Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

VMware May Violate Linux Copyrights

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the what-about-its-copylefts dept.

Software 443

Nailer writes "Bloomberg believe VMware's IPO today may the largest technology offering since Google. But doubts have been cast over the company's supposedly proprietary ESX product, as top 10 Linux contributor Christopher Hellwig claims the software may violate Linux kernel copyrights. 'Is Hellwig right, and is VMware a derived product of Linux? Unless vmkernel can be loaded without the Linux kernel, it would appear so. VMware was developed from another, long ago OS created as a research project, but it's unclear whether vmkernel was ported from that OS or rewritten as the Linux-requiring binary blob. What's more of an issue is that VMware had these serious questions posed directly to them a year ago, repeated in a public forum many times since, but have yet to respond at all.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (3, Interesting)

captnitro (160231) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227007)

  • Wait for big, innovative company to IPO.
  • Watch as share price goes up 90% on a day when the Dow is losing 100 points. Feel bad I don't work for that company. Boo.
  • Blog about possible copyright violations that would surely bring down EMC or VMW. Make investors nervous. Buy low.
  • Profit.

Re:They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (5, Funny)

MouseR (3264) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227063)

Your plan is missing a very important and crucial step:

  ?????

Re:They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (0)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227115)

Has VMWare already gone public, or is there still a chance to get in on the ground floor?

Re:They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227301)

Happened this morning. Looks like it's gone from 29 bucks to 54 already. It'll probably hang around there for the rest of the day. You've already missed your chance to nearly double your money.

Re:They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (5, Insightful)

GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227151)

Don't forget:
  • Omit actual details in favor of baseless speculation.
This is how you optimize FUD: keep the claims mysterious. SCO kept up this strategy for, what, 4 or 5 years?

Re:They made a movie about this with Charlie Sheen (4, Informative)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227539)

Don't forget: Omit actual details in favor of baseless speculation. [...] This is how you optimize FUD: keep the claims mysterious. SCO kept up this strategy for, what, 4 or 5 years?
I read TFA, and it included quite a lot of specific details, more than I expected, in fact. It may even be the case that it includes all publicly-available data (we don't have the ESX source code, so how exactly it interfaces with the Linux kernel is not entirely clear, but TFA can't be blamed for that).

What details were omitted from TFA, in your opinion?

Help me understand... (1, Interesting)

jdray (645332) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227371)

Maybe someone can help me understand something I'm unclear on: How does one go about creating proprietary software that runs on Linux (the kernel) without "violating the GPL?" Based on the blurb, and many similar stories I've read here over the years, it almost seems like the FOSS community expects every piece of software that is written to run on a Linux platform to be Open Source. If that's the case, why? I understand not liking proprietary device drivers for the want of controlling the hardware you own, and I understand liking a project/product like MySQL for the desire to be able to tune the software that controls your data. But there should be room for proprietary software that leverages the significant platform that is Linux.

I harken back to the days of Netware NLMs. Netware didn't seem to want some sort of ownership for people loading things onto their kernel, nor did Microsoft demand rights for people distributing TSRs. So why is this different?

Re:Help me understand... (5, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227535)

Lots of proprietary software runs just fine on Linux, including drivers, without violating the GPL. VMWare's ESX Server is sort of a special case as people seem to think a part of the product is itself derived from Linux. "Derived from Linux" is not the same as "running on Linux".

Re:Help me understand... (0, Troll)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227619)

Maybe someone can help me understand something I'm unclear on: How does one go about creating proprietary software that runs on Linux (the kernel) without "violating the GPL?" Based on the blurb, and many similar stories I've read here over the years, it almost seems like the FOSS community expects every piece of software that is written to run on a Linux platform to be Open Source. If that's the case, why?

I have seen claims that the only reason Linux userland isn't subjected to GPL by the kernel is that Linus declared a linking exception for things that only talk to the kernel through the standard userland interfaces. Or in other words, some people consider anything written to run on the Linux kernel to be derived from the kernel.

Unfortunately, the FSF has seen fit to encourage such nonsense, with the "anything that links to this is derived" claims they put in the GPL.

Re:Help me understand... (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227669)

Maybe someone can help me understand something I'm unclear on: How does one go about creating proprietary software that runs on Linux (the kernel) without "violating the GPL?"

Something like 'gcc -o program program.c' would work.

When people say the GPL is "viral", they usually mean that just running the software on a Linux kernel means you have to license it under the GPL, which isn't the case at all. It's only when you start fiddling "deeply" into the kernel or system libs that licensing becomes an issue. Of course, there can be gray areas of what "deeply" means.

Advocates would love to see every program on Linux be open, but the GPL doesn't require this.

Re:Help me understand... (4, Insightful)

cortana (588495) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227789)

Hold on a second... you are talking about both Linux (the kernel) and Linux (the platform, which does not in fact exist). Which do you mean?

If you are talking about the kernel, then you should read the COPYING [kernel.org] file: if your work is a derived work of the Linux kernel, then it must be released under the GPL. If it is not a derived work of the kernel then you can do whatever you want.

