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Microsoft Virtual Server improves Linux guest support

With Microsoft's announcement that it will provide third-party virtual guest support for SUSE Enterprise Linux 10, Redmond's love/hate relationship with Linux continues to flourish.

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Last week, Microsoft announced that its Virtual Server virtualization platform will now include support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SLES 10) running as a third-party guest operating system.

SLES 10 is the latest in a string of Microsoft-supported third-party Linux operating systems that can be used as a guest on Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 virtual machines (VMs).

For more on Linux, support and virtualization:
Novell, Microsoft link up for surprise partnership

Novell virtualizes NetWare with Xen

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5: All about Xen

Virtual machine additions
To improve the interoperability between VMs running Linux guest operating systems and Virtual Server 2005 R2, Microsoft is now offering its Microsoft Virtual Machines Additions for Linux guest OSes. Users can install the components in their Linux guest operating systems to improve the following capabilities:

  • Guest and host synchronization for time synchronization, for heartbeat generation, and for coordinated shutdown operations
  • Mouse driver
  • Display driver
  • SCSI hard disk emulation

Bowing to Linux?
Microsoft's announcement echoes a similar one from Novell Inc. In June, Novell announced the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack , becoming the first vendor to offer support for Windows and Red Hat guests running on Xen. In July, Novell shipped drivers for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003.

 Not even Microsoft can say no [to Linux].
Gordon Haff,
senior analystIlluminata Inc.

At the time, Gordon Haff, a senior analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. said the driver pack was the first tangible result of Novell's interoperability work with Microsoft, with which it partnered in 2006 to streamline interoperability between Linux and Windows. One of the projects the two companies were to undertake was the creation of a "translation layer" that would enable interoperability between various hypervisor technologies, according to Novell senior Linux applications specialist Ross Brunson.

Microsoft makes way for Linux:
Previously, Microsoft provided support for enterprise and standard versions of Red Hat and SUSE Linux, including the following:
Enterprise distributions
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 (update 6)
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 (update 6)
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4
Standard distributions
Red Hat Linux 7.3
Red Hat Linux 9.0
SUSE Linux 9.2
SUSE Linux 9.3
SUSE Linux 10.0 (retail version)

Microsoft called the additions part of a new "favorable experience" for Microsoft Server users with virtual Linux guests, but Haff said the announcement was expected and offered "no surprises" given increased demand for Linux and virtualization among Microsoft customers.

"Microsoft may be unenthusiastic in its Linux support, just as it may be unenthusiastic about working with other hypervisors, but that's what customers clearly demand. Not even Microsoft can say no," he said.

The new capabilities will be available for users of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. Product support for the Virtual Machine Additions will be provided through traditional support channels.

Email Jack Loftus, News Writer, with questions and comments on Linux and virtualization.

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