Microsoft to support Linux with Virtual Server

The next release of Microsoft's Virtual Server will include support for Linux and Solaris.

The next release of Microsoft's Virtual Server product will support the virtualisation of both Linux and Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating systems on servers running the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS).

Microsoft has announced a new name for the next interim release of the product, formerly called Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1. It is now calling it Virtual Server 2005 R2. This was unveiled during a keynote by senior vice-president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, Pat Gelsinger, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF).

Microsoft changed the name because the release would include significantly more enhancements than a usual service pack, director of marketing in the Windows Server division of Microsoft, Zane Adam, said. The software giant typically offers service packs and interim releases called "R2s" between major updates to its server products.

Included in enhancements to Virtual Server 2005 R2 would be support for Linux and Solaris, technology that Microsoft was developing with the help of some of its partners, Adam said. However, he declined to name the companies involved.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 also will include 64-bit support, which allows more virtual machines to run on one server. The product would feature better performance for virtual machines in memory-intensive applications, as well as higher availability through new clustering technologies, Adam said.

Microsoft introduced Virtual Server in October. The product enables virtualisation of its Windows Server OS so multiple instances can run simultaneously on one server as if they are running on multiple servers. It competes directly with virtualisation technology available from EMC's VMWare division.

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, first announced in April that Microsoft would include third-party support for Linux in Virtual Server. At the same time, he also unveiled Hypervisor, a technology that will add the virtualisation and management features of Virtual Server directly to the OS. Hypervisor eventually will be included in the next major release of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn. The Longhorn version of Windows Server is expected to be released in the first half of 2007.

At the time of the Hypervisor announcement, the fate of Virtual Server as a standalone product was widely questioned, but Microsoft said it would continue to add enhancements to the product and sell in as a separate server product.

Zane reconfirmed those plans and said a new full release of Virtual Server would follow its R2 version. The beta of that release would be available in the first half of 2006, with full availability of the product scheduled for the second half, he said. In Gelsinger's keynote at IDF, Microsoft also demonstrated support for VT, a virtual technology chipset Intel is bringing to market. This support, along with support for Pacifica, the code name for similar technology being developed by AMD, would be included the release of Virtual Server due out by the end of 2006, Adam said.

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