It may be early for me to say this, but the momentum behind Linux is such that in about 2 to 4 years, it may be the mainstream platform. You will not see a product called Linux on store shelves. Instead, it is the ingredient for the products. Current reports have an average of approx. 4,000 contributors to Linux. According to Ars Technica, about half of that 4,000 arose in the past year. A huge surge to be sure with Intel as the largest contributor by far.
Ars Technica reports in their article, Linux has 2,000 new developers and gets 10,000 patches for each version, that the Linux community is greatly expanding by implication. Most of those who work on Linux are getting paid to do it. That is an unforseen outcome that will go far to sustain steady improvement in the technology. Linux has become the foundational base technology for many things. On that note, it is time to look at the impact of surge of interest in Linux.
Considering that the 4,000 groups and individuals have differing agendas as to their investment of time into Linux, you will probably find widely varying views on many things. Not least of which, the impact on the technology landscape of broader Linux adoption. I have selected a few areas of impact in technology that I think would follow from a continued uptick in Linux adoption.
Native Code – I begin with native code. I am not fascinated by the idea of native code in an curated IT environment. It has little place there. I do recognize that broader Linux adoption will expand native code literacy and understanding. It means that such technology may improve. Today’s efforts such as LLVM and C++ Next are more upstream efforts that could benefit. The tools and publications on fundamental technologies such as C and Assembler may see a resurgence.
Distributed Systems – All manner of networked technology can be surfaced in Linux. The surge in its adoption means a continuous expansion in distributed systems of various kinds. Whether called clouds or middle-tier appliances, or simply bread and butter networking, Linux growth means concentrated investment in the quality of these solutions and derivative management applications, both IaaS or conventional style.
As open technology, Linux can be perpetuated indefinitely in proportion to the size of its contributors, users, and compatibility with mainstream hardware technology. Although efforts such as SystemD cause some consternation today, the virtue of Linux is that such efforts are optional. Choice exists including to evolve Linux in any number of ways that benefit the many constituencies that put it to practice.
UNIX Philosophy – Philosophical values would also continue such as the UNIX Philosophy. I expect the UNIX Philosophy to remain dominant while other approaches emerge that may greatly improve Linux in proportion to the openness and safety of said efforts. The flexibility and focus understood in this philosophy has been instrumental in creating reliability and minimizing extensive rework.
Openness – When code is open, it is better understood what it can and cannot do. Most people will never look at open code. Those that do, have the opportunity to learn more about software as an investment towards doing things better in the future. Imagine that 2,000 developers had a huge impact in a sea of open code and collaboration. That brought you many great companies and technology solutions. It also gradually changed software development itself. Now, imagine the cycle of change that will emerge from an additional 2,000 developers. One outcome is greater information, better knowledge, and a more refined set of solutions.
Clarity – Open source is driven on real reputation. A person or group puts their credibility on the line when they publish. It means that casual errors are not hidden behind binary files but that the chances of thoughtful consideration of the code written is higher. This attribute of open source can help bring about higher quality solutions. When you read published open code, you are likely looking at the most well-considered code the author has committed to releasing.
Business models are necessary. Trade activity is core to living. Some things that should not be traded can nonetheless support those things that are obvious candidates for trade. Time is something you can trade. More formally called service, the trade of time in exchange for other things of value is a fixture of today’s economy. Things you physically produce can also be traded. Ideas and thoughts are those free things that can imbue substance to those who would trade their time in support of those ideas and free things given freely.
Freemium – When soft technology is distributed widely, that is not the end of the story. The producer of that technology has the choice of updating that technology to the next level. Again, distributed far and wide. The value they bring to those that need more urgent and precise attention is their thought leadership and background with said technology. The exchange of time to a specific concern of a client is part of the Freemium business model. It is likely to increase in use with the surge in open source.
Intellectual Property – Eventually, the terminology of ownership may be better understood as possession of physical things and recognition of authorship of none physical things. Others may reproduce an idea but the advantage rests with those who implement it well and communicates it in a relevant way. That reality would reshape the relationship between production and compensation.
Trust – Open technology does have an inherently higher trust associated with it. What such software will and will not disclosed can be understood more fully. That becomes an element of a brand that uses open technology in the conduct of their services or as the main ingredient of their solutions.
No technology can guarantee security. If a group with enough intellect and funding targets you, the realm of conventional computer technology has no defense that will aid you, as of 2015. Instead, computer security can help you against casual and moderate forms of unwanted disclosure of information. Open technologies have the advantage as does properly designed hardware.
Auditing – When the hardware is clean, security failures will traffic through software. Open software can be audited widely by many parties with or without mutual interest. You cannot eliminate security issues entirely, as far as we know in 2015, but you can reduce them significantly through open software. The expansion of Linux means an increase in overall secure software.
Conversation – Closed software may list a flaw publicly that describes the impact of the flaw. Open software offers the opportunity to verify and pursue root causes. As the conversation on such errors expand, the trail of error can flow upstream and downstream in terms of solutions within the open technology landscape that may have a similar design that can be improved.
Mitigation – A workaround can be avoided in open software. The maximum opportunity exists for those who identify security error to redress them directly or through advocacy in the broader technology community. Mitigation choice expands as more persons familiar with Linux grows who are able to address such things. They can address these things with greater effectiveness because of a wider pool of open knowledge that sustains their efforts.
Knowledge then becomes the real prize of greater Linux uptake. As a technology, Linux is highly reusable. Software developers often describe the concept of reusable code. Imagine a reusable system. That is Linux and it is adaptable to nearly all computer technology based on the RAM Machine Model. More than that, the collaboration that takes place makes thought processes more apparent. Reusable thought process is the most valuable creative and intellectual asset. It is the potential of software to externalize excellent thoughts and help develop thought applied in its making.
Intellectual Diversity – A single design and a uniformly homogeneous viewpoint does have its place. That does not often apply in the evolution of technology towards a better, more useful form. Hardware possibilities become reality and new areas of improvement are possible. Systems can be adapted to new ways to engage information and in other ways, an important context has changed enough to require the right adaptation.
Best Practice at Scale – Seeing into and engaging with other ways to do things, seeing their value and being able to apply them is more possible when the system is open and those alternatives can function. Consequently, Linux has help foster a diverse technology environment. The more it becomes applicable to the writing of code and the administration of systems, the more it introduces many good ideas that can enhance the thought profile of those who apply it. At the same time, details of the most successful practices and specific technologies can be known.
Thought Acceleration – Making mistakes is a good thing. Error teaches much and should not be avoided. Learn through trail, though seek to improve. Open software can accelerate thought. Excellent reusable thoughts understood and applied move people faster to the next stage. That may be an advantage of a system such as Linux and those technologies that are popularly associated to it.