Microsoft to Have Its Say on Virtualization at LinuxWorld

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-04-05 Print this article Print

Bill Hilf, Microsoft's director for platform technology strategy, plans to cover the licensing of virtualization file formats in his keynote speech.

BOSTON—When Bill Hilf, Microsofts director for platform technology strategy, takes to the stage on April 6 to deliver his keynote address at the LinuxWorld Conference here, he is going to talk a lot about virtualization.

Hilf is also going to trumpet the fact that XenSource is one of more than 45 vendors which have signed the royalty-free license of its VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) virtualization file format since May 2005.
But what Hilf is unlikely to trumpet is the fact that Microsoft has no intention of reciprocating and licensing the XenSource file format, as he said there is a technical functionality issue between them.
"There is no reason for us to license that format, other than for perhaps some PR gain, as our VHD format does things with the Windows guest operating system that you cannot do with their file format, such as offline patching," Hilf told eWEEK, as he prepares for his keynote address entitled, "Interoperability: Dealing with the Diversity and Heterogeneity of Todays IT Marketplace." "Our customers have told us they really want and need offline patching, and it is important to us to be able to offer that to them," he said. Click here to read why Microsoft made its Virtual Server product available as a free download. Microsoft officials are also vague about whether they will license the competing VMware file format. Asked about this, Hilf said that while he was sure the two companies were talking, he was not involved in any such discussions. When asked the same question earlier in the week, Mike Neil, Microsofts product unit manager for virtualization technologies, told eWEEK that the VMware license agreement was hard to obtain and that he had not yet been able to get copy of it. And last week, Jim Ni, a group product manager for Microsofts Windows Server team, told eWEEK that Microsoft would welcome it if VMware would sign Microsofts licensing agreement and understand its file format. But he too was evasive as to whether Microsoft would sign a similar licensing agreement from VMware, saying this would ultimately depend on what Microsoft heard from customers. Hilf further justified Microsofts stance, saying that having different standards and implementations was fine as long as there was interoperability between them. Microsoft is working closely with XenSource in this regard, with a lot of back-and-forth testing taking place. "We will do the right thing here," he said. But, as virtualization ultimately became a commoditized software offering, Hilf did question what VMwares role would be in all of this. Hilf will also use his keynote to pitch Microsofts view that it is important to have market-driven standards rather than a diverse range of "standards de jour." "I get terrified that the industry could start looking at creating too many standards too early in the game, which prevents the growth of the technology," he said. The virtualization bake-in is off and running. Click here to read more. Microsofts view is that the industry should not standardize too early and should look to getting market relevance before those standards are developed. But a CEO at a software company that bridges both the open-source and proprietary software markets, told eWEEK that this was "just more Window dressing from Microsoft." "While they are talking a lot more about interoperability and a closer relationship with the open-source community, deep down nothing appears to have changed," he said, requesting anonymity. Microsoft is looking to have other virtualization technology providers sign onto and license its file format, while refusing to license theirs. It also wants time to develop a market dominance around virtualization before the standards are decided so that it could force its standard on them. "This is core Microsoft: wanting its cake and to eat it," he said. Asked what Microsoft wants to see in terms of its relationship with the open-source community going forward, Hilf said that while it would always be a commercial software vendor, he wanted to improve the companys relationship with the open community. "We all, collectively, need to mature. I would like Microsoft to be a player in this community, where we compete on some fronts and cooperate on others, much as we do elsewhere," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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