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Novell's Announces Device Driver "Breakthrough" - Updated
Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 05:36 PM EDT

Linux Electrons tells the story:
Novell Offers New Linux Device Driver Process

Novell has said that the company has developed a new process that solves Linux® device driver compatibility issues. The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell® kernel updates and supplies a straightforward approach third parties can use when developing device drivers for Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise products. The new Linux driver process developed by Novell allows hardware and software vendors to provide Linux drivers and driver updates for their products to customers directly and transparently, in a way that is completely integrated with SUSE Linux Enterprise delivery and support.

Novell spokesperson Kurt Garloff, head Linux architect for Novell, says in the press release, "We will continue to support third parties delivering open source drivers to kernel.org for release directly with our Linux products, but this new process fills the driver gap between releases that can be critical to customer and partner success."

Here's the FAQ for the Partner Linux Driver Process", which I haven't read yet myself. Here's Novell's press release. I also now have a statement from Novell.

[ UPDATE: ] Novell's Kevan Barney writes to me:

Many developers in the kernel community consider kernel‑level modules to be subject to the GPL terms. Novell respects this position and has a policy of distributing kernel modules that are compatible with the GPL. Novell continues to work with vendors to find ways to efficiently provide users functionality that may currently only be available through non‑GPL kernel modules. These efforts include designing an open source solution or creating an alternative means for users to access the functionality.

Our announcement yesterday is the followup to our promises and includes the mechanism to provide kernel‑level modules which can then be consumed electronically as well as via physical media by our users by using our unique YaST and ZENworks capabilities in add-on packages handling as well as patch and update management.

When the vendor is directly distributing a kernel‑level module to our users, the vendor is responsible for support, which in many cases is done in close collaboration with Novell, as well as compatibility with the GPL of any code delivered.

He also points to this segment of the FAQ:

"As an active member of the open source community, Novell's position is clear: The best place for partners to develop kernel drivers is upstream in the kernel.org source tree, where kernel driver code benefits from thorough review and community involvement. Novell promotes having all Linux device drivers be a part of the official kernel.org source tree. However, we recognize that some drivers are not there yet or have been integrated only after a kernel release has happened. For this case, we offer a way to get a supportable and certifiable driver anyway using the Driver Process described here."

***************************

Novell Delivers Device Driver Breakthrough to Accelerate Linux Adoption

Wednesday May 17, 8:30 am ET

New Device Driver Process Improves Hardware Support for Partners and Customers, Making It Easier to Integrate Hardware and Software With Linux

Novell today announced availability and details of a process that solves Linux^ device driver compatibility issues. The new driver process allows customers to obtain drivers independently of Novell® kernel updates and supplies a straightforward approach third parties can use when developing device drivers for Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise products. The new Linux driver process developed by Novell allows hardware and software vendors to provide Linux drivers and driver updates for their products to customers directly and transparently, in a way that is completely integrated with SUSE Linux Enterprise delivery and support.

"The new process is simply another way for us to help customers run their businesses reliably and cost effectively," said Kurt Garloff, head Linux architect for Novell. "Working with the open source community and our hardware and software partners, and welcoming the participation of other Linux distributors, we are allowing customers to efficiently obtain needed drivers independent of our SUSE Linux Enterprise release cycles. We will continue to support third parties delivering open source drivers to kernel.org for release directly with our Linux products, but this new process fills the driver gap between releases that can be critical to customer and partner success."

The new Linux driver process reflects Novell's ongoing commitment to easing and facilitating Linux adoption and delivering value to the open enterprise. Third-party hardware and software vendors will also benefit from a simpler driver provision process and more customers being able to update hardware and software without waiting for Linux platform updates.

Support from Partners

Reza Rooholamini, Dell director of Enterprise Solutions Engineering, said, "Novell's driver process will help continue Linux's momentum in the enterprise because it greatly reduces the complexity of enabling new devices between kernel updates. Customers can now update to the latest drivers for our hardware, without the cost and resource related to rebuilding kernel drivers or waiting for kernel patches."

Steve Geary, HP vice president of research and development, Open Source and Linux Organization, said, "HP and Novell have continued working together to improve Linux integration and enable new hardware on Linux in the enterprise. Today's announcement is a big win for our mutual customers, allowing us to respond much more quickly, ensure consistency in supported solutions and provide even greater choice in Linux offerings from Novell and HP."

Scott Handy, IBM vice president of Worldwide Linux and Open Source, said, "Customers are asking for better ways to incorporate the latest device drivers to support our latest hardware innovations. The new device driver service in Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 is designed to make it easier for IBM's extensive network of worldwide business partners and customers to seamlessly integrate software and hardware in Linux environments."

Kenichi Hori, chief manager of the NEC OSS Promotion Center, said, "Novell's Linux driver process is a practical approach that enhances the maintainability of Linux systems. NEC welcomes the announcement as it will be beneficial for both customers and driver suppliers."

Availability

Novell's Linux driver process will be included with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 when it ships this summer and is available now for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP3. For participation information and more technical details about the new device driver process, visit http://developer.novell.com/linuxdrivers.

About Novell

Novell, Inc. delivers Software for the Open Enterprise(TM). With more than 50,000 customers in 43 countries, Novell helps customers manage, simplify, secure and integrate their technology environments by leveraging best-of-breed, open standards-based software. With over 20 years of experience, more than 5,000 employees, 5,000 partners and support centers around the world, Novell helps customers gain control over their IT operating environment while reducing cost. More information about Novell can be found at http://www.novell.com.

NOTE: Novell and SUSE are registered trademarks and Software for the Open Enterprise is a trademark of Novell, Inc. in the United States and other countries. *Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. All other third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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