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Why is Microsoft now on the top 20 list of Linux contributors?

This week, the Linux Foundation distributed its annual development report highlighting contributors and changes to the Linux kernel. So why is Microsoft, a company known for its deployment of proprietary code, in that report?

The foundation says Microsoft appears on its list of the top 20 contributors to the kernel for the first time. The back story is, as Jeff Blagdon of The Verge notes, pretty fascinating and dates back to 2009.

Then, Microsoft was found to have used some open source code in its Hyper-V drivers, which were designed to assist with Linux virtualization on Windows Server. The GNU Public License does not permit mixing open and closed source code, so Microsoft decided to open source the Hyper-V drivers.

After two years of waiting for the code to be cleaned up, the Hyper-V drivers found their way into the current Linux kernel.

The release notes that Microsoft once called Linux a “cancer” and the foundation says Microsoft’s presence on the list signals a change.

“Because Linux has reached a state of ubiquity, in which both the enterprise and mobile computing markets are relying on the operating system, Microsoft is clearly working to adapt,” the foundation said.

Last month, the open source project OpenNebula enabled support for Hyper-V drivers.

Should Microsoft make more strides in assisting open source development? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.

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