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[update below: Philip thinks this is a big deal]

VMware announced that it has released a majority of VMware Tools as open
source software as part of the project Open Virtual Machine Tools.
VMware Tools is a set of guest operating system virtualization
components that enhance performance and improve management of VMware
virtual machines. Open Virtual Machine Tools (open-vm-tools) is hosted
at http://open-vm-tools.sourceforge.net,
and the source code is available today to enable Linux vendors to
integrate open-sourced VMware Tools into upcoming versions of their
operating systems.

Recent VMwarian Elliot Lee explains:

I’m at VMware’s VMworld 2007 conference in San Francisco. There is a
variety of VMware news that might be considered "big", but the biggest
from my perspective is the open-sourcing of much of VMware Tools,
the tools that run inside the guest operating system to make the guest
run better and handle the guest-side integration with the host OS.
Think drag-and-drop between guest & host, automatic clock
synchronization, etc…

The new project, Open Virtual Machine Tools
is not such big news as far as the open source community , but VMware
is big enough that this small change should matter to quite a few
people. For example, I just ran into Marty Wesley of rPath,
and no doubt the hackers over there will be very happy to hear this
announcement, since it will make their work easier. And I get to help
increase the amount of open source software, which is partly why I came
here. 🙂

Ars Technica:

VMware’s decision to open the source code is highly advantageous for the open
source software community. Distributions will now be able to provide VMware
Tools packages through standard package management systems, which means that
users will no longer have to manually compile the kernel modules during
installation. The company is in the process of communicating with major vendors
and distributions to make sure that VMware Tools packages will be included in
standard repositories. VMware also seems interested in working with the open
source software community to bring VMware Tools support to other operating
systems besides Linux.

h0bbel has a question:

Interesting move by VMware, as it really isn’t that long ago that users
were not even allowed to redistribute VMware tools pre-installed inside
their virtual appliances. It will be very interesting to see what
improvements the open source community will bring to the table as
people start hacking the code.

Exciting, but I have one question: What happens if the OVMT over time ends up being a better product than the original VMware tools?
Specifically, what happens with the Windows version of VMware tools if
OVMT gets improvements released under the GPL that the Windows version
would benefit from? VMware can’t port the code back to the non-gpl
version and only release it in a binary form now can they?

[I am not an open source lawyer, nor am I privy to VMware’s strategy here, but I assume improvements are welcomed and that we’d distribute the source of improved GPLed components of the Windows Tools. -JMT]

[update: VMware’s Philip Langdale thinks this is a big deal. I do too.

I think this is genuinely a big deal – it opens the door to integrating
the tools into distros so that a newly created vm starts up with all
the tools in place and updates to them come through the standard distro
mechanisms. I also hope we see them ported to other operating systems.
If you wished your favourite boutique OS had full guest support, now it
can.

]