If you are talking about one of the many platforms based on Linux (e.g., RHEL, Debian GNU/Linux, etc) then you must consider the licensing terms of every work which you derive from (e.g., the GNU C Library, GTK+).

I harken back to the days of Netware NLMs. Netware didn't seem to want some sort of ownership for people loading things onto their kernel, nor did Microsoft demand rights for people distributing TSRs. So why is this different?
And look where it got them. Well, I have no idea if Netware is still alive and/or relevant today, but the sheer number of crappy proprietary drivers written by two bit hardware companies has locked them to the shitty old i386 architecture, and it looks like this will continue to be the case for decades to come.

BTW, I must correct your implied assertion that the free software community wants "ownership" of a vendor's code. This is not the case! We merely want vendors to respect the licensing terms of any works from which they create a derivative work.

I use a better alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227631)

Personally, I use Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007. It's better, it's free, and it doesn't infringe on teh Lunix's copyrights.

Not since Netscape have I seen a company bang it's head so hard against reality by somehow trying to make money in a market which has more than enough free alternatives to satisfy almost all consumer demand. Good luck on that IPO, guys, but don't expect AOL to save you like they did Netscape. AOL has their own troubles these days (figuring out why the hell they purchased Netscape isn't their only one, but it's certainly one of the bigs).

Re:I use a better alternative (1)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227765)

Interestingly the first thing I thought of when I read this was "If it turns out that VMWare is in violation of the GPL and Microsoft is smart, they will bankroll a suit against VMWare." It would be a win-win for them. If the GPL is upheld it cripples a competitor, if they lose they weaken the GPL.

Re:I use a better alternative (1, Informative)

mrbooze (49713) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227791)

Wow, you can use MS Virtual PC 2007 to run an entire farm of virtual machine servers, running hundreds or thousands of virtual machines that transparently and automatically move to different physical servers as needed?

Cool.

(VMWare Server is free too, you know.)

Hmm, Et tu brute? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227021)

Looks like the shoe is on the other foot here

Time to pay your $699 fee, you c0cksmok1ng teabagg3rs.

If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel, (0, Troll)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227051)

then why does the free version run under Windows?

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (5, Informative)

ravnous (301936) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227099)

ESX runs directly on the hardware. They're saying ESX is what's violating the copyrights.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227103)

They're referring to the ESX server, which is the VMware host for virtual machines, not the VMware workstation.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (4, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227105)

Try reading TFA

Looking at an ESX server, you'll find what looks like a Linux OS. This isn't a secret - VMware call this the 'console OS'. Is ESX server based on Linux? The VMware ESX FAQ provides an answer:

'Q. Does ESX Server Run on Linux? On Windows?
A. ESX Server runs natively on server hardware, without a host operating system.

Ok, so ESX doesn't need a host OS. It's pretty clear that ESX installs directly on the hardware without needing Windows, Linux or any other OS installed first - ESX itself is the OS. The question then is whether the ESX OS is based on Linux.
To reitterate

The question then is whether the ESX OS is based on Linux

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227169)

Couldn't they start with a Linux kernel, write a couple of binary blob drivers, and do everything else in userland with their own binary to use instead of init?

Would it be based on Linux? Yes.
Would it violate any copyright? Not if they offered the source to the kernel and the blob wrapper to those who bought the software.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227351)

They don't offer those to software purchasers. It's very difficult to get VMware running on new hardware platforms, partly because of this lack of source, and partly because their underlying kernel is so very old. Newer kernel patches simply can't be applied to it.

redundant? (1)

mdozturk (973065) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227719)

binary blob? Shouldn't that be just blob or binary lob? Or is this just another case of the SSN number syndrome?

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (5, Informative)

berashith (222128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227279)

Strange that during a training session the instructor consistently referred to the underlying platform as a highly modified RedHat. They didn't even try to claim that this was anything else, or even just their own Linux, they used the brand name of the starting point.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (4, Informative)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227787)

Then you had a poor-quality instructor. Every VMware instructor I've had has been crystal clear that the Service Console runs a heavily modified version Red Hat, but that the vmkernel - the OS that's bootloaded by the SC, which handles virtualization and hardware access, or in other words the underlying platform - is a completely proprietary OS.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227689)

So someone who uses ESX server asks 'em for the sources under the GPL. :-) Or their lawyer does.

They are talking about ESX server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227117)

Which merely hosts multiple instances of virtual machines and allows you to manage them, move them around and supply physical resources to them.

VMWare's description makes it sound like ESX is a Linux 2.4 app, but the technical experts need to argue that.

Licensing issues aside, VMware's support for linux hosts is good. I think VMware has been good for linux.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227129)

The article is about ESX which does not run on windows. It is an OS of it's own. You are thinking of the VMWare Workstation or Server products....

