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Microsoft and Red Hat to cross-certify OS, virtualization platforms

Microsoft and Red Hat inked a pact to optimize their operating systems running as guests on each other's virtualization platforms.

Cross-platform virtualization took a step closer to reality Monday when Microsoft and Red Hat announced plans to certify and support their operating systems on each other's virtualization platforms. And with the move, customers stand to benefit through greater platform interoperability.

At a joint webcast Monday morning, officials said the move was initiated in response to strong customer demand that Microsoft and the Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc. collaborate to reduce the "risk" and "pain" that arise when trying to run multiple virtualization systems in heterogeneous data centers.

Microsoft and Red Hat expect to deliver their respective offerings later this year after several months of engineering tests and modifications. These various rounds will culminate in the certification and joint support of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.2 and 5.3 virtualized guests on Microsoft' Hyper-V and, eventually, Microsoft Windows Server on RHEL virtualization, they said.

Richard Jones, vice president and service director at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group called the Red Hat/Microsoft pact "a positive step," despite its limited scope (i.e., no discussion of alleged patent violations).

"The thing people are looking for is support," Jones said. "This is a big deal for customers."

Compatibility still a hurdle
To affirm the collaboration, Red Hat has joined the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program (SSVP) and Microsoft will be listed on Red Hat's Hardware Certification List after the work is completed.

And in a concrete step, Red Hat will provide WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) drivers for multiple versions of the Windows Server, enabling RHEL to deliver the performance enhancements of paravirtualization on Hyper-V, according to Mike Evans, Red Hat's vice president of development.

With the agreement, Red Hat is following in the footsteps of rival Novell Inc. – at least to a point. This past September, with SUSE Linux Enterprise, Novell became the first vendor to win certification to run as enlightened guests on Hyper-V. In contrast the Red Hat/Microsoft collaboration is not as far reaching as the Novell/Microsoft deal, which involved patent protection for Novell customers and the sale of joint support subscriptions.

Burton Group's Jones remained concerned, however, about Red Hat's planned migration from Xen to the newer KVM hypervisor and the impact of the change on compatibility with Hyper-V as well as on existing RHEL customers, who down the road could face a time-consuming virtualization migration from Xen to KVM. (RHEL is currently based on Xen will likely switch to KVM next year.) Asked for comment, Red Hat's Evans said more details on Red Hat's virtualization roadmap will be released soon.

Jay Lyman, an open source analyst at New York City-based 451 Group, said the agreement was "a little light on the details," but appeared to be a win for customers, with greater flexibility and interoperability.

"This is truly coming from customers," Lyman said. "And the agreement is a sign of the times. No one's winning the whole data center anymore. You have to work with others, even your competitors."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Contributor .

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