A broad cross section of the Linux community, meeting on the Google campus Wednesday in Mountain View, Calif., focused on advancing the development of Linux and shrugged off the threat of Microsoft's claims of Linux patent infringement. The gathering included six kernel developers, who started off a Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit by holding a town-hall-style question-and-answer session with about 70 representatives of Linux users, independent software vendor firms, and reporters.
The Linux Foundation organized the event as a way to bring together the different elements of the Linux community in one setting. The San Francisco-based industry group includes AMD, Bank of America, EMC, Intel, HP, IBM, Oracle, Novell, and other corporate sponsors.
"We add 2,000 lines of code a day to the Linux kernel. We work on 2,800 lines of code a day. I've never seen the pace of change that Linux has shown," said kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman, citing the accelerated pace on the open source operating system. Kroah-Hartman is employed by Novell for his work on Linux drivers. (Novell did not hire him to work on Linux drivers; it recognized his established work as a kernel developer and agreed to pay his salary.)
Linux kernel releases now are issued every two to three months as a way of allowing Linux application developers to work with new features and functionality, without waiting for major kernel releases.
The gathering was intended as a show of force in the face of Microsoft's announcements of deals with Novell, distributor of SUSE Linux, and two small distributors, Xandros and Korean device manufacturer LG Electronics. All three companies gain protection in the pacts from any future Microsoft patent action.
Jim Zemlin, CEO of the Linux Foundation, made only a veiled reference to the charges by Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith that Linux and other open source code violates 235 of its patents. "The competition is asking, 'What can we do to slow things down?' They're projecting fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Let's come up with the things to move this platform ahead."
"Microsoft is trying to scare companies into paying it money. In the short term, I'm not worried," said Jonathan Corbet, kernel contributor and editor of Linux Weekly News.
In addition to a show of unity, however, the Collaboration Summit also displayed the Linux developer base's penchant for warm debate. "The kernel development process is partly adversarial, like the U.S. court system," noted kernel developer James Bottomley, as discussion over the need for more feedback on device drivers got a little heated. Zemlin tamped down argument early on by saying: "Today, everybody's idea is a good idea. Reserve your sausage-making for tomorrow." Zemlin responded to the Microsoft claims with a column on the BusinessWeek Web site, saying the Linux Foundation members had sufficient resources to fend off any challenge to Linux.
Bank of America senior VP Tim Golden said Linux vendors could do a better job of combining their support efforts. When he has a problem with a Linux application, he said the six parties that each have a role in its operation, from the operating system vendor to the middleware and database vendors, "have no reason to try to help. It's a real goat rodeo," he said. "You get a different type of response from a single vendor play."
Laurent Rochette, platforms technology manager for Mentor Graphics, said Linux's development issues have not hindered Linux server operations at his firm. Mentor Graphics is a large Linux user for software testing and quality assurance. Its core IT infrastructure is based on Sun Microsystems Solaris.
Jeremy Allison, lead developer of Samba, the file sharing system that brokers between Linux and Windows, said the Linux community will continue with its rapid pace of development. "No developer I know reads patents or thinks about them. This is not what we should be worrying about." The Samba project, he said, is expanding its code functionality so fast that it's almost impossible for one person to keep up with all of it.
Summit attendees will go into development issues discussion behind closed doors Thursday and Friday.