Microsoft hands 20,000 lines of code to Linux community

REDMOND (WA) – The Great Satan of software, Microsoft, today handed over 20,000 lines of code to the open source community, including three Linux device drivers.

The code has been submitted to the Borg Collective for inclusion in the Linux tree. The drivers will be made 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.

As senior director of Platform Strategy in Microsoft’s Server and Tools organization, Sam Ramji is responsible for developing partnerships with open source communities. This includes overseeing the operation of Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center (OSTC), which serves as a focal point for open source communities and companies interested in working with Microsoft, as well as a resource for Microsoft product groups interested in open source technology.

Says Ramji: “We are seeing Microsoft communities and open source communities grow together, which is ultimately of benefit to our customers. The Linux community, for example, has built a platform used by many customers. So our strategy is to enhance interoperability between the Windows platform and many open source technologies, which includes Linux, to provide the choices our customers are asking for.

“A central part of our strategy is the work done in the OSTC, which we opened about three years ago. The OSTC has a deep technical expertise in Linux, UNIX and open source technologies, along with strong social connections into open source communities. We have learned a great deal from the various community leaders about how to effectively work together, and are eager to continue the dialogue.

“Our work in this area is all about providing more flexibility and choice, and requests from our customers and partners were really the impetus behind those efforts. We are hearing more and more customers and open source partners telling us they see some of their best value when they deploy new open source software solutions on top of existing Microsoft platforms. Today’s release would have been unheard of from Microsoft a few years ago, but it’s a prime example that customer demand is a powerful catalyst for change.”

Microsoft says it’s the first time the company has released code directly to the Linux community under the GPLv2 license, which is the Linux community’s preferred license and that its initial goal in developing the code was to enable Linux to run as a virtual machine on top of Hyper-V, Microsoft’s hypervisor and implementation of virtualization.

The Linux device drivers are designed so Linux can run in enlightened mode, giving it the same optimized synthetic devices as a Windows virtual machine running on top of Hyper-V. Without this driver code, Linux can run on top of Windows, but not at the same high performance levels.

Ramji adds: “There’s mutual benefit for customers, for Microsoft, and for commercial and community distributions of Linux, to enhance the performance of Linux as a guest operating system where Windows Server is the host.”

“Many people are surprised when they hear how much open source community and development work is happening across Microsoft. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that we’re focused on getting the work done, and engaging with communities on a one-to-one basis, rather than promoting it. We currently participate and collaborate on a number of open source projects through contributions of technical support and code.

“Examples can be found in the work we have done with the PHP Community, which has involved contributing to the PHP Engine, optimizing PHP 5.3 to perform strongly on Windows, and working to improve the performance of numerous PHP applications on Windows. Then there is the ongoing participation in various Apache Software Foundation projects, such as Hadoop, Stonehenge and QPID. In addition to this, we worked to improve interoperability with Axis2 and provided support to the Firefox community to optimize Firefox for Vista and Windows Media Player.”