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (3, Informative)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227165)

Because ESX server (the specific product in question here) runs differently than the Windows and Linux Workstation products (the key word being "hypervisor"):
"[The] VMware ESX hypervisor virtualization approach provides lower overhead and better control and granularity for allocating resources (CPU-time, disk-bandwidth, network-bandwidth, memory-utilization) to virtual machines. It also increases security, thus positioning VMware ESX as an enterprise-grade product." - Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Whereas the desktop products operate over the OS layer, ESX is closer to the bare hardware (Type 1 versus Type 2 hypervisor - Read more [wikipedia.org] . The question in this case is why it needs the Linux kernel "loader" if it is a self-contained kernel. My understanding of the product isn't deep enough to speculate.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (2, Interesting)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227357)

From what I understand, the Linux 2.4 kernel (Service Console) does the initial boot, but only addresses a limited amount of RAM (usually between 256M and 384M, depending on how many VMs you plan on running). It then loads the vmkernel, which takes the rest of the RAM and takes over scheduling functions from the Service Console, and directly addresses the hardware. With the exception of the initial RAM, everything else the Service Console does is through the vmkernel. The way it was explained to me was that the SC essentially becomes a pseudo-VM itself, relying on the vmkernel for hardware access.

In turn, the Service Console has some hooks into the vmkernel to perform management functions, monitoring, etc. The SC functions as a bridge between the vmkernel and the outside world. That's the way I understand it, anyway. Could be totally wrong. I have heard rumors in the past, though, that VMware is planning to ditch the Linux SC in future versions in favor of their own service console OS. Which would render the whole argument moot.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227393)

It may render the whole argument moot, but in the meantime, if (and that's still an *if* here folks, innocent until proven guilty and all that) VMWare is distributing GPL software, then it is bound by that license.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227541)

This is correct, this is exactly the case. All this baseless ruckus is just someone trying to bring down the stock. How pitiful...

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

curmudgeous (710771) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227187)

VMware has two main products (as far as I can remember). GSX (I think it was renamed to VMware Server a few months back) is just an app that runs on top of Windows. Their bread and butter product ESX, though, was originally developed using a version of Red Hat. They've done lots of internal development so I'm not sure how much Red Hat is left, but I do know that with ESX 2.5, the last one I used extensively, patches were still applied using rpm.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227255)

VMware Server actually runs on Windows or Linux.

The service console runs a heavily modified version of Red Hat (in ESX 2.5 I believe it was Red Hat 9. In 3.0 it's RHEL 3). In 3.0 patches are still done through RPMs.

Re:If it cannot be loaded without the linux kernel (1)

cerelib (903469) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227211)

Probably because it is permitted to link a proprietary binary blob to the Windows NT kernel. That is my guess.

Incorrect wording in title (5, Interesting)

JosefAssad (1138611) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227071)

Copyright gets infringed, licenses get violated.

Re:Incorrect wording in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227437)

Copyright gets infringed, licenses get violated.

And pedantic language nazis get RAPED.

Re:Incorrect wording in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227591)

When it's a legal question, the exact language is very important and can differ much from general usage of the same words.

Re:Incorrect wording in title (2, Funny)

LeafOnTheWind (1066228) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227517)

Just because Linux programmers don't get paid, you think it's OK to violate them?! You insensitive clod!

Re:Incorrect wording in title (1)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227595)

LMAO.

Re:Incorrect wording in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227771)

Copyright gets infringed, licenses get violated.
In Baathist Iraq, you get infringed and your sister gets violated!

Step One.... (1, Troll)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227111)

1. Build product using someone else's stable OS.
2. Offer IPO.
3. Get scads of cash in to pay off OS licensers and IP lawsuits, and....
4. ....Profit!

In short, they just paid off their Mastercard with their Visa card...

Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227173)

Whether or not VMWare violates Linux copyrights, the mere fact that this is being discussed may add to the perception of the GPL as a "viral" license, and steer developers/businesses away from using Linux and other GPL software in their products.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (0, Flamebait)

cerelib (903469) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227263)

It would seem the GPL is "viral". Why do you think it is not?

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (4, Insightful)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227399)

It would seem the GPL is "viral". Why do you think it is not?
One big clue is that people who claim that the GPL is "viral" have to put "viral" in quotation marks to obfuscate the meaning of the word "viral".

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (3, Informative)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227573)

I hate to reply to myself, but I have an "oh by the way":

From wikipedia:

Viral phenomena are objects or patterns able to replicate themselves or convert other objects into copies of themselves when these objects are exposed to them.
So, as you see, the GPL is clearly not viral. All it says is that you make derivative works with GPL works and distribute those works, you have to GPL them too, thus respecting the rights of the person who owns the code you are redistributing. You get the same thing with "closed" products too: you purchase a license to redistribute something, but the actual product you are redistributing has to stay closed.

Furthermore, you can run all kinds of closed source stuff on a GPL system. Very many websites are run on apache and very few of them are GFDL, for example. Vbulletin and CXOffice are good software examples. TiVo is another one, as much as it vexes us all. Closed source can come into contact with open source all day long without "contracting" the GPL.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (4, Interesting)

sH4RD (749216) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227271)

So? If they want to make it closed source, they certainly shouldn't use Linux or GPL software in their products.

Before you all massacre me: I see your real point, that they will fear using Linux as a base operating system for their products, even when that usage wouldn't cause their code to fall under GPL. But should that stop people from protecting their IP? Contributors to the Linux kernel and other GPL products have issued an exclusive license under which their copyrighted material should be released. Allowing corporations to desecrate this for the lofty goal of popularizing Linux doesn't make sense. GPL is what it is, and if it doesn't become any more popular because of it's "viral" nature or even perception of such, so be it. Otherwise you will just be destroying the authors goals - to keep the software free and open at all costs.

