Report Notes That Microsoft is a Top Linux Kernel Contributor

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 18, 2011

Recently, we've covered some of the debates going on regarding whether companies that actively use open source software are giving back to the community or not. There is ample evidence that many organizations are not doing so, although some entire countries are making big open source contributions, as discussed here. A flip-side of this debate, though, comes when you ask the question, Who contributes the most to open source projects? In the case of the Linux kernel, that would be corporations with ties to Linux, and it may surprise you to hear that Microsoft is now one of the top contributors to the kernel.

Years ago, when Microsoft officials labeled open source "a cancer," the company's steadfast focus on proprietary software strategies was well-known, but Microsoft has begun to embrace open source in some ways, and now ZDNet takes note of a Linux Weekly News story that says that Microsoft is the fifth largest contributor to the Linux kernel:

"In a Linux Weekly News story, currently only available to subscribers, an analysis of Linux 3.0 contributors reveals that Microsoft was the fifth largest corporate contributor to Linux 3.0...The vast bulk of Microsoft’s contributions has been to its own Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor drivers."

As ZDNet notes, Microsoft's contributions on the virtualization front are very easy to understand. In IT departments, managers want to run heterogenous and virtualized environments, taking advantage of multiple operating systems. They don't want to be boxed in to using, say, just Windows Server. Specifically, many of them want to run Linux alongside Windows Server, and that means that the Linux kernel and Windows Server need to be able to play together nicely.

Although, Microsoft being a top Linux contributor may seem like a shock, Microsoft's strategy here is shrewd. Servers are where Linux is doing particularly well, and by allowing managers to run Linux alongside Windows Server, Microsoft can keep enterprise IT personnel from dumping Windows Server.

Sometimes, the best strategy is to play nicely with the competition.