In what came as a surprise to many Linux observers, Red Hat announced on the morning of February 16th that it has signed reciprocal agreements with Microsoft to enable increased interoperability for the companies' virtualization platforms.
While Red Hat, after Novell partnered with Microsoft, had talked with Microsoft in 2007 about partnering, those talks came to nothing since Red Hat would not have anything to do with Microsoft's various IP (intellectual property) claims.
Things have changed. Red Hat announced that each company will join the other's virtualization validation/certification program and will provide coordinated technical support for their mutual server virtualization customers. The object according to Red Hat's press statement is: "The reciprocal validations will allow customers to deploy heterogeneous, virtualized Red Hat and Microsoft solutions with confidence."
In a blog posting, Microsoft's general manager of virtualization, Mike Neil, wrote, "Until today there's been one barrier, not product related, that we haven't been able to overcome to meet customer and partner demand: the ability to run and support Red Hat Enterprise Linux within a guest VM on WS08 Hyper-V and Hyper-V Server 2008. For all of those who have emailed me, my colleagues and your Microsoft account teams and partners, I'm pleased to say that today is the first big step to delivering that support."
Yes, you read that right. Microsoft is saying that they made this deal because of Microsoft customer demand to run Red Hat Linux.
On the Red Hat side, Mike Evans, vice president, Corporate Development at Red Hat said during a press conference, that "Red Hat is looking to help our customers extend more rapidly into virtualized environments, including mixed Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows Server environments. Red Hat listened when our customers asked us to provide interoperability between our respective guest and host virtualization solutions."
The end result of these efforts will be that "Red Hat and Microsoft customers will have the ability to run Microsoft Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux virtual servers on either host environment with configurations that will be tested and supported by both virtualization and operating system leaders," said Evans.
Several times during the press call Evans made the point that between Red Hat and Microsoft, the two companies control 80% of the enterprise x86 operating systems server market. Yes, Red Hat was underling the point that this unlikely pair are in this together.
Will cats and dogs start getting married now!?
Technically, Microsoft will validate and support Red Hat Enterprise Linux server guests to be supported on Windows Server Hyper-V and Microsoft Hyper-V Server. In return, users will be able to run Windows Server 2003 and 2008 on RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). At this time, Red Hat did not specify which Linux hypervisor it would be supporting Windows Server on. The logical choice is Xen, since Microsoft has already done work with Novell on getting Server to run with Xen.
As to why Red Hat and Microsoft made this deal, both Evan and Nash made it very clear that this move was being driven by enterprise customer and ISV demand. In particular, customers were telling both software companies that they were sick of dealing with multiple virtualization software packages and wanted some unification.
Evan also underlined the point that the agreements "do not include any patent or open source licensing rights, and additionally contain no financial clauses, other than industry-standard certification/validation testing fees."
In short, Red Hat made no sort of IP agreement and neither company is paying any money as part of the deal.
This position mollified some critics of Microsoft's partnering with other Linux companies. Roy S. Schestowitz, editor of Boycott Novell, said, that at first glance, that the deal "would not be as bad as signing a deal involving the licensing of codecs (2007 ish) and definitely not as bad as Novell's patent deal."
According to Red Hat and Novell, once each company completes testing, customers with valid support agreements will receive coordinated technical support for running Windows Server operating system virtualized on Red Hat Enterprise virtualization, and for running Red Hat Enterprise Linux virtualized on Windows Server Hyper-V and Microsoft Hyper-V Server.
Validations for Red Hat and Microsoft server virtualization solutions included in the reciprocal certification and support agreements are already underway. Users can expect to see the first results in the 2nd half of 2009.