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Developing Out-of-Tree Drivers alongside In-Kernel Drivers

Jesse Brandeburg (jesse.brandeburg@intel.com)

Getting your driver released with a GPL license into the kernel is promoted as the holy grail of Linux hardware enabling, and I agree. That said, producing a quality GPL driver for use in the entire Linux ecosystem is not a task for the faint of heart. Releasing an Ethernet driver through kernel.org is one delivery method, but many users still want a driver that will support the latest or newest hardware on older kernels.

To meet our users' requirements for more than just hardware support in the latest kernel.org kernel, we in Intel's LAN Access Division (LAD) developed a set of coping strategies, processes, code, tools, and testing methods that are worth sharing. These learnings help us reuse code, maintain quality, and maximize our testing resources in order to get the best quality product in the shortest amount of time to the most customers. While not the most popular topic with core kernel developers, out-of-tree drivers are a necessary business solution for hardware vendors with many users. Our Open Source drivers generally work with all kernel releases 2.4 and later, and I'll explain many of the details about how we get there.



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