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Launchpad and Microsoft

In the news this week were two notable stories involving companies contributing to open source:

Apart from this one essential element, these stories could hardly be more different. Canonical and Microsoft are dramatically different companies, making distinctly different types of contributions, for very different reasons. There’s not much to compare. Or is there?

Novell’s Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon has taken the opportunity to compare Canonical with Novell partner Microsoft on his blog. As he “commend[s] Microsoft for taking this very significant step”, he points out that the 20,000 lines of source code contributed by Microsoft to the Linux kernel “will far surpass those contributed by Canoncial[sic]”.

John credits Novell colleague Greg Kroah-Hartman for helping Microsoft to achieve this historic milestone. Greg is fond of counting lines of code in the Linux kernel, and based on his commentary elsewhere, I’m sure it was his pleasure to provide this statistic. I haven’t checked the figures myself, but it’s certainly believable that our contributions to the Linux kernel haven’t amounted to 20,000 lines of code.

Before we congratulate Microsoft and Novell too heartily, though, let’s get beyond the numbers, and look at what those 20,000 lines of code actually do. What can Linux do now that it couldn’t do before Microsoft’s contribution? According to Microsoft’s press release, it’s a device driver which enables Linux to run much faster—on Windows servers. That’s right, it helps us to get more value out of our expensive Windows Server 2008 licenses by consolidating our Linux servers into Windows Hyper-V virtual machines. It lets us put Windows in control of our hardware, and rely on Microsoft to allow it to perform well, for as long as that makes sense for them strategically.

Launchpad, on the other hand, is a hosting platform designed to accelerate free software development. Any free software developer in the world can use it, for free, to manage their source code, bug reports, packages, translations, and more. Canonical was founded to advance the state of the art in free software, and Launchpad and Ubuntu both represent massive investments in that effort. Now that Launchpad is open source, developers can contribute to it, and those contributions benefit other open source developers by making the Launchpad service better.

Microsoft’s contribution to Linux creates new business opportunities for Microsoft by locking customers into their technology. Canonical’s contribution of Launchpad helps free software developers do what they do best, and benefits Canonical by making it easier for us to package, distribute, maintain, and provide services for free software.

Oh, and if we want to compare numbers, Launchpad is well over 200,000 lines of Python code, or more than 10 times larger than Microsoft’s contribution to Linux (in C).


Written by Matt Zimmerman

July 21, 2009 at 18:53

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23 Responses

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  1. K.O.!!!

    Saad Javed

    July 21, 2009 at 20:15

  2. Very well written!


    July 21, 2009 at 21:17

  3. I do not think you need to byte for that particular bit of bait. Everyone knows what Microsoft is about and people who care also know what AGPL Launchpad source means and can value Canonical’s code-release.


    July 21, 2009 at 21:21

  4. “Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft-building progress by weight.”


    July 21, 2009 at 21:51

    • truly said


      July 22, 2009 at 15:31

  5. Like the commenter above me, I think you didn’t really need to bother reacting to that, because… well, actually I won’t bother either :)

    But do pass my thanks to your colleagues for creating Launchpad!


    July 21, 2009 at 21:56

  6. MS’s strategy seems to be bloating the kernel with a huge code so that it becomes as heavy as possible… The code however adds nothing to OSS and much to MS.


    July 21, 2009 at 22:14

  7. […] !novell is out of ideas on how to pollute FLOSS world with FUD, lately ? https://mdzlog.alcor.net/2009/07/21/launchpad-and-microsoft/ […]

  8. How much ever you can spin this story, Microsoft having more code in the kernel than Canonical is a disgrace to Canonical. Sorry. There is no way out but to step up your game and contribute more.


    July 22, 2009 at 13:48

    • Canonical makes modest contributions to a large number of free software projects, including the kernel.

      As a distribution vendor, we aren’t focused on deep development on specific components like the kernel, but on packaging and integrating all of the necessary components together to make a complete system. This work directly benefits the free software community, not only through (modest) code contributions to various projects, but by providing Ubuntu itself, which is used by many free software developers to do their work.

      All of the Canonical-authored code in Ubuntu, Bazaar, and now Launchpad, is released under free software licenses, and this is a substantial contribution of software, however it is measured.


      July 22, 2009 at 15:39

      • “As a distribution vendor, we aren’t focused on deep development on specific components like the kernel, but on packaging and integrating all of the necessary components together to make a complete system”

        You want to compete with Red Hat for the enterprise market? Correct? Then you need to focus on key pieces of the distribution more and that certainly includes the kernel. “Modest” portions that is less than Microsoft are just not going to cut it at all.

