[clug] [OT] C-Sides on tonight

Chris Smart clug at csmart.io
Fri Oct 13 00:36:37 UTC 2017

On Fri, 13 Oct 2017, at 10:31, Dale Shaw via linux wrote:
> Hi Bob,
> On 13 October 2017 at 10:00, Bob Edwards via linux
> <linux at lists.samba.org>
> wrote:
> >
> > [...] (including VMWare, which is Linux - so
> >     got the Linux reference in...).
> You sure about that? ;-)   There used to be a Linux kernel in there
> somewhere but it's long gone.  However, most/all of the various virtual
> appliances (VMs) shipped by VMware are based on Linux (vCenter, NSX
> Manager, NSX controllers, NSX edges, etc.)

Oh, this is an interesting one...

VMWare no-longer out-right uses the Linux kernel, but rather their own
proprietary kernel (vmkernel) in ESXi.

However, vmkernel has a core module, called vmklinux. This appears to be
modified Linux kernel code[1] which provides support for drivers like
SCSI, networking and USB. The core vmkernel component contains things
like the scheduler and support for other drivers.

In 2015, kernel developer Hellwig brought a case (sponsored by the
Software Freedom Conservancy) against VMWare[2]. He claimed that as the
module was running together as a single program, not through an API, it
means vmkernel and vmklinux are combined work under copyright law.
Therefore vmkernel becomes subject to the GPL.

VMWare seems to confirm that vmklinux is modified Linux code, but argues
that it is not a derived work because it is a kernel module and separate
from their vmkernel code which is a separate work which contains no
Linux code.[3]

Hellwig's case was dismissed[3] because it failed to meet satisfy German
evidence rules. That is, he failed to show _exactly which lines of code
in vmklinux violated his copyright_. Because of this, the question of
the GPL was never addressed. An appeal is expected.[4]

In the mean time, VMWare is removing vmklinux from their products[5]....

So yes, it seems that VMWare does still run a Linux kernel, just that's
bundled up as a module and loaded into their proprietary vmkernel (and
yes, that almost certainly violates the GPL).

They do also use busybox, I think they did now comply with the GPL there
after action from Software Freedom Conservancy.


[2] https://sfconservancy.org/linux-compliance/vmware-lawsuit-faq.html
[3] http://bombadil.infradead.org/~hch/vmware/Judgment_2016-07-08.pdf
[4] http://bombadil.infradead.org/~hch/vmware/2016-08-09.html

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