2014 may not have been the ‘Year of Linux’ as Jim Zemlin, the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, would have wanted. But it was certainly was one of the most important years for Linux. Here are the top six Linux stories from the year 2014.
systemd, the successor of the aging init system for Linux, evolved as one of the most disruptive technologies in 2014.
All major and influential, distributions have adopted systemd, including Ubuntu, which developed its own init successor Upstart, a competitor to systemd. Red Hat and SUSE have also adopted systemd making it the defacto init for commercial market.
But the Linux community is split over systemd. And Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, has nothing bad to say about systemd, however he is definitely not happy with the ‘unfriendly’ attitude of systemd developers.
Debian, one of many casualties of systemd, witnessed a bloody fight within its Technical Committee, which has supporters from both systemd and Upstart.
The committee eventually voted on sysetmd on a technical basis, but the pull from both sides ruptured the Debian community. A lot of technical committee members resigned from the board due to systemd. And a group of developers who called themselves Veteran UNIX Admins announced a fork of Debian and called it Devuan.
Buyout of SUSE/Novell
SUSE is one of the trinities of the commercial Linux world (along with Red Hat and Canonical). It is well respected within the community because it contributes heavily to the development of many major Linux and Open Source technologies.
Sadly, the German open source company has been going through hard times since it was acquired by the US-based Novell.
SUSE went on sale again, as part of Novell, when Attachmate acquired it for around $2.2 billion back in 2010.
Fast forward 2014 and SUSE was sold again, this time to the UK-based Micro Focus, as part of the merger between Micro Focus and the Attachmate Group.
We are keeping an eye on SUSE because it is a very important player in the Linux market, most notably because it also sponsors the leading open source distribution openSUSE.
Red Hat changing focus
Red Hat pulls in more than $1 billion in revenue annually based on pure open source solutions and is among the top contributors to many open source projects including the Linux kernel. The company is also very quick to adapt and evolve, keeping up with the changing market.
In 2014, Red Hat made the major decision to transform itself from a client-server company to a mobile-cloud company. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said: “Right now, we’re in the midst of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile. It’s a once-every-twenty-years kind of change. As history has shown us, in the early days of those changes, winners emerge that set the standards for that era – think Wintel in the client-server arena. We’re staring at a huge opportunity – the chance to become the leader in enterprise cloud, much like we are the leader in enterprise open source.”
Netflix on Linux
Netflix had been a bane for Linux desktops. This streaming service was often cited as one of the barriers for the wider adoption of Linux.
People who wanted to use Linux hesitated due to the lack of services like Netflix. Everything changed thanks to HTML5 and Google’s embrace of EME (Encrypted Media Extensions) in the Chrome browser.
Netflix developers reached out to the Ubuntu community suggesting that native Netflix support was possible if they use the latest nss libraries. Ubuntu developers didn’t hesitate and lo! Netflix was running natively on Linux.
The arrival of Netflix on Linux was considered the beginning of a new era for Linux.
Microsoft loves Linux
One of the biggest Linux stories of the year was the unexpected metamorphosis within the legacy software company Microsoft. Under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft is moving away from the ‘exceptionalism’ espoused by Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.
Nadella started offering leading Microsoft products on competing platforms such as Android and iOS instead of using them as a bait for Windows Phones.
The biggest change to come from Microsoft was in their hostile attitude towards Linux. While Ballmer called Linux a cancer, Nadella expressed his admiration for the open source operating system and said ‘Microsoft Loves Linux’. The company also announced plans to open source its .NET framework.
It’s yet to be seen whether Microsoft really loves Linux or not – the end of their patent war against Linux will be a symbol of their love. For now, it’s more about need than love. Linux is today a dominant technology in many sectors and Microsoft needs to play nicely with Linux if it wants to survive.
Overall, this is good news for Linux players because we can expect more collaboration and healthy competition instead of patent attacks and hostility.
These were the top 6 stories that changed the Linux landscape in 2014. Will 2015 finally be the year of desktop Linux? I wouldn’t be so bold as to make that prediction, but here’s what we know so far: Linux based Android is a leading platform. Chrome OS is becoming a threat to Microsoft Windows. Ubuntu phones will start shipping. Valve partners will begin selling Steam Machines.
Maybe it’s no more about the year of Linux; we are living in the century of Linux.