I’m sure many of you will be familiar with VMware by now.  Their array of virtualisation products are revolutionising the way IT services are deployed and have changed the way developers, engineers, and application testers work.  From their top of the range ESX server through to the Mac-based Fusion, there’s a version of VMware designed to suit everyone.

Most people will have heard about the recent IPO of VMware; Bloomberg have tipped the company to be the hottest technology stock since Google floated back in 2004 (the stock was first traded at $85 per share, which are now going for $508).  VMware has at least 55% of market share and is currently leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors.  Gartner has estimated that virtualised machines will account for 40% of all operating system deployments by 2009.  What a lot of people may not be aware of is that doubt has been cast over whether or not their premium enterprise offering ESX server is as proprietary as VMware claim.

So what’s been alleged?

To put it simply, there have been claims that VMware’s ESX server is, in fact, a derived work of the Linux kernel.  As such and being closed source, it is not legally redistributable.  There have been several examples of accusations being made in public forums and on mailing lists to which VMware have refused to respond.  One such example was a post to the Linux kernel mailing list by Christopher Helwig (Linux SCSI storage maintainer) in reply to a post from VMware’s Zachary Amsden back in August 2006:

‘Until you stop violating our copyrights with the VMWare ESX support nothing is going to be supported. So could you please stop abusing the Linux code illegally in your project so I don’t have to sue you, or at least piss off and don’t expect us to support you in violating our copyrights.

I know this isn’t your fault, but please get the VMware/EMC legal department to fix it up first.’

No response was received.

As a big fan of the VMware suite of virtualisation solutions, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this topic to see how the situation develops.  For a good in-depth analysis take a look at this highly informative blog on venturecake.com