The astonished tone of the recent articles that Microsoft is a key contributor to the Linux kernel shows a lack of understanding of how far Microsoft has moved to embrace open source, if only out of an acknowledgement that open source won’t go away. Open source is being firmly embraced by just about everyone.
The start of the recent “surprise” was from The Linux Foundation’s just released annual report , the Linux Development Report. Included in the report is a list of the top contributors from versions 2.6.36 to 3.2. The paper was written by Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux Foundation fellow, and Amanda McPherson, Linux Foundation Vice President of Marketing and Developer Services.
What has made the news is the emergence of Microsoft as a major contributor to the Linux kernel. Microsoft has made it on the list as 17th of the Top 20 companies. Microsoft contributed 688 changes, which is about 1% of all changes. Todd Bishop, a writer for GeekWire, posted an article today entitled, “Surprise: Microsoft makes list of top 20 Linux kernel contributors – first time ever.” Virtually every other article you view mentions the oft-quoted “Linux is a cancer” remark made in 2001 by Ballmer.
It would not be a stretch to say that back in 2001 Microsoft clearly wanted open source and Linux, in particular, to go away. They probably still do, BUT .. given the widespread use of open source and Linux, Microsoft has realized years ago that it either needs to a part of this mainstream movement or risk being marginalized.
Actually, the news shouldn’t be much of a surprise at all. Consider the following:
1) Microsoft is actively engaged in open source and has active open source projects:
refer to: www.microsoft.com/opensource/
2) Microsoft’s open source project hosting
refer to www.codeplex.com
3) Microsoft supports the 9th most commonly used open source license according to the Open Source Resource Center.
refer to: http://osrc.blackducksoftware.com/data/licenses/
4) Microsoft runs a open source community site supported by Gianugo Rabellino, their Senior Director of Open Source.
refer to: http://blogs.technet.com/b/port25/
The main reason Microsoft is contributing to Linux is not much of a surprise either: Microsoft wants Linux to support Microsoft technology. Here is one major example: to support Microsoft’s own Hyper-V virtualization technology there needs to be drivers on Linux, so Microsoft contributed them. Microsoft’s Hyper-V is able to run Linux as a guest OS.