Microsoft Opens Up With Linux Support

Microsoft has done what could have once been considered unthinkable: It has begun to support Linux in its products. In a keynote speech given at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, CEO Steve Ballmer laid out the company's plans to expand its virtualization software to support other platforms, including Linux.

Microsoft's Virtual Server leverages Windows Server 2003 as a platform for running multiple operating systems on a single machine, each insolated from one another. Windows Server 2003 is the "host" OS that can be configured to run virtual machines for "guest" operating systems, including Windows NT and 2000, OS/2 and Unix.

Microsoft acquired Virtual Server from Connectix in February of 2003. At the time of the acquisition, Linux was a supported guest operating system, but was later stricken from product literature after the software was branded by Microsoft.

Service Pack 1 for Virtual Server 2005, however, will include officially sanctioned support for Linux when it ships later this year. Other improvements come as a result of tightened integration with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), which eases manageability.

Developers of competing virtualization software have historically supported Linux. VMware offers customers a library of virtual machines for x86 operating systems including Windows, Linux, Novell NetWare and Sun's Solaris.

The theme of Ballmer's keynote was interoperability. "We've added support for non-Windows virtual machines being hosted on top of our Virtual Server product, including support for Linux. Remember what I said earlier about interoperability? We're really believing that," he said.

"We know folks are going to want to run Windows systems and Linux systems and other systems together on top of our Virtual Server and Windows. You'll see support for that later in the year."

In reaction to Ballmer's announcement, many Linux proponents reacted incredulously in Web logs, pointing out Microsoft's legacy of speaking out against Linux as a platform. Moreover, Microsoft has specifically targeted Linux through integrated marketing campaigns including "Get the Facts."

But Microsoft's reversal of its interoperability stance was welcomed by some who credited Microsoft for listening to its consumer base. Although, industry analysts questioned the specific reasoning behind adding Linux support to Virtual Server.

"I'm struggling to imagine common, realistic scenarios where someone would want to run Linux via Virtual Server on top of Windows Server. If Linux and Windows ran on different hardware, perhaps," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox told BetaNews.

"I do see PR advantage for Microsoft with some larger customers prioritizing around interoperability, and with the EU, where Windows Server all huggy and kissy with Linux might sway some governments and regulators."

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