Microsoft To Support Linux in Virtual Server 2005 Pack 1

In a move to help customers run heterogeneous networks, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that Virtual Server 2005 Pack 1 will include support for Linux. The announcement came at the Microsoft Management Summit yesterday.

In his keynote address, Ballmer announced increased investments in support of the Dynamic Systems Initiative, specifically in the area of virtualization, to help enterprise customers improve the flexibility and utilization of their computing hardware. Linux support is just one part of that initiative.

“We’ve heard from our enterprise IT customers loud and clear that they need their systems to be more automated and flexible,” Ballmer said. “That’s why we’re investing in the Dynamic Systems Initiative and areas like virtualization, more secure network access and interoperability — we’re committed to helping IT deliver greater efficiency and value.”

Sleeping with the Enemy?

Microsoft is proving its flexibility by adding Linux support after speaking out against the open-source platform for years in campaigns like “Get the Facts.” Analysts said they are a little surprised by the announcement but not all-out shocked, however.

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider that Microsoft’s support of certain Linux distributions is hardly the equivalent of the software giant open sourcing Windows. Rather, it’s more likely a response to market demands for a complete server virtualization technology solution.

“Microsoft didn’t do this to be supportive of Linux. Microsoft probably did it because significant customers told them they had to,” Haff said. “It is primarily an issue of support as opposed to a commitment to incremental development. Any ‘X86 operating system’ ought to be able to run a guest operating system.”

Red Monk analyst Steve O’Grady told LinuxInsider that it is somewhat ironic to see Microsoft supporting Linux. He said the news likely drew a chuckle from some industry watchers, but he called it a “necessary move.”

“In the grand scheme of things, virtualization really is about the ability to essentially recreate multiple operating environments, be it Windows, Linux, Unix or what have you,” O’Grady said. “When we are talking about virtualization, this is something Microsoft had to do.”

It’s All About Virtualization

In his speech, Ballmer announced Microsoft’s increased investment in both virtualization and virtualization management technology, demonstrating near-term product improvements and laying out a long-term strategy for both areas.

In the short term, Microsoft said it is responding to customers’ needs by improving the performance and interoperability of Virtual Server 2005 and improving manageability through integration with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). Long-term, Microsoft said it is working with the industry and increasing its investments to provide customers with more robust virtualization and virtualization management solutions for the Windowsplatform.

Gartner sees the integration of virtualization technology with the operating system as a natural evolutionary step for the x86 platform,” said Thomas Bittman, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc.

“The broader adoption of virtualization that is spurred by this integration will make management even more important as customers strive to exploit this technology and further improve the utilization and flexibility of their hardware environments.”

SP1 is scheduled for release by the end of the year. The beta version is available now.

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