Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Kernel contributions: Canonical, where are you?

Kernel contributions: Canonical, where are you?

Over the past four years, the word Linux has become almost synonymous with Ubuntu; the company behind Ubuntu, Canonical, has proportionately gained an enormous amount of mindshare within the FOSS community.

But when one looks at one crucial area of contributing back to the progress of Linux, Canonical stands exposed.

It does not figure anywhere in the top 30 contributors to the Linux kernel, according to figures (PDF)  released by the Linux Foundation, the non-profit that sponsors Linus Torvalds' work. The figures are updated to August 2009.

The figures for contributions and other metrics about the kernel were released on Wednesday; it toto they comprise an extended version of what kernel hacker and Linux Weekly News chief Jonathan Corbet used to present at conferences each year as the "Kernel Report".

Corbet has become associated with the Foundation and the report now sees an additional technical contributor in Greg Kroah-Hartman, a well-known kernel hacker himself.

The figures for sponsoring kernel contributions show that more than two-thirds of development is being done by people who are being paid for their work.

While the biggest percentage (18.2) comes from individuals who have no corporate affiliation, Red Hat stands out next with a contribution of 12.3 percent.

IBM and Novell each sponsored 7.6 percent and the unknowns, those whose corporate affiliation could not be ascertained, contributed a similar number of changes.

Intel is next with 5.3 percent while Google is way down the scale with 0.9 percent.

The report says that since 2005, more than 5000 developers from almost 500 different companies have contributed to the kernel; many of these firms are fierce competitors in other areas but have, in this case, contributed to a common cause.

The Kernel Report was first published by the Foundation in 2008; Corbet, whose idea it originally was, had presented it at least four conferences in Australia prior to that.

Since 2008, the report notes that there has been roughly a 10 percent increase in the number of developers contributing to each release cycle, the rate of change has jumped and the number of lines of code added have nearly tripled.

Yet, there is not a single mention of Canonical anywhere in the report.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.