Saturday, July 25, 2009

Microsoft Releases Device Driver Source Code for Inclusion into the Linux Kernel

Article: Microsoft Patches Linux; Linus (Torvalds) Responds

Author: Christopher Smart

Date: Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009


[QUOTE Christopher Smart]

You may have already heard, but the unthinkable has happened. That’s right, Microsoft, the self-proclaimed enemy of Linux and free software, has announced that they will be submitting some 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel. Come again? Yes, Microsoft wants to get its code into the Linux kernel. You read that right!


So why the patch? Well, it contains three drivers which will enhance the performance of Linux when virtualized as a guest under Microsoft’s virtualization product, Hyper-V. Ahh, now the truth starts to emerge. The purpose of the code has nothing to do with being generous, but rather it is to ensure that Linux will run well under their own virtualization technology. Microsoft has well realized that the world is moving towards free software and that users are implementing Linux in their infrastructure.


A smart (and necessary) move on Microsoft’s half in order to help stifle the migration of their clients to Linux. Microsoft knows that their clients want to virtualize Linux servers and currently they can’t do that very well on Microsoft hosts using Hyper-V. So if Microsoft does nothing, their clients will start to move away from running Microsoft Windows as their host operating system.


It is not a change of heart. Microsoft has not embraced Linux, or the GPL, or free software. This move is purely a strategic one in order to remain in the virtualization race. Microsoft only does things which are in their own best interest (as with every corporation) and this is no exception.


Much of their new found attention to open source has been a direct result of the European Commission’s Anti-trust case, which has forced them to open source certain products and release technical documentation.


Having said all that, it is amazing that Microsoft would even consider releasing software under the GPL. Who would have thought even one year ago that they would ever contribute code to Linux, even if it was for their own benefit? So on that level it is amazing indeed. What this patch does show is that Linux and free software is gaining in power and popularity, so much so that Microsoft can no longer ignore it.


So yes, Microsoft’s code is a calculated and purely selfishly motivated move, but that’s nothing new to the free software world. Sure, we should remember who Microsoft are and what their goals are but as Linus puts it, this is how everyone gets into open source in the first place.


Microsoft knows free software is not going anywhere and it needs this code in the kernel to stay in the game. They must ensure that Linux will run on their products, else they run the risk of losing the lot. What Microsoft has yet to realize, is that they are fighting a losing battle. This is a prime example of that fact and should be a wake up call to the giant.