Jeremy Allison, a prominent open source software developer and Sambaproject cofounder, announced last week that he would be leaving Suse Linux vendorNovell over the company’s patent pact with Microsoft.
The November interoperability and patent agreement between Novell andMicrosoft has upset a number of free and open source software (FOSS)community members who argue that the deal — legitimate under the opensource General Public License (GPL) — goes against the license’s spirit of equalsharing, since only Suse Linux users are protected fromMicrosoft patent claims.
“I believe that even if it does not violate the letter of thelicense, it violates the intent of the GPL license the Samba code isreleased under, which is to treat all recipients of the code equally,”Allison wrote in a letter explaining his resignation.
He also cited hisletter to Novell management regarding his concerns and the need for thecompany to withdraw from its Redmond engagement.
“Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place, there is *nothing*we can do to fix community relations. And I really mean nothing,”Allison wrote.
Vilified as Violators
The Novell-Microsoft deal, described as “clever” by some software legalexperts because it skirts GPL requirements for sharing, has upset andangered a substantial portion of FOSS developers and supporters.
Soon after it was announced, Samba project leaders lobbiedNovell to back out of the deal, pointing to Microsoft’s history ofembracing and then exterminating its competition, which now includes Linuxvendors such as Novell and Red Hat.
Allison, who likened the patent protection agreement to finding a”legal hack” around Microsoft’s software licensing, indicated Novellwill be known as a GPL violator as long as its patent deal withMicrosoft is in place.
“The Microsoft patent agreement has put us outside the community, andthere is no positive aspect to that fact, and no way to make it so,” Allisonwrote. “Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs.”
Although Allison is far from alone in his reservations about Microsoft’spatent-sharing arrangement for only some Linux users, thesoftware developer would likely have been a key figure on theinteroperability end of the Novell-Microsoft, Linux-Windows partnership,Gartner Vice President George Weiss told LinuxInsider.
“To leave at this stage would seem to be premature,” Weiss said,indicating that Allison’s departure means he will miss out on acollaboration with the potential to benefit users.
“Those datacenter management people don’t have time to come down onthe side of passionate this, passionate that,” Weiss said. “They haveproblems to deal with.”
Allison signaled he would move to Google, which uses and supports opensource software, although most of its technology remains proprietary.
The departure of Allison does not bode well for Novell, which cannotback out of its deal with Microsoft, but faces hardship in itsrelationship with the community, Interarbor Solutions Principal AnalystDana Gardner told LinuxInsider.
“You have to take his comments with some examination,” Gardner saidof Allison. “His position isn’t entirely neutral. He’s going to aMicrosoft competitor.”