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Editor's Note: Microsoft is Now Our Friend

Jul 24, 2009, 23:03 (11 Talkback[s])

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

This has been an amusing story for this week. In a nutshell, Microsoft got busted for a GPL violation. The developer who discovered this, Stephen Hemminger of Vyatta, chose to handle it thusly:

"Rather than creating noise, my goal was to resolve the problem, so I turned to Greg Kroah-Hartman. Since Novell has a (too) close association with Microsoft, my expectation was that Greg could prod the right people to get the issue resolved."

It took over two years, but finally MS came into compliance and then released the source code with much fanfare and self-congratulations. It is a driver to enhance Linux guest performance on their Hyper-V virtualizer. There is a lot of good news in this story, but not of the kind that Microsoft wants us to believe.

First of all, even though it took too long the matter was settled without ligitation or loud headlines. Contrast this with Microsoft vs. TomTom or Redmond's continual patent saber-rattling and bleating about protecting their precious eye pee, and by gosh everyone better pay up. What is the penalty for violating the GPL? You don't get to use the code anymore. How do you fix this? Come into compliance. That's it. Simple. Too simple, apparently, for gigantic globalcorps who need two years to fix a small bit of code.

Kudos to Greg K-H

Mr. Kroah-Hartman launched the successful The Linux Driver Project to help hardware vendors develop GPL Linux drivers and get them into the kernel. About this Microsoft deal he says:
"Now, on one hand this is no different from any other company that I have worked with through the driver project. We are averaging about 2 new companies a month right now, working with them to get their code cleaned up and merged into the Linux kernel tree. Stuff like this happens all the time with new companies...But, on the other hand, this is Microsoft, so it is a big deal."

Once again Microsoft, the sworn and bitter enemy of Linux, FOSS, and especially the GPL, has been forced to dance to FOSS's tune. Naturally long-time Linux geeks are wondering which hand holds the knife? What's the catch? I don't believe there is one. Obviously they want people to purchase Windows Server licenses and use it as a virtualization host for Linux and other operating systems, and not to use VMWare. VMWare presents a special threat because it is a bare-metal hypervisor and doesn't need a host operating system at all.

Naturally folks who know better die laughing at the idea of running good operating systems on top of Windows.

They can't even limit this to Novell SUSE Linux because it is GPL, and so any Linux distributor can tweak it to suit.

Who Wins?

For admins who are not experienced with Linux, it's a great way to get acquainted with it on a familiar platform. For shops looking to migrate away from Redmondware, it's one more tool in their migration toolkit. For Microsoft customers who need real interoperability it's a win; it's one less bit of lock-in, one more chink in the vast top-to-bottom Microsoft-only software stack.

Microsoft wins if they can see past their giant lock-in edifice and look to the future, because openness benefits everyone. Even hardcore lock-in monopolists who think that squeezing tighter is the only way to win, and winning means owning everything. They're wrong on both counts, and perhaps the lessons of FOSS will slowly permeate even the halls of Redmond.