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The Linux kernel is the foundation of the Linux computer operating system. A kernel is the lowest level of software that can interface with computer hardware. All Linux applications and servers also interface with the Linux kernel. All Linux distributions are based on the Linux kernel and use its services to implement various software functions. Unlike the hybrid kernels of Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, the Linux kernel is monolithic. Monolithic kernels control the CPU, memory, inter-process communication (IPC), device drivers, file system management, and system server calls.

Created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 as a free OS kernel for his personal computer, the Linux kernel has since expanded to support multiple computer architectures, from mobile devices to mainframes. It is also the kernel for other free software projects such as the GNU Operating System. The Linux kernel is developed by thousands of open source contributors worldwide. With more than 23 million lines of code, the Linux kernel is one of the largest open source software projects in the world. Each version of the kernel is supported for up to six years. The Linux kernel is released under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

The Linux kernel manages OS resources, making sure there is enough memory available for applications to run, optimizing processor usage, and avoiding system deadlocks caused by competing application demands. The stability of the Linux kernel has made it a key building block for many cloud computing infrastructures. Most cloud solution providers, including Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, rely on Linux and open source solutions. Enterprises that require multi-platform integration, OS-agnostic applications or data center consolidation may choose Linux-based cloud computing solutions such as SUSE OpenStack Cloud.

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