Microsoft Corp. and XenSource Inc. today announced they will cooperate on the development of technology to provide interoperability between Xen™-enabled Linux and the new Microsoft® Windows® hypervisor technology-based Windows Server® virtualization. With the resulting technology, the next version of Windows Server, code-named “Longhorn,” will provide customers with a flexible and powerful virtualization solution across their hardware infrastructure and operating system environments for cost-saving consolidation of Windows, Linux and Xen-enabled Linux distributions.
Microsoft anticipates providing a beta release of Windows Server virtualization by the end of 2006 and plans to release the solution to manufacturing (RTM) within 180 days of the RTM of Windows Server “Longhorn,” which is targeted for the end of 2007. Microsoft currently provides virtual machine add-ins and technical support for Linux guest operating systems running on Virtual Server 2005 R2.
This agreement builds on an ongoing relationship between Microsoft and XenSource. XenSource has previously licensed the Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk format to enable interoperability with Microsoft virtualization technologies. For customers with Premier-level support agreements, Microsoft will use commercially reasonable efforts to address potential issues with Microsoft software running in XenEnterprise.
Peter Galli has more background at eWeek including:
Frank Artale, the vice president of business development at XenSource, told eWEEK that Xen is being incorporated into Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 platform, as well as in upcoming enterprise Red Hat Linux releases, and said that, from a technical perspective, Linux has a protocol through which it talks to the Xen hypervisor.
“One of the significant pieces of the work we have going on is to provide an adapter between the Xen hypercall API and the Microsoft Windows Server virtualization hypercall API, so there will be adaptation to allow existing Linux implementations that are Xen enabled to run on the Longhorn Server that has been enabled with Viridian,” he said.
Also, specific optimizations will be added to optimize Linux performance as it runs on top of Longhorn Server in the form of drivers to enable specific forms of I/O partitions, in particular network and disk I/O, Artale said.
Last week, when parent EMC revealed second quarter results, VMware’s business posted a very healthy 73% increase to $158 million. That puts it on track to rack up around $630 million in sales this year. VMware very slyly in February released a free version of its basic virtualization software to head off the threat from Xen. (It still charges for maintenance) Now its main bulwark against rivals is innovation. Analysts say it has a solid lead on both Microsoft and Xen.
Update 7/20: Ashlee Vance at The Register offers some background on the interactions between Microft, VMware, and XenSource.
VMware (now a subsidiary of EMC) has always been a leading vendor in the booming field of virtualization software which allows a computer system to run multiple operating system images simultaneously. However, it is now facing bargain priced competitors including the open source Xen project and Microsoft’s Virtual Server 2005 R2, and according to press reports (, , ) has decided to go the free route with a version of their product to be announced on Monday.
Bink.nu points to Alessandro Perilli at virtualization.info who tries to sort out the various versions of the story, but the net is that it looks like virtualization is the latest software function to be commoditized. Note also that Microsoft has stated their intention to bundle a virtualization offering in Windows Longhorn Server.