Microsoft exec: SUSE Linux guest support on the way

In this Q&A, Microsoft's senior director of virtualization strategy explained how Novell and Microsoft are using virtualization to bridge the chasm that separates Linux and Windows.

Linux-Windows interoperability is the golden promise of the Microsoft-Novell partnership. Working together on open standards and cooperative virtualization hypervisors, the team will give IT shops means toward that end this year, according to Mike Neil, senior director of virtualization strategy, Microsoft Windows Server Division.

Speaking from the InfoWorld Virtualization Executive Forum in San Francisco this week, Neil told SearchServerVirtualization.com how Microsoft and Novell are working toward interoperability and the role of virtualization in that effort and about the impact of these technologies on IT shops.

SearchServerVirtualization.com: The lack of interoperability between Linux and Windows has been a headache for IT managers for years. Why was this the right time for Microsoft to do something about it?

Mike Neil: Many IT shops today run both Windows and Linux. We surveyed a broad set of Microsoft and Novell customers and found that 90% thought our partnership was a good idea. So we're expecting Microsoft customers to adopt Novell technologies and Novell customers to adopt Microsoft technologies, as well as technologies we're jointly developing.

That scenario certainly calls for better interoperability. Working with Novell, we have the opportunity to have a great interoperability story at the physical and virtual machine levels. Customers will get validated interoperability, co-developed and jointly tested.

How much of that technology will be developed by Novell and Microsoft together, and how much will be developed by ISVs?

Mike Neil: We're focused on interoperability standards, with Novell and Microsoft working with DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) -- a standards body -- setting up APIs for manageability in virtualization environments. We expect to see a lot of interesting applications come out of the ISV community there, because they'll have a set of APIs that manage both Microsoft's Windows and Novell's SUSE virtualized environments. Standardization of APIs in the data center benefits all of us.

On a second front, there's technical work that will come directly from Microsoft and Novell. We're doing technical development together to create the technical plane, if you will, to allow interoperability.

Novell and Microsoft are committed to make the hypervisor-based solutions have the DMTF APIs as the main mechanisms for configuring and provisioning virtual machines.

One of the first things that will come out, in Q2 of this year, is technology that allows our customers to be able to run SUSE 10 on top of Windows on top of Virtual Server; an adaptor that will allow the Linux kernel to run on our hypervisor and our kernel to run on the Linux hypervisor.

Are most of Microsoft's customers getting started with virtualization via virtual machines (VMs)? Do you see VMs remaining as the dominant virtualization platform?

Mike Neil: Yes, the majority of customers in the server space are using the virtual machine style of virtualization. On the client side, we do see people using the SoftGrid technology for application virtualization, and there are other technologies emerging in that space.

VMs are the knee in the curve for virtualization. Certainly more VMs will be used, but other virtualization technologies are coming out, and it will be a while before things settle.

What's your advice for IT managers who have to choose the right technologies when many new ones are proliferating?

Mike Neil: Most customers make their choice around the application, and they'll choose a platform that meets the needs of that application. Looking in my crystal ball for five to 10 years out, I think that platform is going to be virtualization.

During this period of rapid change, it's important to evaluate the technologies. All the major operating systems vendors – Microsoft, Novell, Sun, Red Hat, etc. – either have or will have virtualization options. It's more important to evaluate those products' and your own roadmaps. Understand where the numbers and the market are going.

Hardware virtualization is a part of this rapid change. What will its impact be?

Mike Neil: The emergence of hardware virtualization capabilities, like Intel's VT and AMD-V, means that the technology has matured. As soon as they cast it in silicon, that's an indication that the technology has solidified. Even so, there's always going to be a need for the software layer above that. The operating system provides the functionality that allows you to extract that underlying hardware functionality and use it in your applications. There's always going to be software that controls the hardware. In virtualization, that software is the hypervisor.

So, get to know the hypervisor.

Mike Neil: Yeah. And look at the roadmaps for that technology before making platform decisions.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jan Stafford, Site Editor

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