Linux at 25: The evolution of Linux in business

Highlights from 25 years of Linux in business

25th anniversary of Linux
Swapnil Bhartiya

25 years of Linux in businesses

Linux has come a long way in the last quarter century, starting as a not-so-ambitious project, to something that literally runs the modern economy. In these slides we explore 25 major stories from these 25 years that changed the business world.

Linus Torvalds
Swapnil Bhartiya

1991: Linus Torvalds creates Linux

On August 25, 1991 Linus Benedict Torvalds announced a project he had been working on since April. The first release of Linux was never made public. Torvalds uploaded it on an FTP server and emailed to people who were interested in it.

Swapnil Bhartiya

1992: S.u.S.E, the company, is founded

S.u.S.E. was founded on 2 September 1992 in Germany by Roland Dyroff, Burchard Steinbild, Hubert Mantel and Thomas Fehr. The company was selling a product based on one of the oldest Linux distribution Slackware.

Bob Young

1993: ACC Corporation is founded

ACC Corporation (which later become Red Hat) was founded by Bob Young in 1993, as a seller of Linux and Unix software accessories. Jim Whitehurst, the current CEO of Red Hat said in back in it’s early days Red Hat’s business model was "selling t-shirts and coffee mugs," Whitehurst said in his LinuxCon keynote speech last week. Today Red Hat makes more than $2 billion in annual revenues selling support and services around Linux.

Red Hat

1994: Marc Ewing creates Red Hat Linux

Marc Ewing, known to wear a red hat as he walked between classes at Carnegie Mellon University, created his own Linux distribution and called it … Red Hat Linux. Ewing released his software in October 1994 (he called it the Halloween release). Later, Red Hat Linux became the most popular enterprise distribution.

Red Hat Linux
Swapnil Bhartiya

1995: Red Hat Linux and ACC merge

Bob Young acquired Red Hat Linux from Marc Ewing and merged it with his own company ACC Corporation, creating Red Hat. Young become the CEO of the new company.

SuSE Linux

1996: SuSE Linux distribution is created

S.u.S.E created and started shipping its own Linux distribution called S.u.S.E Linux. It was based on Jurix, whose creator Florian La Roche had joined the company. The first version was called "S.u.S.E Linux 4.2", a reference to "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," where 42 is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything."

Red Hat IPO
Swapnil Bhartiya

1999: Red Hat announces IPO

Red Hat was the first Linux company to go public. The company went public on August 11, 1999, and also earned the 8th biggest first-day gain in the history of Wall Street. In the same year, Bob Young, the founder of Red Hat stepped down as CEO and Matthew Szulik took over.

Swapnil Bhartiya

2000: IBM invests $1 billion in Linux

By 2000, Linux was gaining popularity among enterprise customers and IBM announced that it would embrace Linux as strategic to its systems strategy. The company invested a whopping $1 billion in Linux and embraced it as an OS for its servers and software.

United Linux

2002: United Linux is created

SuSE, Caldera International (later SCO Group), Conectiva and Turbolinux joined to create United Linux, a standardized Linux distribution for the enterprise. That was one of the first attempts in the Linux world to reduce duplication of engineering work.

SCO Group

2003: SCO Group turns hostile towards Linux

SCO Group (formerly Caldera International, which backed United Linux) started claiming that Linux infringed on SCO’s UNIX System V source code, and that it was an illegal derivative of UNIX. SCO sued IBM for $1 billion and asked for license fee. Microsoft signed a licensing deal with SCO, a move that gave "heavyweight backing to SCO's intellectual-property claims and helps Microsoft combat Linux," wrote CNET's Martin LaMonica.

Andy Rubin

2003: Andy Rubin creates Android

Andy Rubin co-founded Android, Inc to develop smart devices. After realizing that there wasn't a market for such devices, they shifted focus towards creating a mobile operating system that would compete with Symbian and Microsoft Windows. In 2005, Google acquired Android.

