State of the LinuxWorld

Linux is beginning to find its legs as the foundation in many different technologies and in the process is fueling a feedback loop that is helping accelerate the operating system's popularity.

As more and more people contribute from areas such as mobile, data center power management, and real-time technologies, innovations are coming rapid fire and when folded into the Linux kernel provide benefits across a wide spectrum.

For example, power management features for the data center are being tapped to help extend battery life in Linux-based mobile devices.

The evidence of the cooperation will be on display at next week's LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco.

(Disclosure; IDG, the parent company of both Network World and PC World, also operates LinuxWorld.)

The conference is expected to draw 10,000 attendees to nearly 100 sessions and 200 exhibitor booths. In addition, there is a mini-conference on Mobile Linux, the Linux Garage that will highlight the latest embedded-Linux gadgets, an install fest to benefit San Francisco-area schools, an open source voting demonstration and the annual Penguin Bowl that will pit teams dedicated to mobile Linux and server Linux.

"When you look at how people use technology -- embedded systems, mobile computing, mobile internet devices, servers, super computing -- in almost every aspect of technology Linux is emerging as the dominant platform," says Jim Zemlin, CEO of the Linux Foundation.

Of course, Windows still enjoys healthy unit-shipment leads on servers and client systems.

But Zemlin says as Linux use has increased it is fueling a positive feedback loop due to its community development roots.

"When a Wall Street trading application developer uses real-time Linux or when the Defense Department is creating real-time technology for robust embedded defense systems, that same technology gets contributed back to the Linux kernel and it might benefit mobile phone developers by offering the tools to create more stability."

While the feedback loop isn't new, Zemlin says it is getting rocket fuel from the growing legions of Linux developers.

In the past two years, he says, 3,200 developers have contributed to the Linux kernel. In one year alone, 1,762 unique kernel contributions were logged and there are 2,000 lines of code written every day.

The Linux kernel has a release every two and a half months and a new Linux distribution release every six months.

"We are seeing this incredibly unique cross pollinization of innovation," Zemlin says.

Bill Weinberg, an analyst and consultant with LinuxPundit, and the chair of the LinuxWorld Mobile conference, says the discussion goes beyond just Linux as a platform. "We've had a lot of hand-wringing around fragmentation in the past," he says.

This year, Weinberg has added a track on applications, which has been an historical weak spot for the operating system. "How do you create applications for mobile and embedded Linux, how do you to go to market with Linux systems, how are they received by the eco-system, how do ISVs actually make money with apps, and how do operators roll out new services and deploy apps to support their business models," said Weinberg.

Motorola will talk about the LiMo (Linux Mobile) Foundation, which began 18 months ago, and Intel will detail its mobile Atom Processor and Moblin.org, which is focused on creating Internet-centric mobile applications. A panel will convene to discuss how the two can interact and interoperate.

Weinberg also is augmenting the discussion with a track to cover cross-over topics such as virtualization in embedded systems. He says virtualization provides the functional separator that allows embedded application developers choice of platform depending on what they are trying to accomplish.

"There is no single platform that has a single code base that covers as many different kinds of applications and niches as Linux does," says Weinberg.

Some analysts say Linux has without a doubt become a more mainstream solution.

"Linux is expanding its presence in other workloads as it continues to hold down key success areas in Web and infrastructure roles," says Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC.

"Customers are increasingly using it for business-critical workloads."

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