have been increasing their participation in recent years, not only adding more hardware support to the kernel but also taking responsibility for the advancement of core kernel areas.

Meanwhile, the rate of change since the last report is high and increasing, with between 8,000 and 12,000 patches going into each recent kernel release every two to three months. That is a rate of nearly six new patches per hour since the last release of this report.

The report is co-authored by Jon Corbet, Linux kernel developer and editor of; Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer and Linux Foundation fellow; and the foundation’s Amanda McPherson.

To download the full report, visit The Linux Foundation’s Publications website at:

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Darryl K. Taft

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

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