Microsoft Releases 20k OpenSource Code to Linux under GPL for the First Time

Microsoft has long claimed that they are Opensource-friendly. Though there “Official” contribution has always been scanty, a lot of Microsoft employees had been contributing in bulk under the hood.

As per the latest story coming in, Microsoft has released three Microsoft-developed Linux drivers to the Linux community for possible inclusion in the Linux source control.

This is the first time Microsoft has made Microsoft-developed code available directly to the Linux community.

Microsoft made the Linux driver announcement yesterday, on July 20th, at the eve of the O’Reilly OSCON 2009 OpenSource Conference.

On this, Microsoft’s COO says,

“Microsoft has competed really well against “the fraudulent perception of free” that is at the core of many  Linux vendors’ sales pitches. Not all of Microsoft management is onboard with this newfangled licensing world..”

Microsoft is declaring today’s release of 20k lines of code as a part of Redmond’s commitment to improving the integration of Windows and Linux. It has been released under the GNU General Public License v2 licensing agreement. The question is Why not GPL v3 ? I guess that’s secondary, we’re happy to see Microsoft joining the race.

Today, Microsoft becomes one of several companies who had been contributing code to the central Linux kernel committee. Last year, the Linux Foundation had nearly 1,000 developers “Representing well over 100 corporations, contributing pieces of code that were part of the kernel.”  Currently, the Top 5 Contributors to the Linux core are Red Hat, Intel, Novell, IBM and Oracle.

Linux vs. Windows Drivers

Unlike Windows, Linux drivers are considered part of the operating-system kernel. The Linux Foundation explains:

“The Linux model is that IHVs (independent hardware vendors) get the source code for their driver accepted into the mainline kernel….Having hardware reliably supported by Linux requires this. It’s unclear whether Microsoft’s drivers, though submitted by a software vendor, and not an IHV, will be subject to the same process for approval.”

The Linux Driver Project lead is Greg Kroah-Hartman a programmer with Novell. Ironically, Microsoft has a three-year-old and rather controversial  patent/interoperability relationship with Novell.

Microsoft’s Linux drivers were developed largely by members of Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center (OSTC) team, which has developed expertise in Linux, Unix and open-source technologies.

Tom Hanrahan, the head of the OSTC, explains the purpose of the drivers:

“Our initial goal in developing the (Linux driver) code was to enable Linux to run as a virtual machine on top of Hyper-V, Microsoft’s hypervisor and implementation of virtualization.

“The Linux device drivers we are releasing are designed so Linux can run in enlightened mode, giving it the same optimized synthetic devices as a Windows virtual machine running on top of Hyper-V. Without this driver code, Linux can run on top of Windows, but without the same high performance levels. We worked very closely with the Hyper-V team at Microsoft to make that happen.”

“Customers have told us that they would like to standardize on one virtualization platform, and the Linux device drivers will help customers who are running Linux to consolidate their Linux and Windows servers on a single virtualization platform, thereby reducing the complexity of their infrastructure.”

Is today’s announcement more than just Microsoft touching the surface in the GPL Ocean?

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