Home opinion-and-analysis The Linux Distillery Microsoft contributes to Linux kernel

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Even the most ardent open source advocate may find they have Microsoft code on their Linux box in the near future following a surprise kernel submission on Monday. No, it’s not April 1st.

I previously claimed Microsoft acquired Novell and became the owners of the UNIX trademark as an April Fool’s Day joke this year, but this time I’m telling the truth!

In a move which is both historic and unexpected, the Redmond giant – and purveyors of well-known proprietary operating systems – submitted driver source code to be included in the Linux kernel, licensed under the permissive open source GNU Public License.

Specifically, Microsoft contributed 22,000 lines of code which make up four drivers that provide hooks for any Linux distribution to run on Windows Server 2008 and its Hyper-V hypervisor virtualisation technology.

This means the drivers are not used unless running on top of a Windows Server 2008 platform and consequently do not come into play on “regular” non-virtualised installations.

Nevertheless, it is a move that shows greater recognition of Linux with previous Microsoft virtualisation technologies favouring Windows-based guest operating systems over any other flavour.

Additionally, it could be argued that Microsoft has gained a strategic edge over virtualisation competitor VMWare, with Linux now having built-in support for Windows Server 2008 hosts.

The code has already been accepted and will definitely become part of the next Linux kernel. Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux driver project lead, stated Microsoft “abided by every single rule and letter of what we require to submit code.”

Microsoft's contribution will be obtainable in the public tree release within the next 24 hours. Like all first-time kernel submitters, Microsoft’s code will be part of the kernel’s staging tree before moving into the main tree.

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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.

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