Microsoft Releases Linux Device Driver Code

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Microsoft releases 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community under the popular GPLv2 license

Microsoft has released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community.

The software giant announced its move at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention in San Jose, Calif., on July 20. The code, which includes three Linux device drivers, has been submitted to the Linux kernel community for inclusion in the Linux tree, Microsoft said.

The drivers will be available to the Linux community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualised on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, Microsoft officials said.

In a Q&A about the release of the code on Microsoft’s PressPass site, Tom Hanrahan, director of Microsoft’s OSTC (Open Source Technology Center), said, “This is a significant milestone because it’s the first time we’ve released code directly to the Linux community. Additionally significant is that we are releasing the code under the GPLv2 [General Public License Version 2] license, which is the Linux community’s preferred license.”

Hanrahan added, “Our initial goal in developing the code was to enable Linux to run as a virtual machine on top of Hyper-V, Microsoft’s hypervisor and implementation of virtualisation.”

Sam Ramji, senior director of Platform Strategy in Microsoft’s Server and Tools organization, said part of Microsoft’s motivation behind this move is to help companies cope with “the current economic climate,” which calls for increased heterogeneity.

Moreover, “there’s mutual benefit for customers, for Microsoft, and for commercial and community distributions of Linux, to enhance the performance of Linux as a guest operating system where Windows Server is the host,” Ramji said.

Ramji also noted that Microsoft is involved in other open-source efforts. Ramji said: “Examples can be found in the work we have done with the PHP Community, which has involved contributing to the PHP Engine, optimizing PHP 5.3 to perform strongly on Windows, and working to improve the performance of numerous PHP applications on Windows. Then there is the ongoing participation in various Apache Software Foundation projects, such as Hadoop, Stonehenge and QPID. In addition to this, we worked to improve interoperability with Axis2 and provided support to the Firefox community to optimize Firefox for Vista and Windows Media Player.”

In a statement, Novell said: “As a leading Linux solutions provider and an active player in the Linux community, Novell was influential in bringing this about and has worked closely with Microsoft to make this a reality. Under the direction of Novell Fellow Greg Kroah-Hartman, who leads the Linux Kernel Device Driver project, Novell proactively engaged with Microsoft to provide valuable guidance and feedback to the Open Source Technology Center, which enabled the team to contribute the code in a way that was in line with community processes.”

Meanwhile, in a blog post, Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe said: “Novell and Microsoft created our partnership primarily to focus on customer needs. We heard from customers that there was a need for greater interoperability between Linux and Windows. We launched a broad partnership collaborating in technology and business to meet customer needs. This was often misunderstood—we were criticized for it—but both companies stuck to our guns because the customer need was the overarching consideration.”

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