Microsoft code-release ‘could pressure’ rivals

Microsoft's unprecedented release last week of over 20,000 lines of driver code to the Linux community could put pressure on several rivals to make similar moves.

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Microsoft's unprecedented release last week of over 20,000 lines of driver code to the Linux community could put pressure on several rivals to make similar moves.

That was the view of several analysts, who noted VMware, Broadcom and Nvidia, for example, still decline to offer their Linux drivers under the General Public License, a free software license widely used in the open-source community.

Doing so would allow the drivers to be included in the open-source Linux kernel, making the installation process much smoother. It would also enable developers to tinker with and fix them.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, said he doesn't expect Microsoft's move to persuade those vendors to open their drivers.

Graphics companies like Nvidia, he said, "have been taking heat over Linux drivers for years. But they see their driver technology as just too big a part of their competitive advantage to give much."

And VMware, as "the 800-pound gorilla," doesn't have to release its code, Haff added. "The pressure is more on the Linux distributors to work with VMware than the other way around."

Officials at VMware and Nvidia didn't respond to requests for comment. In a statement, Broadcom said that it "is working with the community to make this happen over the next several months."

Tom Hanrahan, director of Microsoft's Open Source Technology Center, said in a statement that submitting the code for inclusion in the Linux kernel marks "the first time we've released code directly to the Linux community."

The drivers enable Linux virtual machines to run on top of Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation software.

They are already available for enterprises in a patch and will be generally available in several months as part of the next major Linux kernel update, said Greg Kroah-Hartman, a longtime Linux developer at Novell and head of the Linux Driver Project, which works with manufacturers to submit kernel code to the open-source community.

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