Bottom line is, if it adds to the negative perception of GPL, it's worth advertising the positive, but certainly *not* worth dismissing the issue. Stand by the GPL principals, or don't use them in the first place.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227575)

If they want to make it closed source, they certainly shouldn't use Linux or GPL software in their products.

That's fair, but the claimed definition of "using" software keeps expanding and the goal of GPL v3 is to create even more uncertainty around it. VMware doesn't (as far as I understand it, anyway) use Linux "in their product" by the usual sense of "in". It's absolutely not the base operating system.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227767)

Before you all massacre me: I see your real point, that they will fear using Linux as a base operating system for their products, even when that usage wouldn't cause their code to fall under GPL.

Why? what sane person in any business that even basically understands computers would "fear" linux because they will have to release the code to the OSS parts you use? the GPL nowhere says you have to OSS everything you write after you even use GPL software. There are LOTS of Closed source kernel hardware drivers and closed source apps and items out there based on linux and they dont have a problem with it.

Only the incompetent executives will "fear" linux and the GPL, simply because they refuse to or are incapable of understanding the GPL.

It's not viral, it's protecting the item you got for free. Vmware stole large chunks of the linux kernel and are claiming it as theirs, that is plain old THEFT.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

Phoenix Rising (28955) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227273)

In this case, good. If ESX violates the license terms of the Linux kernel/GPL, then it needs to come clean. The whole "viral license" schtick is a bunch of crap - proprietary code has much, much worse terms and no-one complains about those...

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227291)

Yeah, because if VMWare incorporated Windows into their product without permission, everything would be hunky-dory, wouldn't it? Everybody knows it's just the GPL that is "viral".

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227353)

If this isn't being discussed, then it becomes permissible to make Linux-derived works and sell them as proprietary products without any consideration for the open source copyright holders or licensing.

This goes to the core of what open source is about.

It's much better to make your license and culture mean something than to entice corporations by coddling their proprietary impulses.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

diegocgteleline.es (653730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227369)

So what? Who cares? Forcing people to GPL all the code which uses functionality "derived" from GPL code is a feature of the GPL.

I very much doubt that there're many bussiness building linux products that don't know this. Do you really think Vmware doesn't knows about this?

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (2, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227723)

>So what? Who cares? Forcing people to GPL all the code which uses functionality "derived" from GPL code is a feature of
>the GPL.

It's more than that. It is the right of the copyright holder.

What is being alleged is that a corporation is abridging the rights of one or more individuals. The suggestion (raised several times already in this thread) that this should be overlooked because of their community affiliations, is preposterous.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227375)

Actually I thought the GPL would only take effect if someone was trying to distribute VMWare along with some GNU+Linux varaint (Ubuntu for example). Like proprietary graphics drivers cannot be distributed with GPL code, but can be downloaded by the user later. Am I wrong? What distributions include VMWare?

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227537)

The article says that the reason why graphics drivers are allowed to be closed-source is that they have been ported from another OS, and so they don't qualify as Linux-derived works.

I think the fact that you have to download those graphics drivers later is because the specific distributions have a policy that they don't want to include restricted drivers and want to stick only with GPLed code in their distributions.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227627)

The issue is not whether Linux distros include VMWare. The question is whether VMWare itself is based on Linux, and thus required to be open sourced.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227441)

But it is a viral license, and companies shouldn't use it in their proprietary software products.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227489)

Which would be a good thing. I've released code under GPL, I certainly don't wan't "developers/businesses" taking my code and using it without following the terms of the license. It's not freeware.

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227511)

Whether or not VMWare violates Linux copyrights, the mere fact that this is being discussed may add to the perception of the GPL as a "viral" license, and steer developers/businesses away from using Linux and other GPL software in their products.

See, whether or not it's "viral" and whether you get to use Linux and other GPL software "in your products" depend entirely on what kind of software it is and what you're doing with it.

If you merely took Linux code (which is copyrighted) and incorporated it into your product, you've just swiped code -- which, oddly enough, is illegal under the law and the not provided for in the license. If it was LGPL and you can link to it, then you can make it as part of your product since it is just plumbing.

Nobody is saying you can't write your own closed-source application which runs on top of Linux. But, you don't get to steal parts of Linux or anything else under the GPL and pass it off as yours -- that's just plain old copyright violation. There's no blanket exemption to re-use it any way you choose; you must adhere to the license granted to you.

So, if someone wrote software based on Linux and find themselves running afoul of the GPL, it's likely not because GPL code is 'viral', it's that you tried to steal code you had no right to. Which is entirely different from this whole 'viral' talk.
u
What companies need is an occasional reminder that they specifically can't just incorporate Linux and other GPL code "into their products" any way they choose. It just doesn't work that way. As an end user, you can make use of GPL'd software until you're blue in the face with pretty much no obligations. As a company, you can't just take parts of it without any consequences. It's not a public domain code repository to pillage to your heart's content -- it's Open Source (TM), and there are rules about what you can and can't do with it.

