Microsoft, Novell plot Longhorn, Linux virtualisation

Microsoft to release a service pack for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 that will let Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 run as a virtualised guest OS

Microsoft and Novell have spelled out details of how they plan to put their operating systems on the same physical servers.

In the first detailed road map since the two companies struck an agreement November 2, Microsoft says it will release a service pack for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 in the second quarter that will let Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 run as a virtualised guest OS.

Work will also be done on the still-under-development, and still officially unnamed, "Longhorn" server -- the successor to Windows Server 2003 -- so that it can host SUSE Enterprise Server 10. In turn, SUSE's implementation of the open-source Xen virtualisation technology will be able to host Longhorn. The former will require the new Windows Server virtualisation, which Microsoft has promised to deliver within six months of the release of Longhorn server.

"Customers wanted ways for Linux and Windows to work together," says Bob Tenczar, Microsoft's director of product management for Windows Server. "And [server] consolidation was chief among them."

For its part, Microsoft is producing adapters to allow SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 to run on the Microsoft hypervisor, while Novell is prepping its Xen hypervisor for Longhorn. The two companies, which in November promised to set up an interoperability lab, have yet to detail the lab's location or staffing, but engineering teams from both companies have been collaborating on virtualising each other's operating systems.

"The joint teams have really been working since November 3," says Tenczar. "They spent the past 100 days deciding on what to deliver." Microsoft and Novell have been sharing code as they work on virtualising Longhorn within SUSE's Xen and enabling Longhorn to host SUSE in a virtual machine, he says.

Microsoft has pegged Longhorn's release for the second half of 2007.

Betas of the Virtual Server 2005 R2 service pack and Longhorn will be available, but Microsoft wouldn't set dates for the release of those test versions. "We'll be demonstrating interoperability later this year at conferences" and the like, adds Bill Hilf, general manager of Microsoft's platform strategy.

In a separate announcement, Novell says it will also roll out drivers later this year that will let Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP run as virtual machines in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10's Xen technology. "This is completely separate [from the Microsoft deal]," says Justin Steinman, Novell's director of product marketing for Linux and open source. "We've been doing this work with Intel since April 2006."

The Windows Server 2000/2003 and Windows XP virtualisation within SUSE depends on Intel's homegrown virtualisation built into some of its desktop and server processors, including the Xeon line.

Novell, says Steinman, added support for Windows Server 2003 when it made its pact with Microsoft in November. Because of the deal, support for virtualised Windows Server 2003 on SUSE will be available from both Microsoft and Novell. Support for Windows 2000 Server and Windows XP, however, will be handled by Novell alone.

A pilot programme has been launched, and Novell is taking requests from enterprises interested in joining. The drivers will be available later this year, says Steinman. "It all depends on how the pilot programmes go."

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