Microsoft's Linux Contribution: No Surprises Here - InformationWeek

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7/20/2009
11:42 PM
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Microsoft's Linux Contribution: No Surprises Here

The news that Microsoft is contributing 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel might sound surprising. It isn't.

The news that Microsoft is contributing 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel might sound surprising. It isn't.Microsoft is providing three drivers that will allow Linux virtual machines to run more efficiently on a Windows host operating system. It's a move that will deliver significant performance advantages for users working in a heterogeneous IT environment: "To withhold the drivers would mean Linux virtual machines would be functioning at a disadvantage. Having the drivers in the Linux kernel allows Linux virtual machines to run in "enlightened mode," a pun on the open source Xen approach to hypervisors. The Xen approach introduced shortcuts because the operating system realizes it's functioning in a virtual environment.

"Enlightened mode allows a virtual machine operating system to bypass intercepting and rerouting messages from an application when it needs to talk directly to auxiliary devices. The more direct communication speeds operations. In addition to the effects on virtualization competition, the move also reflects Microsoft's acceptance of Linux as a growing and long-term occupant of the data center." This is the sort of announcement that doesn't get as much publicity as Microsoft's occasional grumblings about Linux patent infringements. Yet these intellectual-property wrangles are, and always will be, a sideshow. Microsoft uses them to score tactical points in its marketing battles against Linux, but the company knows perfectly well that pushing the issue too far would be tantamount to slitting its own throat in a market where Linux is now a permanent, and universally accepted, part of the IT landscape.

It's a case where actions speak louder than words. And aside from Microsoft's largely meaningless patent litigation against TomTom, the company's actions prove that it both wants and needs to focus upon interoperability with Linux and other key open-source projects.

Consider two relevant examples: Microsoft's efforts to streamline PHP performance under Windows and the company's very close working relationship with the Samba developer community. Both involve significant technological commitments, and both are essential to ensuring interoperability in mixed Windows-Linux IT environments.

The message for businesses of all sizes is crystal clear: Focus on picking the right platform to execute a given IT task, not on the empty epithets that both sides insist -- as if out of habit -- upon slinging at one another.

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