Microsoft has become an unlikely proponent of open source software – and Linux specifically – with the release of several kernel drivers under the GNU General Public Licence.

As reported over on CNet, the company – long a harsh critic of the efforts of open source in general and Linux as a possible competitor to Windows – is releasing its Hyper-V Linux Integration Components under the GPL open-source licence, freeing them for further community development and possible inclusion in future versions of the Linux kernel.

The LinuxIC package is a series of drivers which allow a Linux system to co-operate with the company's Hyper-V virtualisation system – vastly improving performance when compared to an un-modified system. This finally makes Linux guests a possibility on Windows-based virtual machine servers running Hyper-V – and should go some way to answering critics' complaints about Windows bias.

The move isn't all about altruism on Microsoft's part, however: while the release of the LinuxIC code will make Linux a choice for Hyper-V users looking to performance specific tasks with a virtual server, the system still requires a Windows server as a host – tying people in to Windows even as they move towards Linux.

A statement on the company's press site claims that the release represents the open sourcing of a not-unimpressive 20,000 lines of code. The company has also stated that the release is specifically for inclusion into the “Linux tree” - heading off any possibility of a TomTom-style lawsuit in the future.

While the move represents baby steps for the company which many still see as an opaque monopoly, it's certainly refreshing – and arguably had to happen sooner or later so long as Microsoft wanted its virtualisation technologies to be taken seriously.

Do you support Microsoft's move to a more enlightened approach to open source, or will it take a fully open-source release of Windows before you'll cut it some slack? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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