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Linux experiences 'prolific' growth, says Linux Foundation's Zemlin

From mobile applications to high-performance computing. Linux has become increasingly central to all kinds of computing, says the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin. But is it really a two-horse race between Linux and Microsoft?

The Linux Foundation is now a year old. Formed by the 2007 merger of Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group and home to Linux's creator Linus Torvalds, the Foundation promotes the use of Linux through support for kernel development; the development of common definitions, standards and best practices; and resolution of legal issues. At Red Hat Summit, got a chance to speak with Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, in Boston and got the latest on all things Linux. Here's what he had to say.

What is the heart of your work?
Jim Zemlin: We control the specifications for creating Linux software. We work with vendors, software developers and the open source community on projects that help define standards that balance consistency and innovation. We use a rapid test-and-deployment model, online collaboration tools, and a framework for writing specifications and developing tests [that results in a stable new release every two or three months]. It achieves consistency and works very well.

What's new at the foundation?
Zemlin: We are casting a wider net to get input from more developers around the globe. In addition to semi-annual conferences, the foundation is hosting symposiums to get more developer participation, including one in Korea this year.

How much is Linux growing?
Computing is becoming a two-horse race between Linux and Microsoft, both growing at Unix's expense.
Jim Zemlin,
executive directorthe Linux Founation
Zemlin: The Linux platform is experiencing prolific growth in all aspects of computing, from embedded system to mobile applications and high-performance computing [HPC]. Linux is everywhere, from Google to Facebook, [from] cell phones to cash registers and ATMs. It's growing faster than any other platform and increasing its overall share of the market. Computing is becoming a two-horse race between Linux and Microsoft, both growing at Unix's expense.

Does one area stand out?
Zemlin: Linux has become the de facto standard in HPC with more than 90% of the market. Linux runs Oracle clustering technology and Red Hat cloud computing.

Some say that Torvalds has grown out of touch with those working on Linux for the business world . Can you comment?
Zemlin: This is a myopic view of how Linux is developed. It's not the work of fringe hackers, but a highly sophisticated community of very smart people, most of whom work for corporations.

With the majority of Linux kernel changes coming from developers who are on the payroll of major companies like Red Hat, Novell and IBM, has Linux become too corporate?
Zemlin: There will always be a hobbyist community, but the $30 billion [business] ecosystem that runs on Linux requires strong collaboration. I don't see any conflict between volunteers and corporate contributors. Linux is open to everybody. The top 10 contributors change every year.

How do you respond to users who complain that open source software is growing increasingly expensive and less and less different from its proprietary counterparts?
Zemlin : Everyone always complains about cost. Yet an IDC study shows that about half of open source software is free. Competition will keep Linux more cost-effective.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer . And check out Enterprise Linux Log.

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