I'm not sure that steering "developers/bsinesses away from using Linux and other GPL software in their products" is anywhere near as bad as you're thinking it might be.

Cheers

Re:Adds to Perception of GPL as Viral (1)

ersgameboy (571332) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227625)

Which is exactly why businesses should use BSD-liscensed software in their commercial products. That would eliminate issues like this

Service Console can be replaced (3, Funny)

kerubi (144146) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227177)

You heard it here first. In the next major ESX release, VMware will ditch the Linux service console altogether in favour of their own proprietary one. Admins around the globe cheer as they have to learn yet another system.

Old news? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227201)

Christopher Hellwig has been on about this for about over a year now. No one from VMWare has responded. The fact is, that the vmkernel is a big binary blob loaded by a Linux kernel module. It can't run without Linux, so that makes it a derived work. Yes, nVidia and ATI get a free ride because their drivers are largely derived from the Windows drivers, they can stand on their own, so Linus says that they get a break. I don't agree with Linus, but then again, I'm not the copyright holder on the Linux kernel, so who am I to say anything? Especially when I'm directly benefiting from nVidia's driver.

Re:Old news? (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227261)

Right but would the courts accept Linus opinion in this matter as Law? Or would they conclude that the acceptance of a binary driver, allows for any binary driver, as derivative works are a loose definition open to interpretation?

Re:Old news? (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227339)

It could be viewed that Linus' statements constitute a verbal license. Licenses don't always need to be granted in writing. A license is a permission. I lend you my car, I don't necessarily need to write you a note saying that it's okay to borrow my car for such-and-such time period for the purposes of so-and-so...I just say "Here, borrow my car. Here's the keys." That's a permission, and that's exactly what a copyright license is - a permission to do something normally reserved for the copyright holder. So the GPL is a license, but so is Linus saying "You can write a binary driver so long as it can stand on its own without the kernel".

Note that IANAL.

Re:Old news? (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227629)

Doesn't really matter. Linus does not have the legal right to release Linux under another license.

Re:Old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227335)

ye, linux kernel is a big binary blog load by the BIOS, it can't run without BIOS, so that makes it a derived work.

Re:Old news? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227491)

ye, linux kernel is a big binary blog load by the BIOS, it can't run without BIOS, so that makes it a derived work.
You wanna make a bet on that? I can point you to several [mklinux.org] instances [ultralinux.org] of [terrasoftsolutions.com] the Linux kernel that don't require a BIOS. In fact, even the x86 kernel will boot from EFI.

Re:Old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227563)

What's your point? At least two of your examples are BIOS equivalents in the sense that they are special purpose boot loaders. Most all computers have a boot loader these days. The hardware vendor provides the boot loader for our benefit so we don't have each own an EEPROM burner.

Re:Old news? (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227679)

My point is that there is a difference between using an OS as a bootloader and integrating an OS kernel with another one. There is precedence for the former (Novell Netware) and also for the latter (Windows 3.x/9x/Me). Linux doesn't integrate with the BIOS. It doesn't need it, it can be loaded with ANYTHING that bootstraps into the kernel. ESX Server seems to require a poorly hacked Linux 2.4 kernel. Nothing else can boot it. That's the difference.

Re:Old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227597)

It can't run without Linux

Proof? No, that's right, neither yourself nor Helwig have any. vmkernel get's loaded by the Linux kernel because the Linux kernel handles the initial boot and hardware configuration. At the point that vmkernel is loaded, it does a complex dance that means it is the "host" kernel and the Linux kernel becomes "hosted", as a special-case VM instance.

vmkernel doesn't need the Linux kernel to function. It is, indeed it must be, self contained. It provides a pre-defined API for the control applications which run on the console OS to control it. I see absolutely no reason why another OS couldn't serve as the console OS or why another kernel couldn't be used as the initial loader, other than the work involved to do that.

Take a look at something like VirtualBox to get an idea of how portable a hypervisor can be.

Re:Old news? (2, Insightful)

Cyrano de Maniac (60961) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227639)

It can't run without Linux, so that makes it a derived work.

That is simply incorrect.

By your statement any userland program that made use of Linux-only interfaces (e.g. hugetlbfs, most anything in /proc or /sys, video4linux devices, etc) would also be a derived work, which is obviously not the case. Even within the realm of kernel-internal interfaces, it is difficult to argue that a derived work is created by using interfaces whose function and calling requirements you understand without needing to know the specifics of the implementation (though this seems to be the thrust of the thinking behind EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL).

Personally I would argue that nothing short of code-copying creates a derived work, but other intelligent people hold contrary views. I'm waiting for the day that someone wakes up to the fact that the whole EXPORT_SYMBOL* nonsense is at its heart a form of Digital Restrictions Management. Not that closed-source modules haven't caused me rare moments of headache, but in this case the cure seems more repugnant than the ailment.

Re:Old news? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227647)

The purpose of an OS kernel is to provide a framework to run other programs. It was understood by all kernel developers that it would be used for that purpose. Why does it make a difference if we run proprietary code in userland or in kernel space ? Yes the set of kernel hooks you use to load it is different but at the end of the day both are functions the kernel provides.

litigation (1)

mikeee (137160) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227241)

Hey, if you're looking for somebody to pursue the case, it looks like Darl from SCO will be available soon!

