A couple of weeks ago Microsoft did something unique in its history: released some of its technology as open source, under the GPLv2 license.
Specifically, the company released as open source the Hyper-V Linux Integration Components, a set of para-virtualization drivers that improves the Linux guest OSes performance.
The official reason that Microsoft provided to justify this unprecedented behavior was the desire to improve the interoperability and the performance of Linux virtual machines. But immediately after the launch some behind-the-scene details emerged and revealed a completely different story.
Way before the open source release of these components, Stephen Hemminger, Principal Engineer at Vyatta, was doing some research to see how his company could support Hyper-V out-of-the-box.
To do so, Hemminger had to investigate the Linux Integration Components that Microsoft releases for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise and see if the para-virtualization drivers could be integrated into the kernel of Vyatta virtual router.
At that point he discovered that Microsoft violated the GPL license by mixing together closed-source and open-source code in its package.
Trying to keep the things quiet, he contacted Novell and asked them to work with Microsoft to solve the license infringement in a peaceful way, by releasing the whole package as open source.
The Microsoft official announcement didn’t mention the GPL violation and Novell avoided to add this little detail to the story, but they had to ultimately confirm the events as ZDNet reported.
The final answer that Microsoft provides about this whole story denies any violation anyway:
Microsoft’s decision was not based on any perceived obligations tied to the GPLv2 license.