Microsoft Has No Plans to Optimize Windows for Virtualization on Linux

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-08-09 Print this article Print

Updated: Microsoft customers want to mix and match data center applications, but are not asking for Linux desktop software.

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft is not working on optimizing the virtualization of Windows Vista or Windows XP on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsofts open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.

While Microsoft does provide customers with licenses to run the two Windows operating systems in a virtual machine regardless of the underlying host operating system, including Linux and the Mac OS, its technical efforts around Windows and Linux interoperability on the desktop are primarily focused on .Net and Java interoperability, he said in an address titled "Linux and Windows Interoperability: On the Metal and on the Wire."
"What we have heard predominantly from customers is that they want to be able to mix and match their data center applications, but we havent seen significant demand for Linux applications on the desktop or for desktop virtualization on top of Linux," Ramji said.
But, he said that while he does hear a lot of requests for this from developers in the Linux community, the feedback Microsoft is getting from customers and its Interoperability Executive Customer Council with regard to the desktop is that they want .Net and Java interoperability. "We get no significant requests for desktop virtualizations across platforms," he said. Click here to read more about how Microsoft flip-flopped on Vista virtualization. It is possible, however, that virtual machines will be able to move between Linux and Windows in the future. Ramji said that while its not currently possible to move a virtual machine between the Linux (Xen) and Windows Server virtualization platforms, its something customers would like to see at some point in the future. "But this is not at the top of the customer request list," he said. There are a couple of reasons why interoperability is necessary, he said, noting that the market for heterogeneous solutions is growing rapidly and that two platforms, Windows and Linux, will continue to dominate the x86 data center. As to why now, he said customers are asking for interoperability, and the technical collaboration agreement with Novell has provided a unique opportunity and will be a model allowing Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., to collaborate and interoperate with others in the Linux and open-source community going forward. "There is a perfect storm really between virtualization and the move to x64. Customers have been trying to drive down costs, and server consolidation is the obvious way to go to be able to drive server utilization rates higher, while virtualization and related management solutions are critical. And being able to consolidate on 64-bit hardware is a double whammy, so we see this as a tsunami that is creating the next-generation data center," Ramji said. To read more about why Microsoft cut core features from Viridian, click here. The Xen virtualized drivers that Novell is writing under its interoperability agreement with Microsoft are expected to be licensed under the GPL (GNU General Public License) sometime in the near future, specifically when Microsoft releases the top-level specification to the Windows Server virtualization technology, he said. Microsoft is also working with XenSource to provide the Linux VSC and Hypercall Adapter components to make sure that SUSE Linux runs on the Windows Server virtualization hypervisor implementation, and is also working with Novell to test and optimize these components. For its part, Novell is working with Microsoft to provide the Xen virtualized drivers and APIs, Ramji said. With regard to Microsofts open-source software lab, Ramji said this is a technical research, development and strategy team composed of Linux, Unix and open-source software experts. The long-term strategy goal is to produce mutual respect and understanding between Microsoft and the open-source software community so that both can act responsibly together for the sake of better software, human potential and inclusion, he said. But that message may not be getting through. Ramji asked the fairly small audience if any of them had visited its newest open-source Web site, created to show how the company hopes to participate, partner, grow and learn to interact with the open-source community. None had. Read more here about why Microsoft is submitting some of its licenses for OSI approval. "In conclusion, we are developing rigorous practices to create customer-grade interoperability solutions for Windows and Linux. Virtualization, identity and management are the critical workloads," he said. Editors Note: This story was corrected to clarify Microsofts current policy on Windows virtualization on Linux. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views 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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