        Also where is the source code for the server side pieces of Ubuntu One? That is Canonical authored proprietary code still.


        July 22, 2009 at 22:09

        • I appreciate your advice, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to discuss Canonical business strategy here. Suffice to say that I don’t agree with your conclusion.

          The source code for the Ubuntu One server-side applications is currently Canonical proprietary, just like most other web services (including the ones you’re using, like Google’s). I don’t see why you feel that question is relevant to this discussion.

          Canonical doesn’t release every last bit of source code to the public, though the proprietary code is certainly a small minority.


          July 24, 2009 at 16:06

  9. ‘According to Microsoft’s press release, it’s a device driver which enables Linux to run much faster—on Windows servers.’

    Well, LaunchPad is rather Ubuntu-specific, isn’t it?

    I think if Canonical had had LaunchPad as Free Software from the very start, you’d have a much better argument, but both of you are trying to get better PR for something that benefits yourself.

    John Drinkwater

    July 22, 2009 at 14:41

    • No, Launchpad is not Ubuntu-specific. It is open for use by any free software project, and most of its tools are distribution-agnostic (e.g. the bug tracker, source code hosting, etc.). Anyone can set up their own project and benefit from these tools.

      There are thousands of projects using Launchpad which have little or nothing to do with Ubuntu.

      The only distribution-specific part I’m aware of is that the package management tools only support .deb format packages.


      July 22, 2009 at 15:14

      • This might be related to having the same name for a project hosting site and the code that runs it.

        Quotes such as ‘The rocketfuel-setup script first determines what release of Ubuntu you’re running, then installs various lines into files under /etc, to enable you to run Launchpad services locally.’ doesn’t bode well and re-enforces my first point that you misunderstood.
        From https://dev.launchpad.net/Getting

        John Drinkwater

        July 22, 2009 at 15:40

        • Launchpad happens to only run on Ubuntu at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from using it. For nearly all projects, it’s much more convenient and beneficial to use Canonical’s launchpad instance rather than setting up all the infrastructure to run a separate one.

          The second paragraph on that page explains:

          Note that right now, Launchpad can only be built and run on Ubuntu (8.04 “Hardy” to 9.04 “Jaunty”). That’s not a design decision, it’s just a consequence of the fact that, until now, all its developers have been running Ubuntu. We’d be happy to see Launchpad work on other platforms too; perhaps starting with Debian GNU/Linux would be easiest, since Debian and Ubuntu are similar and many Debian developers use Launchpad anyway.


          July 22, 2009 at 15:45

  10. Um… Windows Server isn’t that expensive. We are talking about servers people. Especially when it comes to Hyper-V, which is completely free stand-alone. I don’t think Microsoft is trying to put a fast one on the open source community and this is something that I really hate about the general open source community. Microsoft is always the bad guy.

    Sure it works great with their product, but it allows Linux to work better. If Microsoft didn’t care, they wouldn’t bother.

    Microsoft made a good contribution to the kernel, and we should not badger them with these claims of taking over Linux or stuff like that.


    July 23, 2009 at 03:03

  11. And now we know why Microsoft released the code, too:


    July 24, 2009 at 08:21

  12. […] CMO is being disingenuous. As Canonical’s CTO correctly points out, Novell uses Microsoft’s self-serving code [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] to take a shot at a poster […]

  13. Matt,

    I’ve made no attempt in my post what so ever to quantify the utility or usefulness of Microsoft’s kernel contributions over Canonical’s. Indeed a full read of the post would see beyond this soundbite and realize my point of view is that this is good for Linux and Open source and the growing numbers of enterprises depending on Linux as their core and primary OS. If you saw my comments as a cheap shot at Canonical I assure you that was not the intent – the intent was to give Microsoft credit for doing something only a few short months and years ago would have been seen as impossible.


    John Dragoon

    July 27, 2009 at 18:39

    • Thanks for clarifying that, John. An uninitiated reader could certainly get the wrong impression from your comment, and see it as a cheap shot at your competitor, which wouldn’t reflect very well on you or your organization.


      August 5, 2009 at 08:53

  14. From what I’ve understood MS was more or less forced to “contribute” since they had already used open source code to build on. They couldn’t keep it all to them self because it would be illegal. So, the truth about their contribution seems to have some legal motivation more than anything else.


    August 4, 2009 at 21:55

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