As this blog entry says, although the command line interface of the ESXi server (the virtualization host platform of the VMWare vSphere) isn't derived from Linux, but it is an independently developed, proprietary product.

There is a common misconception, that ESXi is a Linux, because its command line interface is very similar. It is true, but in the deeps there is a kernel which is completely different from the Linux.

But, this kernel, the VMKernel, uses a lot of different Linux drivers ported into it. Of course, its developers doesn't bored to develop independent drivers, they have simply imported them from the already available Linux kernel sources.

Thus, the driver modules of the VMKernel are Linux-derived products, thus they must be released on GPLv2. And, as I know, on the GPLv2 is it possible to sell software, but the owner must also release its source code.

Having the source code of the VMKernel-ported drivers would make also possible to develop VMKernel drivers independently.

But, as I know, no part of the VMKernel was released in source form until now.

How is it possible? Or I know something badly?

1 Answer 1


I do not think it is possible to answer this question with a "yes" or "no" at the present time.

On March 5th 2015, VMware was sued for GPL violation and the main basis for this lawsuit was the integration of Linux device drivers in the proprietary VMKernel. The Software Freedom Conservatory is helping to fund the lawsuit.

At present, the SFC's FAQ argues that the GPL is violated by the VMKernel, and VMware argues that it is not. Neither statement contains enough information to make it clear who is right.

Until we have the final words from the courts about this, the only answer that can be given is that we do not know.

  • Thank you very much! I've read your links, they are very informative - very informative for both sides. On my opinion, VMWare is clearly bull*ing, which doesn't mean that they aren't right, but significantly improves its chance.
    – peterh
    Aug 2, 2015 at 5:09
  • lwn.net/Articles/696764
    – Lilás
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:31

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