Virtualization, cloud underlie Microsoft's Linux kernel submission

Experts say Microsoft's submission Monday of virtualization driver source code to the Linux kernel marks a watershed event in the vendor's understanding of open source's future.

"This is another sign of Microsoft's maturation with respect to open source," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research. "There has been a real set of stepping stones toward a pragmatic and practical embrace of open source. This is like the final capstone."

Microsoft stuns Linux world, submits source code for kernelMicrosoft's Linux kernel submission raises virtualization questions

Microsoft has made code submissions to PHP, given significant financial support to the Apache Foundation and added open source code to its product portfolio in such places as Windows HPC Server, System Center management software and its Visual Studio development tools.

And the vendor operates a Linux/Windows integration lab with partner Novell.

"There is no going back now on their attitude with the GPL. They can no longer say Linux is a cancer when they have 22,000 lines of code in the kernel," Hammond said.

Microsoft said its goal is to become a platform Linux users can turn to.

"As open source is adopted on a range of platforms we need to understand it really clearly to make ourselves one of the best platforms to adopt it on," said Sam Ramji, who runs the Open Source Software Lab for Microsoft and is the company's director of open source technology strategy.

Forrester's Hammond said winners on the Linux side could be all the alternative distributions of the open source operating system. The new Linux kernel drivers give them the tools to run on Microsoft's hypervisor technology -- Hyper-V. 

"With Ubuntu, I see a lot of developers picking it up but they have not had the [virtualization] support like Novell and Red Hat," he said.

The driver code that Microsoft open sourced and submitted to the Linux kernel was first developed and certified specifically for Novell's Suse Linux and Red Hat Linux.

"This gives the Red Hat and Debian guys equal access to support and the capability to run in a mixed environment where there is a Windows Server," Hammond said.

Chris Wolf, an analyst with the Burton Group, said Microsoft is deftly positioning itself for the future of mixed corporate networks and emerging cloud infrastructures.

"Microsoft gets where the industry is and they know they can't fragment themselves off from the industry," Wolf said. "Getting in the Linux kernel and broadening support for Linux definitely has to be a key part of their virtualization and cloud strategy."

Microsoft has been building its cloud infrastructure strategy since the introduction of its Azure cloud OS last year. The software is slated to be available in November, a month before the open source virtualization drivers submitted Monday appear for the first time in the Linux kernel.

"It is good stuff from Microsoft and it will be interesting to see how VMware responds," Wolf said.

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This story, "Virtualization, cloud underlie Microsoft's Linux kernel submission" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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