The Truth Behind Microsoft’s Contributions To Linux 3.0

A few days back, published an article listing the different contributors to the changes in the source code of Linux kernel 3.0. One name on that list that surprised everyone was none other than Microsoft.

According to the article, Microsoft has contributed 361 changes/patches to the Linux kernel 3.0, which makes it the seventh largest contributor to the kernel and fifth largest corporate contributor. Naturally this raises the question as to what it going on here. Microsoft has never liked Linux and has always been insisting that Linux violates their patents (although they have never named the patents.) In 2001, Steve Ballmer, who is currently their CEO, described Linux as a cancer.

Has Microsoft turned a page? Are they embracing Linux and open source software? Well, no they have not turned a page. They are still the same old Microsoft. All their contributions are patches for the Microsoft Hyper-V driver.

In 2009, Microsoft submitted around 20,000 lines of code to Linux. These codes make it possible to run Linux on Windows Server using its Hyper-V technology. However, the Linux developers found a lot of problems with Microsoft’s contribution .

In December 2010, Greg Kroah-Hartman, wrote that the Hyper-V drivers that Microsoft had submitted risk getting removed from the kernel because all the Microsoft developers had disappeared.

“Over 200 patches make up the massive cleanup effort needed to just get this code into a semi-sane kernel coding style (someone owes me a bit bottle of rum for that work!) Unfortunately the Microsoft developers seem to have disappeared, and no one is answering my emails. If they do not show back up to claim this driver soon, it will be removed in the 2.6.33 release. So sad…”

All of the 361 patches that Microsoft has contributed towards Linux 3.0 are simply patches for the Hyper-V driver. They are there only to make it possible for Linux to run on Windows Servers. This contribution should not be interpreted as a change in Microsoft’s attitude towards Free and Open Source Software, and Linux in general.

If we look at the contributions not through the number of changes but through the lines of code changed, Microsoft’s contributions become very small. All of their 361 changes are very small changes and account for a mere 1.3% of the total lines of code changed in Linux 3.0. If the line of code changed is used to measure the contributions, Microsoft comes in at 15th position with Intel, which is responsible for 18% of the changes, taking the top spot.

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Ricky Laishram

Ricky Laishram is a Linux and FOSS enthusiast. He is passionate about open source technologies and likes to keep abreast with the latest developments in KDE and Ubuntu. He also loves listening to music and is a huge Tegan snd Sara fan. You can follow him on twitter @ricky_lais.