Mark Shuttleworth
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2004: Canonical and Ubuntu are founded

Mark Shuttleworth funded and founded the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Ubuntu was based on Debian and went on to become one of the most popular Linux distributions on desktop and cloud. Shuttleworth founded a company called Canonical Ltd, to create a business around Ubuntu Linux.


2006: Microsoft, Novell sign patent agreement

Microsoft and Novell (the owner of SUSE back then) signed a patent agreement to cover their products. The deal was seen as Novell’s validation of Microsoft’s claims that Linux infringes upon its patents, which infuriated the Linux community and dented Novell’s reputation.

Steve Ballmer

2007: Microsoft says Linux infringes on its patents

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Microsoft claimed that Linux violated 235 of its patents, although the company never disclosed which patents were violated. Linus Torvalds responded and told me in an interview that Microsoft just made up the number of patents.

Open Handset Alliance

2007: Open Handset Alliance is formed

Google brought together industry leaders to create Open Handset Alliance, a consortium to develop Linux based operating system Android. OHA brought Linux to the mobile space challenging Apple’s iPhone.

New York Stock Exchange
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2007: The New York Stock Exchange moves to Linux

In a move aimed to give it technology independence, the NYSE built a new hybrid market trading system running Linux. This was the beginning of the end for UNIX and rise of Linux in mission critical businesses.

Linux Foundation
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2007: The Linux Foundation is formed

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG) merged to created the Linux Foundation, a non-profit trade association that has become home to many Linux and open source projects. The foundation also sponsors the work of top Linux developers, including Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman.

Chrome OS
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2009: Google announces Chrome OS

In 2009, Google announced another Linux based, open source operating system called Chrome OS. Unlike Android, Chrome OS was a lightweight operating system intended for netbooks and offered a web-based interface running on its Chrome browser.


2011: Samsung announces Tizen

Samsung collaborated with Intel, EFL project and LiMo to create Tizen, a brand new Linux-based operating system. Tizen targets a wide range of devices and is often seen as Samsung’s backup plan for Android.

Red Hat

2012: Red Hat becomes a billion dollar baby

In 2012, Red Hat became the first open source company to generate over $1 billion in annual revenues, establishing that it's possible to build a profitable business model around open source and Linux.

Solomon Hykes

2013: dotCloud becomes Docker Inc

In 2013 Solomon Hykes renamed his company dotCloud to Docker Inc. Docker popularized the concept of Linux containers in the enterprise world and has become one of the hottest enterprise startups in recent times. Docker Inc shut down the dotCloud platform as a service (Paas) offering in February 2016.

CoreOS, Inc. CTO Brandon Philips
Swapnil Bhartiya

2013: CoreOS (the company) comes into existence

CoreOS, developer of the lightweight, Linux-based distributed operating system by the same name, is the youngest Linux company. However, the operating system is not the primary product of the company, which builds technologies to automate, orchestrate, deploy and manage containers.

Microsoft loves Linux
Swapnil Bhartiya

2014: Microsoft professes love for Linux

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took a U-turn from the company’s previous hostility towards Linux and announced that ‘Microsoft loves Linux’ at a media event touting the company's cloud offerings. This change of heart had everything to do with Microsoft’s recognition that a growing share of its Azure cloud customers run Linux.

Windows Azure

2015: Microsoft creates a Linux-based OS

Microsoft's Linux-based operating system called Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), while not a ‘typical’ operating system that would run on users' machines, was a big step from Microsoft towards adoption of Linux.

Powershell on Linux
Swapnil Bhartiya

2016: Microsoft cozies up to developers

In April, Microsoft announced it would be bringing the Linux bash shell to Windows, allowing developers running Windows to manage their Linux machines. Then in August the company brought its automation and command line tool PowerShell to Linux. Now developers can use either Linux or Windows systems to develop and manage their Azure clouds.