Microsoft warms to open-source, virtually speaking

20 Jul 2006

Historically wary of the open-source software movement, Microsoft now appears to have warmed to it. The company has entered into a partnership that will allow its next virtualisation technology to run different versions of Linux.

Microsoft is to collaborate with the independent software maker XenSource on the development of technology to provide interoperability between Xen-enabled Linux and the new Microsoft Windows hypervisor technology-based Windows Server virtualisation. Microsoft executives referred to the deal as building a bridge between the company and the open-source community.

Virtualisation is starting to become popular with businesses as it allows them to make better use of their hardware resources. Multiple operating systems and applications can be allocated to a single server for easier and more efficient administration.

The technology that will result from the agreement means that the next version of Windows Server, known as Longhorn, will provide customers with a flexible and powerful virtualisation solution across their hardware infrastructure and operating system environments for cost-saving consolidation of Windows, Linux and Xen-enabled Linux distributions.

“It’s a very good thing for the industry in terms of the scalability and support that virtualisation now gets,” said Roger Baskerville, director of channels, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at XenSource. “This announcement brings virtualisation into the mainstream.”

He said there was a lot of industry support for the agreement. “You can run Windows on Linux in the morning and Linux on Windows in the afternoon; they’re that compatible.” The XenSource platform can also run operating systems from Sun, Red Hat and Novell.

According to Baskerville, this “second generation” of virtualisation technology will be significantly more cost-efficient than previously available products. “The prices that we will be coming out with won’t make IT managers wince,” he told “IT managers can now get arguably what is a technically better platform with more performance and it brings them straight into the Longhorn environment and open-source environments.”

He added that there would be support for the new product as well as a management platform for companies to organise how their IT resources are allocated across different pieces of server hardware.

In Ireland, XenSource is set to announce a distribution agreement with Data Solutions over the coming weeks.

By Gordon Smith