The Future of Linux: Evolving Everywhere

Mark Shuttleworth's recent closure of Ubuntu Linux bug No. 1 ("Microsoft has a majority market share") placed a meaningful, if somewhat controversial, exclamation point on how far Linux has come since Linus Torvalds rolled out the first version of the OS in 1991 as a pet project.

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"Linux already runs the cloud, of that there is no doubt," says Baker. "It needs to maintain its position as the platform for scale-out computing -- this means staying ahead of new technologies like ARM server chips and hyperscale, software-defined networking, and the overall software-defined data center." Such work ought to complement other ongoing efforts to create open system hardware designs, such as the Open Compute Project's.

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One possible downside of Linux becoming an ubiquitous infrastructure element is it becoming as institutionalized as the commercial, closed source Unixes it has displaced. But Zemlin thinks Linux's very mutability works in its favor here: "If you would have asked Linus Torvalds or other members of the community a decade ago if Linux would power more mobile phones than any other platform, they certainly wouldn't have expected that. We'd rather just watch where it goes and not try to forecast since we most certainly will be wrong."

Another important future direction for some is, as mentioned above, "go[ing] mobile in a bigger way independently of Google," as Baker puts it. Projects like Mozilla's Firefox OS for phones are one incarnation of this, although it's unclear how much of a dent such a thing will make in Google's existing, and colossal, market share for Android.

Lastly, and most crucially, there's the question of who will be responsible for ushering Linux into its own future. While Linux can be forked and its development undertaken by others, history's shown that having a single core development team for Linux -- and equally consistent core teams for projects based on it -- is best.

That puts all the more burden on the core team to keep Linux moving forward in ways that complement its existing and future use cases, and not to protect it -- perhaps futilely -- from becoming something it might well be in its best interests to transform into.

If Linux's future really is everywhere, it might well also be in a form that no one now can conceive of -- and that's a good thing.

This story, "The Future of Linux: Evolving Everywhere" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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