Microsoft releases Linux Hyper-V drivers but still wants to crush Linux

Drivers for the Linux kernel use the GPLv2, but serve only to bring Linux to Windows Server 2008.

With today's announcement that Microsoft will release a set of three Hyper-V drivers for the Linux kernel, Microsoft is treating its Windows Server 2008 customers right, but not, by any account, giving up the fight to wipe Linux out -- or for that matter crush VMware. Yes, the drivers are fully open source. But they mostly benefit Microsoft. They don't, for instance, contribute to the improvement of the Linux kernel. They do try and encourage users to buy the latest Windows Server boxes by allowing any Linux flavor to run on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. Previously, only Novell's SUSE could run on Hyper-V.

Note, too, that these are specific for Windows Server 2008, and are not backward compatible for WS2003. While the news isn't all predatory, only users wanting to maintain Windows servers and adopt Hyper-V are the winners. Will this be enough to convince its stockholders that it is has created a shining new profit potential? That's doubtful. The company is expected to announce another round of dismal quarterly earnings on Thursday.

But I will applaud the company for taking somewhat of another step in the right direction -- one that attempts to work ever better with the open source community instead of blatantly alienating it. If today's news means that Microsoft will begin using the GPL for more of its new products, than that's where the real value of the announcement lies.

As for VMware, its customers love it and aren't about to yank it out today no matter what Microsoft does. But when the time comes to renew those expensive VMware licenses, that's when many users will take another gander at Hyper-V. Microsoft's support of Linux as of WS2008 will be another notch in its favor.

Let's note that while this news is flashy (and shows that Microsoft's direct threat against Linux vendors and users was a lot of hot air), it is not a wholehearted departure from Microsoft's previous attempt to work with Linux. Blogger Mary-Jo Foley points out that Microsoft has previously released code under the GPL. That code, dubbed the Linux Integration Components originally saw the light in beta form in April, 2008, and was for the purpose of making Novell's SUSE run on Hyper-V.

The Groklaw blog says that Microsoft's Linux drivers are merely another attempt at the company to eventually extinguish Linux:

"In case you had any doubt about the true motive, please note that the Microsoft announcement offers a link to video of Microsoft's Tom Hanrahan discussing the move with Sam Ramji. But to view it, you have to have or install Microsoft's proprietary Silverlight. There is no Microsoft Silverlight for Linux."

Groklaw doesn't have that completely right. Microsoft left the Linux version of Silverlight to Novell and the Mono team which has created "Moonlight." Moonlihght allows Linux users to view Silverlight content. The Mono team of course had no problem releasing Moonlight under the GPL.

This news follows the more important, but less flashy news made earlier this month that Microsoft has covered C#, CLI programs with its home-grown, open source license. That's not the same as embracing and collaborating with Linux per se, but it shows that Microsoft's malevolence toward "open source" is waning. Ultimately, the more Microsoft opens is mind, and its products, the more users benefit.

Also see: Microsoft submits its first code for Linux kernel; Microsoft's Linux kernel submission raises virtualization questions.

Virtualization, cloud underlie Microsoft's Linux kernel submission


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