Not necessarily a violation. (4, Interesting)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227287)

There is, of course, a way that they aren't violating linux copyrights: They may simply be using the Linux Kernel to get the hardware into a known state prior to loading the VMkernel. Similar projects include LinuxBIOS, and Linux's own kexec (kexec lets you boot a new linux kernel without actually 'booting').

Of course, it is a violation if ESX is actually running a modified Linux Kernel, instead of using the Linux Kernel as a bootloader. Using the Linux Kernel as a bootloader is a done deal; just look up 'kexec' for proof of it. (Though I'm fairly certain kexec isn't what VMware uses).

But even then, remember that ESX is their "enterprise" product, which acts more like a hypervisor, and is not to be confused with VMware Workstation, VMware Player, or VMware Server.

Re:Not necessarily a violation. (1)

diegocgteleline.es (653730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227503)

The problem is wether the vmware software is "derivated works" or not from the linux GPL code.

Some people thinks that any code that gets inserted via insmod is "derivated works" from Linux. Other people thinks that if you port a windows driver to Linux, it's not "derivated works", since it's derivated from windows. Some lawyers think many other (and different) things.

It pretty much depends on what you understand by "derivated work". This is by far the biggest error in the GPLv2 - it's just not very clear on what it means.

Re:Not necessarily a violation. (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227739)

It pretty much depends on what you understand by "derivated work". This is by far the biggest error in the GPLv2 - it's just not very clear on what it means.

It's not so much that the GPL isn't clear, as that GPL tried to use an insanely broad definition, and the limits that copyright law imposes on this definition aren't clear.

Re:Not necessarily a violation. (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227607)

I moderated a panel at a conference about a year ago where one of the participants was Jack Lo, VMware's senior director of R&D, and I made the comment that I had understood that VMware ESX Server was based on a modified Linux kernel. He interrupted me and said that this was a common misconception, but that it was not the case. We didn't get into more details.

VMware, ESX and a bad smell (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227289)

I was sent to VMware by Robert Half for an interview.
Everything was going fine until we started to talk about Linux, with a growing sense of unease I could feel coming from them the interview ended abruptly.

The next day the head-hunter who set it up called me and said that they told him that "I smelled" and were angry that he would send someone that was "smelly" to them.

Something stinks and I don't think it's my pits!

Uh, what? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227297)

The article has some interesting comments. One is:

So according to VMware ESX actually has two kernels - the vmkernel, and a Linux kernel. This sounds a bit odd, given a computer can only run one kernel at a given time - otherwise which one determines who gets access to the CPU, memory, and other hardware?
Perhaps the writer is missing the point of having a hypervisor, which is (drum roll) to allow two kernels to run at once.

The license for the Linux kernel is quite different to the licensing for DOS that allowed Netware to use it for a bootloader.
The license for Linux only applies if you are distributing Linux (fair enough, they are), and only applies to Linux and code which is a derived work of Linux. It does not apply, for example, to binary-only applications running on Linux and using system calls. Linux includes the kexec system call, which allows the running kernel image to be replaced with another, effectively making Linux into a bootloader. This was originally written as part of the Linux BIOS project, to allow Linux to be used as (another drum roll please) a bootloader.

Linus Torvalds (the copyright holder for the Linux kernel)
Not even close. Linux owns copyright on some small parts of the kernel, but does not require copyright assignment, and so these days much of the copyright is owned by other people (not relevant, but yet another error).

Is Hellwig right, and is VMware a derived product of Linux?
Hellwig is a troll.

Unless vmkernel can be loaded without the Linux kernel, it would appear so.
Rubbish. Interfaces can not be copyrighted. It is only a derived work if it is not isolated from the kernel via a public interface. From the description in the 'article,' it sounds like:
  1. Linux boots.
  2. Userspace tool kexec's the hypervisor (an odd way of doing things, so I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't actually what happens).
  3. The Linux kernel continues to run in a VM, providing an admin UI and drivers to the other guests, just as it does with Xen.
Looking at the patches that the VMWare guys have been sending in for hypervisor support, it seems like step three, at least, is accurate. Xen does the following in a typical install:
  1. Linux is installed, with a Xen-compatible kernel.
  2. User reboots.
  3. Xen Hypervisor boots.
  4. Xen Hypervisor loads a Linux (or NetBSD or Solaris, or Windows with Xen Enterprise) domain 0 (privileged) guest, which runs the (userspace) management tools and provides device drivers.
There has, I believe, been some work done making Xen boot using kexec from Linux, so you can skip step 2 if you want. If you do this, then you get exactly the same set of steps as VMWare ESX.

Now, to be fair, Xen actually does include some code (stuff like atomic operations, for example) from Linux (and is GPL'd, making this a non-issue), but this was done to save time, rather than because the code has to come from Linux.

Re:Uh, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227611)

and of course VMware DOES redistribute modified source.

see here [vmware.com]

Re:Uh, what? (4, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227697)

Perhaps the writer is missing the point of having a hypervisor, which is (drum roll) to allow two kernels to run at once.


