Greg Kroah-Hartman recently expressed some
about the InfiniBand specification. It seems that, if you are
not a member of the InfiniBand
, a copy of the specification will cost $9500 - and it
requires signing a license which reads:
Upon receipt by IBTA of payment for a single copy license to the
Specification, you are entitled to possess one physical copy of the
Specification in the form provided to you by IBTA, and to make
internal, noncommercial use of the Specification within your
Such language raises the obvious question: how can anybody write or
distribute a free InfiniBand implementation after having signed that sort
of license? Things get worse when one looks at the IBTA
membership agreement (PDF):
When the member or its Affiliates makes a Contribution or when the
Steering Committee adopts and approves for release a Specification,
the Member and its Affiliates hereby agree to grant to other
members and their affiliates
under reasonable terms and
conditions that are demonstrably free of any unfair discrimination,
a nonexclusive, nontransferable, worldwide license under its
Necessary Claims to allow such Members to make, have made, use,
import, offer to sell, lease, and sell and otherwise distribute
Compliant Portions ....
The Member and its Affiliates retain the independent right to grant
or withhold a nonexclusive license or sublicense of patents
containing Necessary Claims to non-Members on such terms as the
Member may determine.
(Emphasis added). The InfiniBand standard, in other words, is allowed to
contain patented technology, only IBTA members must be given the
opportunity to license any patented technology, and only under "reasonable
terms and conditions." If said "reasonable terms and conditions" included
the right to distribute code under a free license, one would assume those
who wrote the agreement would have seen fit to say so.
The end result is that InfiniBand looks like a closed, proprietary
standard, and not something which can be supported in free software. Greg
asked, flat out:
So, OpenIB group, how to you plan to address this issue? Do you
all have a position as to how you think your code base can be
accepted into the main kernel tree given these recent events?
In response, there have been some "we don't think it's a problem"
mumblings, but nothing that looks like a real answer to this question.
Until this all gets straightened out, anybody considering using InfiniBand
with free software may well want to think about alternatives.
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