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BY jim curry ON Nov 15, 2017


This blog series aims to share philosophies, insights, tips, tricks, or stories about open source software and communities. The question for today hits two of my big passions – research and Linux.  As such, I’m excited to answer the question:  

What’s the big deal about Linux?

It’s surprising how often I hear a question along these lines. Granted, many of my hardware-focused colleagues at Intel are accustomed to stable, optimized code that “just runs,” and may not spend their days pondering how that came to be.  After all, Linux kernel development had the past 26 years to become a “well oiled” machine.   Maybe that’s one of the reasons Linux development isn’t top of mind – it “just works” seamlessly for the average Joe or Jane.  And the average person’s life touches Linux multiple times every day. .  

That’s one of the key takeaways from the 2017 Linux Kernel Development report. Below are some interesting statistics that show just how much Linux is part of our daily lives:

·         90% of Public clouds run on Linux

·         62% of embedded market (IoT) runs on Linux

·         99% of supercomputer run Linux

·         82% of smartphones run Linux

So what does this mean? Linux makes Cyber Monday and other online shopping experiences possible. High-performance computer systems doing medical research, weather forecasting, molecular modeling, oil and gas exploration, climate research and quantum mechanics run on Linux, as do the majority of smartphones. That’s awesome, but from my perspective, the most interesting aspect of Linux isn’t how pervasive it’s become. It’s the scale, development cadence and stability of Linux that make it truly amazing.

According to Wikipedia, Linus Torvalds released the first Linux kernel in 1991 for Intel Architecture based personal computers. Since then, releases developed a regular rhythm, with a new “major” kernel release sent into the world every 9 to 10 weeks. According to the 2017 Linux Kernel Development report, kernel 4.13 released in September, had 1,681 different developers deliver over 13,000 patches for an average of about 8.52 merged patches per hour! 

Kernel 4.13 has 24,766,703 lines of code. That’s a lot of code and when you have that many changes, you can’t avoid potential regressions. The first step in eliminating performance regressions is to find the bugs that cause them—no easy task when you are sifting through thousands of patches!

So, it should not come as a big surprise that the #1 bug reporter for kernels 4.8-4.13 was not a person, but rather, the 0-Day Linux kernel test service. 0-Day delivers comprehensive, automated, and continuous integration testing that monitors the Linux mainline and helps find bugs before they reach the Linux kernel, so problems can be fixed before they impact users.

0-Day is just one way Intel is active in the Linux community.  For many years Intel has been a top employer contributor to the Linux kernel.  Since 2014, Intel has been the #1 employer contributor—meaning Linux is optimized to run well on Intel-based platforms from high performance computing to embedded systems. The 2017 Linux Kernel Development report also tracked the number of new developers who contributed to kernel version 4.13.  Intel was #1 in introducing new developers to the Linux community!  It feels great to work for a company that’s a leader in driving rock solid versions of Linux into our daily lives and helping to nurture the next generation of Linux developers.

So what’s the big deal about Linux? It touches your life every day so smoothly that you don’t notice it.  From mobile phones, to streaming media, to stock exchanges and more, and that’s possible because thousands of developers across the world use open source best practices to develop, test, and integrate 13,000+ patches every 9 to 10 weeks!

About the Author

Jim has over 25 years of experience in the technology sector from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. He currently works for Intel’s Open Source Technology Center.

Other blogs in the series;

Organizing meet-ups

Linux by the numbers

Open source licenses

Organizing meet-ups

Building community

Promoting diversity

Naming your open source project

Giving good presentations