Linux Kernel Networking Driver Development Impacted By Russian Sanctions

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 16 March 2023 at 09:00 AM EDT. 339 Comments
The US and western government sanctions around the Russian government and its defense industry/companies due to their war in Ukraine has caused interesting issues in the open-source world. A few days after ipmitool was archived/suspended on GitHub that turned out to be due to the current maintainer's affiliation with a Russian tech company, separately there is now a blocking of Linux kernel contributions from selected Russian developers.

Handling of sanctions in the open-source world among community-driven projects is more challenging with many open-source projects permitting pseudonyms and not necessarily making clear any affiliations to governments or companies or even their physical location. Traditionally contributing to open-source projects has been the great equalizer with just relying on technical merits for code contributions. There is also often no financial dealings or other formal arrangements between potentially sanctioned organizations and the open-source projects themselves.

The latest issue to be raised as a result of sanctioned Russian organizations is that Linux networking patches at least for now are being blocked by developers associated with Baikal Electronics, the Russian company behind various MIPS and ARM based processors that for years has been working on making domestic Russian CPUs. Baikal's former parent company T-Platforms has been under US sanctions since 2013 while since last year Baikal Electronics has been directly sanctioned by various governments due to the possibility of their microprocessors ending up in Russian military hardware.

A Phoronix reader pointed out to me today a patch series that was sent out with fixes for the STMMAC networking driver. This is the networking driver for the Synopsys Ethernet Controllers that are used by some Baikal Electronics hardware as well as being used by other Synopsys licensees in other hardware. This patch series, which is just providing some fixes to this Ethernet driver, appears now blocked given this message by Linux networking maintainer Jakub:
"We don't feel comfortable accepting patches from or relating to hardware produced by your organization.

Please withhold networking contributions until further notice."

The blocking of patches from this developer / organization though appear to have just been made individually by the subsystem maintainer. When searching other Linux commits mentioning "baikal" including from the same developer involved, there's been patches accepted upstream as recently as last month from the same developer. There have been dozens of patches over the past year pulled into the mainline Linux kernel affecting PCI, the DMA engine, and including some Baikal-T1 specific driver work.

There's been no further commentary on that thread but at least as far as the Linux networking code is concerned, contributions from or around Baikal are not being accepted until further notice. It's also worth reiterating that the patch series in question is not Baikal specific but is just fixes to a Synopsys networking driver used by multiple different hardware platforms / organizations. We'll see if that changes as well for other areas of the kernel moving forward or not given the inherent loose and distributed nature in the open-source world.
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