Linux Kernel: Who is developing it, how they are doing it, and why you should care.

The Linux kernel is the lowest level of software running on a Linux system. It is charged with managing the hardware, running user programs, and maintaining the overall security and integrity of the whole system. It is this kernel, which after its initial release by Linus Torvalds in 1991, jump-started the development of Linux as a whole. The kernel is a relatively small part of the software on a full Linux system (many other large components come from the GNU project, the GNOME and KDE desktop projects, the project, and many other sources), but it is the core which determines how well the system will work and is the piece which is truly unique to Linux.

The Linux kernel is an interesting project to study for a number of reasons. It is one of the largest individual components on almost any Linux system. It also features one of the fastest-moving development processes and involves more developers than any other open source project. This paper looks at how that process works, focusing on nearly three years of kernel history as represented by the 2.6.11 through 2.6.24 releases.

Here are some 2007-2008 statistics on the Linux Kernel from Greg KH’s presentation.

  • 9.2 Million lines of code.
  • Increases by 10% each year.
  • Te core kernel is 5 percent of the code, device drivers is approximately 55 percent and the balance is architecture, networking etc.
  • 4500 lines added. 1800 removed and 1500 modified per day.
  • Kernel actively developed 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • No more stable/unstable kernel. Earlier even numbers eg. 2.3 was for unstable and odd number eg. 2.4 was stable, this process is discontinued.
  • Hierarchy system but not person dependant.
  • Security updates after the release goes as x.x.x.. example, security fix for 2.6.19 go as and so on.
  • New release every 2-3 Month.
  • 2399 Unique developers. 1/2 of them contributed only 1-2 patches.
  • Number 1 funding comes from Amaetuers, or people who code as a hobby in the spare time
  • Number 2 funding comes from Red Hat, Number 3, IBM and Number 4 Novell.

You could download the presentation as a pdf here.


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