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A Linux Year in Review: Sun's Very Big Buy

Looking Back at 2008

Some might argue it was a middling year of news about open source and the Linux operating system. Whatever the sentiment, 2008 proved another year of solid growth and new releases for open source and Linux vendors.

In our week-plus look at the top stories, trends and themes of 2008, we pause to look at how some of them played out with vendors and end-users.

Sun Buys MySQL

Sun's $1 billion acquisition of open source database vendor MySQL was one of the biggest open source stories of the year. The deal, announced in January, closed just over a month later on February 26th.

The deal put MySQL at the forefront of Sun's database plans, shaking up its relationship with the open source PostgreSQL database and losing their PostgreSQL lead.

The acquisition also inspired some closed source hysteria when Sun pre-announced the release of MySQL 5.1 in April. As it turns out, MySQL 5.1 was substantially delayed and did not get released until December.

The Linux Distros

2008 was another solid year for the major Linux distributions. Early in the year Red Hat changed its leadership with former CEO Matthew Szulik stepping aside as new CEO Jim Whitehurst took the helm. Whitehurst made his goals for Red Hat made early on including a bid to become the first pure open source vendor to hit $1 billion in revenue.

Red Hat was busy during the year acquiring virtualization vendor Qumranet for $107 million.

The Linux vendor also open sourced its Red Hat Network application. The Fedora Linux community distribution celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2008 and released Fedora 9 and Fedora 10.

We also found in 2008 that Fedora has at least 9.5 million users, which would make Fedora more widely used that Ubuntu which reported Hardy Heron in April and Intrepid Ibex in October. Ubuntu also gained notoriety during the year as IBM's go-to-market partner in the Microsoft-Free PC effort. Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth also made headlines during the year with his goal of trying to make the Linux desktop "more beautiful" than Apple's Mac desktop.

Novell announced during 2008 that it was expanding its Linux reseller deal with Microsoft for up to an additional $100 million bringing the total to $340 million. Novell also released openSuse 11 during the year which was among the first distros to include the new KDE 4 Linux desktop. [cob:Special_Report]

Oh yes, the Open Source Browser Wars

For Mozilla, 2008 was a milestone year for a number of reasons. For one the group released its new Firefox 3 browser, offering the promise of faster browsing and better security.

Mozilla also faced new competition with its sugar-daddy Google rolling out its own browser, Chrome. For Google Chrome, one of its key speed claims is a faster JavaScript engine. It's a claim that Mozilla responded to with its own new JavaScript engine Tracemonkey for the new Firefox 3.1 browser.

Next: Hardware's Big Year