No, you're missing the point. Linux is loaded first, then a closed source module, which loads a closed source OS. The closed source module is a derived work of linux.

The license for Linux only applies if you are distributing Linux (fair enough, they are), and only applies to Linux and code which is a derived work of Linux. It does not apply, for example, to binary-only applications running on Linux and using system calls. Linux includes the kexec system call, which allows the running kernel image to be replaced with another, effectively making Linux into a bootloader. This was originally written as part of the Linux BIOS project, to allow Linux to be used as (another drum roll please) a bootloader.


But they don't use kexec. They use a closed source module.

Hellwig is a troll.


Arguments should be evaluated on their merits, not on who makes them.

Rubbish. Interfaces can not be copyrighted. It is only a derived work if it is not isolated from the kernel via a public interface.


Did you miss the part about the closed source module? There is no public interface. This isn't kexec. VMware are distributing the kernel and a closed source module together. Can you name another company that does that?

The bigger part of the story is... (0)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227355)

VMware claims OSs of today will be history tomorrow as virtualization becomes norm and without need of todays OS's.

Of course this is IPO hype to jack up investor interest.

To use that as an indication of the ethics of VMware, what does such indication tell you?

It tells me that VMware probably does infringe.

Sometimes.... (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227453)

But not in what I do for the most part. I don't want to share OS instances on one box, I cluster boxes behind load balancers to scale load handling. It's good for sharing a bunch of low-utilization servers on one mini or things of that nature, but not the be-all and end-all, just like Citrix hasn't killed the desktop OS market. It's a niche. Maybe a big one, but still just a niche.

It doesn't run on Linux (1)

jaweekes (938376) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227409)

It runs on their own kernel which loads up a virtual machine console running Red Hat; this is referred to as VM0 or the first virtual machine, and is not the kernel that ESX runs on. It's talked about in all their training and should come to no surprise to anyone who runs ESX.

Would It Infringe Copyright (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227425)

Now the GPL may define a derived work however it wants but the GPL only applies if standard copyright law would deem the VMware application to infringe on linux copyrights. I'm not up to speed on this issue but if it only interfaces at a small number of points it very well may not. If the VMware app does not infringe on linux copyright then they do not have to accept the GPL to distribute it and there is no problem.

Of course it's entirely possible that it would be declared an infringing product. I have no idea.

Just say no to FUD (2, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227469)

"So according to VMware ESX actually has two kernels - the vmkernel, and a Linux kernel. This sounds a bit odd, given a computer can only run one kernel at a given time otherwise which one determines who gets access to the CPU, memory, and other hardware?"

Uhh, this is a virtualization system. The ESX kernel provides a hardware abstraction layer which the linux kernel in the service console can access.

So yes, it IS running two kernels, the ESX kernel which has priority, and the linux kernel running on top of it in a VM like every other virtualized kernel, once it gets running. Duh.

But the meat of the FA seems to be that "Because a Linux kernel is used to initiate the ESX kernel, and because the linux kernel has a binary blob driver to help in the bootstrap process, QED ESX kernel is considered a derivitive work, because Linus says that things which require kernel changes are derivitive works" WTF?

FUD is bad. No matter the source.

The Linux kernel allows binary blobs. VMWare uses an F@#)(* huge binary blob to bootstrap ESX and other stuff. OOOHHH SCARY bogeyman violate GPL. Either sue (Linus does have standing. The SCSI author actually does have standing if it includes his code anywhere in the hacked up kernel) or get off the pot.

And Just say no to FUD.

To sum up.. (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227497)

VMware use a 2.4 linux kernel to bootload their own kernel (VMkernel) using a closed-source linux module (vmkmod). This module doesn't exist for any other OS, so Linus would say it's a derived work of the kernel. It's a pretty clear cut argument that vmkmod should be open source.

Now the argument get a bit more complicated - since VMkernel exists in kernel space, and requires a derived work of linux to load, then it also is a derived work. This argument is basically like saying that Microsoft couldn't distribute a version of Grub with Windows without violating the copyright of Grub, because Grub is GPL and Windows is closed source. It comes down to one question: is bootloader+kernel a derivative work, or are they two separate things? Does the fact that they're both in kernel space at the same time, and a one makes a function call to the other, enough to make a derivative work?

lucky bastards! (3, Funny)

roscocoltran (1014187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227499)

I've read somewhere that SCO was offering a special discount on linux licenses this week. Quick! get one before the offer ends!

Cannot use linux as a bootloader? (1, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227521)

So if I'm reading this right, anything that uses Linux as a bootloader is "derived from" Linux (because it depends on Linux, because nobody bothered to implement another bootloader) and must be GPLed? That seems very, very bogus, and I will be very annoyed if such nonsense is upheld. Just because something looked at your code funny once, does not automatically make that thing derived from your code.

Derived Works (2, Interesting)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227543)

But some proprietary modules do exist, and they do that on one premise: Linus Torvalds (the copyright holder for the Linux kernel) has repeatedly stated that he doesn't consider drivers ported from other operating systems to be derived works of Linux. After all, if something can load without Linux, it can't really be considered a derived work.

