July 17, 2006 9:00 PM PDT

Microsoft gives Linux a virtual hug

After years of hoping to crush Linux, Microsoft is trying to show it can get along with its open-source rival.

The software maker is announcing a partnership Monday night that will make sure its next virtualization technology can run versions of Linux that have been adapted for a different, open-source virtualization foundation called Xen. It is linking up with commercial software maker XenSource to offer joint development and support for the two technologies, which take a similar approach.

"What Microsoft and XenSource are committing to, effectively, is building a bridge" between the two tools, said Jeff Price, a senior director in Microsoft's Windows Server group.

Both are based on the notion of a hypervisor--that is, low-level software that lets multiple operating systems share the same hardware. An operating system must be adapted for Xen to run best on the hypervisor. However, features in new processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices let unmodified operating systems, such as Windows, run on Xen. The Microsoft-XenSource collaboration is designed to return the compliment, letting Linux adapted for Xen also run on Microsoft's hypervisor.

Xen is available now, and was added this week to Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10. Microsoft's hypervisor technology (code-named Viridian) is still more than a year away. It is slated to be shipped within six months of Longhorn Server, the operating system update set for delivery at the end of 2007. A beta, or test, version of Viridian is scheduled to be ready by the close of 2006, Microsoft said.

When Microsoft said Viridian wouldn't ship at the outset with Longhorn Server, some expected that meant it would arrive with Service Pack 1, due at least 18 months later, in 2009. But Microsoft indicated in April it wanted to release Viridian sooner.

Microsoft has been working in several areas to improve how well Windows and Linux interoperate, a reflection of the company's slow realization that open-source software is not going away. On the virtualization front, it already has added Linux support in its Virtual Server product.

"Customers have been very positive about that," Price said. "Customers want to have assurances that they can run Linux in a supportive and high-performance manner."

The arrangement comes as virtualization, or using one computer to act as many, takes center stage for the software industry. There is increasing interest in having a single PC or server run many different operating systems, rather than one operating system. The shift is bringing profound technological and business model challenges to software companies.

Under the new deal, Microsoft will work with XenSource to provide support for customers using Xen with Windows Server's hypervisor. If there are problems, they can call Microsoft.

"If it is a problem with the Windows hypervisor, we'll fix it," Price said. If it's a Linux or Xen issue, he said, Microsoft will "make sure they get the right Linux support."

For XenSource, the deal opens up the option of creating software that works with both Windows and Linux hypervisors.

"It really is about providing a much larger market for the products and services that we want to build, (products) that have become possible via the broad adoption of virtualization," said Frank Artale, a vice president at XenSource.

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
hypervisor, Xen, XenSource Inc., virtualization, Microsoft Windows Server Longhorn

14 comments

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Group Hug
Yeah, Microsoft wants to give a hug because it's easier to hold you down, reach around and stab you in the back if you "hug" them.
Posted by dragonbite (452 comments )
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Validates open source?
Even the most diehard Microsoft apologist will have to admit that this is a validation of open source as being able to produce quality software.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
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Opensource validates itself
It is saying, well if you want to use linux on a machine on windows server using windows virtualization software then we are fine!! =>

1) Anyway you have to buy windows server to run linux!!!

2) They can go to customer and say, 'you know what you can run linux too with our server and so you are not necessarily tied to u' - GOOD bait!!

I think it is more like lets join em. We don't want to beat em
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
MS and Open Source
I remeber that any who used to meet with Gates, if they were smart, they would keep their mouth shut, because Bill Gates quoted him self saying, that he will probably use any info. you freely provided him, against you later or basically stab you in the back.

MS still largely operates like this today, with this kind of a mentality.

What do you expect from a *** :- )
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
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Embrace and extend?
What's going on here?
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
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your software is a planned feature in our next server OS; how do you do it?
If it's not join the lesser to defeat the greater virtualization provider then perhaps the strategy is closer to:

"Your software is a planned feature in our next OS release. We'd like to learn how you develop it so that we can better keep future WinServer Admin from having to make the hard decision of turning away from our caring embrace."

Hehe.. it's got to the point now where I'm just watching out of pure entertainment. It's like observing a room full of people watching CNN and and thinking it's real news.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Keep your Open Source friends close...
and your Penquin enemies closer.

"Group hug everybody!" said the 500 pound gorilla.

EU + DOJ are watching MS under a microscope recently & it's time for a "friendly PR photo-op moment" from Redmond One.

Microsoft...where do you want to go today?
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
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That's has to be the funniest post I've read to date on CNET!
LOL! It really is orginal!! Kudos dude.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Link Flag
So I can run Windows atop Linux, right?
...guess not in this case :/

Seriously - If I'm going to do a virtual solution, I'd rather run a tight, stable, and secure OS [i]underneath[/i] the guest OSes... and not a bloated, insecure one.

I also suspect that running Linux atop Windows would be rather slower than just running Xen in Linux with Linux operating systems.

I guess it just make much sense to me to run Linux atop Windows (even virtually) in any sort of enterprise environment.
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
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I believe xen already does that!!
Xen will be able to run windows unmodified with new chips from Intel and AMD that support virtualization.

Microsoft is working with xensource to run in Microsoft space without modifying linux!!!

This should be a good thing for linux. Ofcourse there are always people who suspect Microsoft.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
check out the gtk windows port..
write less.. run more..
Posted by freq (121 comments )
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