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Microsoft and the Xen of Linux

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Jul 20, 2006


There was a time when running Linux on a Windows Server would have been considered taboo by Microsoft. Times do change. Microsoft is partnering with the open source virtualization technology vendor.

Microsoft is entering into a co-operative technology development deal with open source virtualization vendor XenSource. The co-operative development initiative aims to provide interoperability between Microsoft's Windows Server virtualization and the open source Xen hypervisor.

Xen is a popular open source virtualization technology that has benefited from IBM's input, is currently included in Novell Enterprise Linux 10 and set for inclusion in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and a future release of Sun Solaris. The joint Microsoft/XenSource development effort will add the Windows Server "Longhorn" release to the list.

The partnership will enable Xen-enabled guest Linux operating systems to get Microsoft technical support for interoperability issues. XenSource had previously licensed Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk format as part of an effort to provide interoperability with Microsoft virtualization tools.

According to Bill Hilf, General Manager, Platform Strategy at Microsoft, Microsoft and XenSource are mutually committed to "two way interoperability".

"Today, current Windows and Linux guests can run on the XenSource commercial product XenEnterprise, which may be hosted on a Windows based server or a Linux based server," Hilf explained. "The new agreement we announced today extends to native Xen-enabled guest portability and interoperability for the future Windows Server Longhorn."

Even though this effort is being done collaboratively by Microsoft and XenSource, don't expect the joint effort to yield an open source product.

"The resulting code will be made widely accessible via commercial license," Frank Artale, vice president of business development at XenSource said. "It's not the intent of this agreement for the technology resulting from this agreement to become open source."

That being the case, there are benefits to the open source Xen community as well.

"The Xen community will benefit by having new reach into larger total available market, a broader multi-OS market, now including Windows," Atale added.

Microsoft has been improving its overall virtualization efforts of late. In May Microsoft bought virtualization vendor Softricity and is currently testing the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, codenamed "Carmine."

Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 R2 already provides Linux guest virtual machine support. The deal with XenSource is not necessarily competitive with Microsoft's Virtual PC either.

"The reason we're working together is customers continue to struggle with IT cost and complexity," Hilf said. "This announcement shows that Microsoft and XenSource share a commitment to help customers with multi-OS environments more easily adopt and benefit from virtualization."

"This announcement is about Server virtualization, so not directly related to Virtual PC."

This article was originally published on internetnews.

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