Sometimes I have to ask: where the fuck are the lawyers? Did we finally kill them all? ;-)

Folks, software creators like Linus or the FSF people, can put whatever terms into licenses that they want, but one thing they can't do is define derived works. Congress does that (very poorly, so the courts end up mostly stuck with the job). And unless you make something that is a defined work, do never need to get bound to the license in the first place, so.. words in the GPL do not matter, and Linus' opinion does not matter. Well, it matters in the since that we're talking about smart people who have obviously given the issue some thought. But that's all.

What I'm getting at, is that Linus is making an argument. He is not giving an authoritative declaration as a copyright holder or licensor. He can't.

Linus has determined? (inferred? decided?) that if something works w/out Linux, it's not a derived work, and if it doesn't work w/out Linux, it is a derived work. I think that's very arbitrary, and brings up so many (apparent?) counter-examples that it would terrify everyone in the software industry except for maybe the BIOS guys.

I call shenanigans..Article is Pure FUD (3, Insightful)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227559)

1. It details information that is from an older and nearly 2.5 year old revision of the Product. The Current Version is 3.0.x and the relationship of the Linux system and the VMKernel has changed substantially.

2. VMWare licenses the Implimentation of Linux used in ESX from Red Hat, however nowhere is that mentioned in the Article.

Stupid Article (1)

Champion3 (599877) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227601)

It's clear from TFA that the author doesn't even understand these details.

1. kernel32 is not actually the Windows kernel. It's a user-mode DLL that implements part of the Win32 API. The "kernel" name is there for historical reasons.

2. The linux kernel is not a bootloader. ESX might use it or host it in some capacity, but it's wrong to compare it to GRUB, NTLDR, etc.

Hurry...... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227613)

get in on the IPO and figure out where to get off......

Vmware Server (free version) is built on GSX not E (1)

bilbus (999819) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227623)

Vmware Server (free version) is built on GSX not ESX. And yes VMware ESX is some form of linux.

FUD based on a fallacy (4, Insightful)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227633)

Go read this article (http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08 /09/171248 [slashdot.org] ) from last week and note that Dell apparently will be booting a version of ESX from BIOS. If ESX can be booted with an alternate bootloader, it must not be that closely tied to RedHat.

Re:FUD based on a fallacy (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227729)

ESX lite would have the exact same problem as regular ESX: the BIOS boots the service OS (Linux 2.4), then the service OS loads VMkernel, then VMkernel shims itself under the service OS.

This isn't Tivoization (3, Insightful)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227707)

I found this article to be nothing more than a poorly written rant of an opinion piece. Especially ridiculous were the Karl Rove tactics in which the author tried to "clarify" quotes by adding some text in parenthesis to reinforce his point. Example:

I personally consider anything a "derived work" that needs special hooks in the kernel to function with Linux (i.e., it is not acceptable to make a small piece of GPL-code as a hook for the larger piece), as that obviously implies that the bigger module needs "help" from the main kernel.
~Linus Torvalds 19 Oct 2001
Well let's ignore the "i.e." that I don't think Torvalds actually spelled out and read what this really is saying...

I personally consider anything a "derived work" that needs special hooks in the kernel to function with Linux, as that obviously implies that the bigger module needs "help" from the main kernel.
Well that's nice and all, but we need to keep in mind is that the kernel in question, Linux 2.4, was released in 2002. That means it fall under Version 2 of the GPL which, as far as I can tell, says that software is "derived" only if it includes GPL source code or it is linked with a GPL library. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in there that matches LT's "opinion" stated above.

I think Christopher Hellwig put it best:

I unfortunately don't have enough copyrights on that particular version to sue them.
Exactly. Linux would've pushed legal action by now if they thought it would get them anywhere. The defense rests, end of story. So what is the point of this article? To whine about how unfair this is? Ok, maybe. But such is life.

--
Capitalism: When it uses the carrot, it's called Democracy. When it uses the stick, it's called fascism.

Hardware Support (3, Interesting)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227713)

I've never used ESX, but I would imagin that no matter what, ESX needs driver support.

Being a hypervisor, it has to access all kinds of devices like VGA consoles, serial ports, Fibre Channel HBAs, SCSI HBAs, IDE controllers (for CDROMs), Ethernet adapters, etc., etc. So my question is, where does the ESX hypervisor (vmkernel) get these? Does it pull them from Linux or did they write their own? This hardware _HAS_ to be setup, initialized, and arbitrated. Does vmkernel have it's own stack of device drivers, or does it conveniently run the ones in the Linux "bootloader"?

I'm thinking there's more to this than just the binary blob issue...

What "looks like Linux" ? (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20227715)

Looking at an ESX server, you'll find what looks like a Linux OS. This isn't a secret - VMware call this the 'console OS'. Is ESX server based on Linux?

I've never run ESX but I'd like to know what Linux 'looks' like. Most people who see a shell confuse it with the operating system. A bash shell looks pretty much the same on Solaris, Linux, BSD, Cygwin, etc.

 

If it turns ot to be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20227741)

I intend to forward back their reply about FreeBSD support and attach a fair-use Nelson Muntz Ha Ha! as a wave file.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?