This is something of a landmark: Microsoft is contributing code to the Linux kernel.

Really. The company that once described Linux as a cancer, and compared open source software to communism, is releasing tens of thousands of lines of codes to the enemy, and under the GPL licence that it has so long decried.

This is an indication of the fundamental impact virtualisation is having on the technology world. The code Microsoft has released is designed to help Linux run more effectively on top of the hypervisor that Microsoft is building into its Windows server software.

It’s easy to see why Microsoft took this route when you consider the choice it was facing: let customers manage their mixed computing environments on top of someone else’s virtualisation platform, or add Linux support so they can run it all on Windows.

Still, compared to the furore that greeted its open source alliance with Novell in 2006 (which was widely criticised as an attempt to divide the Linux world), this time around all seems to be sweetness and light.

When I spoke to Jim Zemlin at the Linux Foundation, he had nothing but good things to say about the move. “Not bad in any way for Linux” was the verdict of one Linux kernel developer who spoke to Cnet.

When its own hard business interests are at stake, it seems Microsoft can live with the GPL after all.

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