Today Microsoft made a major announcement that has surprised many in the open source world: it has submitted device driver code to the Linux Community under the the GNU General Public License (version 2). The drivers will be available to the Linux Community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V. This is the first time Microsoft has made such a submission and is a radical departure from their previously expressed views on GPL.
Novell played a major role in making this happen. Novell Fellow Greg Kroah-Hartman, who leads the Linux Kernel Device Driver project, approached Microsoft and helped guide them though the submission process. From his recent blog post:
There are two major aspects of what (Microsoft) did here:
They released the code under the GPLv2 and publicly stated that this is a valid license for companies to release code under. They will be continuing to contribute under this license, as they work to clean up the code, and add new features and fix bugs as time goes on. This is a huge step forward for Microsoft from what they have previously stated in the past.
They publicly stated that the proper license to release a Linux kernel driver is under the GPLv2, To quote from the notes they sent out to a number of press members:
Q: Why release the code?
A: Because we have utilized Linux code, Microsoft has an obligation to open source the device drivers. This is the process outlined by the Linux community.
Q: Why open source the code?
A: Because this is a requirement of the community, and critical in ensuring that as the Linux Kernel evolves, and as Hyper-V evolves, that the Hyper-V Linux Device Drivers evolve as well.
Under the umbrella of our 2006 partnership and agreement with Microsoft, Novell has worked hard to bridge the divide between Linux and Windows. The major impetus for the agreement was customer demands for interoperability, and our technical collaborations at our joint lab in Cambridge, MA have delivered solutions covering virtualization, management, document exchange – and device drivers. Today's announcement is further vindication of our partnership and is great news for Linux, open source and especially for customers.