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Big names like Google dominate open-source funding

Jon Gold | Jan. 12, 2015
Companies can get plenty of bang for not many bucks via open-source sponsorship.

The group has a legal defense fund, patent commons, trademark management program, workgroups for several technical focus areas like SDN and accessibility and lots more not to mention the basic development and testing infrastructure that enables Linux development.

"And we'll throw in a subscription to Outside Magazine, and a wind-up radio," jokes Jim Zemlin, the group's executive director.

Not every non-profit's operations are so extensive, of course many provide not much more than training, advocacy and/or a basic organization and collaboration framework for smaller projects, or for geographically clustered groups of open-source developers. But the principle is the same.

One other unique facet to the Linux Foundation's activities is the group's direct employment of Linus Torvalds final arbiter over all things Linux kernel and probably the most powerful person in open-source helps avoid allegations of bias over the direction of the project which is an issue, though not as contentious as one might suppose, given the fact that many of the most active code contributors to Linux are employed by some of the same companies that underwrite the non-profit.

Tejun Heo said that there's "no tension at all" between his employer and the broader kernel community.

"If I think something is a technically better direction, that's the direction I follow. Even when that mismatches with what Red Hat internal engineering was expecting," he said.

"Somebody once told me that [Red Hat] is a company where a bunch of open-source engineers hired management and marketing people to run the boring, money side of things so that they can continue to do whatever they like, and while it's a bit of an exaggeration I think there's a certain amount of truth to that," he noted.

Network World blogger (and SUSE employee) Bryan Lunduke highlighted that there are genuinely altruistic motivations involved among other firms, as well.

"Companies like Google and SUSE are filled with open-source loving people. It's in their DNA," he said. "Supporting open-source projects and organizations is simply an extension of who they are."


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