On March 5, 2015, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) announced a lawsuit in Germany, filed by Christoph Hellwig against VMware, alleging a failure to comply with the General Public License (GPL). We believe the lawsuit is without merit, and we are disappointed that the SFC and plaintiff have resorted to litigation given the considerable efforts we have made to understand and address their concerns.
We see huge value in supporting multiple development methodologies, including free and open source software, and we appreciate the crucial role of free and open source software in the data center. In particular, VMware devotes significant effort supporting customer usage of Linux and F/OSS based software stacks and workloads.
To add some context, VMware ESXi is an operating system that manages the hardware and software resources of the physical server. At the core of the ESXi operating system is a kernel called "vmkernel", that provides control over those resources.
As with many other common operating systems, ESXi's vmkernel has a stable, general-purpose API called "VMK API" that enables device drivers and other loadable modules to perform specialized functions.
Third parties can write drivers and modules that interact directly with the vmkernel utilizing the VMK API. And while these drivers do not need to be Linux drivers, when they are, we offer a compatibility alternative through a loadable kernel module called "vmklinux", which in association with any Linux drivers, is loaded by the vmkernel and interfaces with the vmkernel through VMK API.
VMware offers vmklinux to third parties under the GPL and makes this source code available. For the reasons we've outlined above we are confident that our operating system is not a derivative work of Linux code and that we comply with our obligations under the GPL.
VMware has worked in earnest with the SFC to understand and address their concerns. We did so out of respect to the free and open source software community and we are optimistic that this can be resolved amicably.