Microsoft Virtual Server to Support Linux

If you subscribe to same sort of news sites I do you will have seen stories like Linux: coming soon to a Microsoft VM near you (Ars Technica), the original source piece at Techworld and the original Microsoft Press Release. Virtual Server 2005 already supports other operating systems. I’ve been running RHEL and FreeBSD on Virtual Server for almost two years (I had access to an early V1.0, before it was even official a beta product). But Microsoft has never supported these other operating systemsSo what does ‘support’ actually mean – it surely doesn’t mean that Microsoft will help you install the operating system, but it might help you create and tune the virtual server in which it can be installed. And when you have a problem with the virtual side of the operating system execution, you should be able to ask Microsoft to help. Most important of all, I suspect, is that if you are a big company using Microsoft Virtual Server for virtualization, then I suspect Microsoft will be more than happy to help you sort out your virtualization problems.Microsoft aren’t exactly ostrich like about Linux – or indeed Unix – I’ve met people inside Microsoft who use Linux for a lot of their work. More importantly though, Microsoft listen to the needs of their customers, and many of their customers are using Linux inside, and outside, of virtual machines. No doubt there’s also some connection to the recent story about Microsoft using home-grown products before releasing them to the public. Many of the technologies we know from Microsoft, like SharePoint Services and Live Communications Server, were internal projects before they were identified as potential products. I suspect the Linux/Unix support in Virtual Server has suffered a similar, viral, insertion into the public project. For Microsoft employees who have to test and investigate Linux as part of their jobs can now do so through Virtual Server, rather than using separate machines and environments. As always, of course, the Linux support issue is merely a minor part of the bigger picture. The new Virtual Server SP1 also includes other features which I think are more significant. First of all, support for x64 environments will make Virtual Server far more practical when you want to use ‘big iron’ to run many virtual machines. With an Opteron or similar and lots of RAM you could run a whole host of virtual servers with a single machine and get much more effective use out of it then you could ever achieve on the machine itself. Also vital to the continued success of Virtual Server is the extension of the MOM 2005 to support virtual servers. This will make it much easier to use and distribute virtual servers among your own server equipment. The existing technology allows for a mostly web-based environment, but this is obviously less than ideal if you want a coherent solution. Longer term, Microsoft are further developing the ‘Hypervisor’ technology, expected first to be available in Longhorn. This will make it much easier to use and deploy virtualization solutions based on any virtual platform and make better use of the hardware that will better support it; for example, the new dual-core CPUs from AMD and Intel. Finally, Microsoft are moving towards using WS-Management, a web services specification designed to help ease the management of multiple platforms in a heterogeneous environment. One of the biggest problems faced by those of us running a heterogeneous environment is the problem with management of the systems we support. Sure, you can bond certain elements of the mangement process together to make it easier; for example centralizing your login environment through LDAP, or simplifying your network sharing using Samba or Windows Services for Unix and NFS, but these are small parts of a bigger puzzle, and don’t solve the underlying problem 0f management of other aspects of the management process, like software installation, monitoring or control. WS-Management is an open standard, and one embraced by Sun, Dell, Intel and Microsoft, among others, so don’t dismiss it as more Microsoft rhetoric. It may have been a small part of the Microsoft press release, but it marks part of a much bigger picture in where Microsoft see themselves over the coming years.