For those of you in the know, Microsoft has worked closely with both Novell, and Red Hat, to help optimise SUSE and RHEL respectively, to run as guest OS’s, on Hyper-V.  However, customer’s want more.  Customers would like to run other flavours of Linux, like Ubuntu, on Hyper-V too.  This can be achieved today, but these OS’s run in an emulated fashion, which isn’t as optimised as a paravirtualised, or enlightened guest OS, like Windows Server.  OS’s like Ubuntu just aren’t tuned to run on Hyper-V.

As of today, that changes.  LinuxIC is a collection of kernel drivers that enable Linux to recognize that it is running on Microsoft's Hyper-V and optimize accordingly, resulting in an "enlightened version of Linux”,  This is great news for the Linux community, and great news for those holding off Hyper-V, and going down the VMware route, because of this lack of support for other Linux distributions.

From PressPass:

REDMOND, Wash., July 20, 2009 — Today, in a break from the ordinary, Microsoft released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community. The code, which includes three Linux device drivers, has been submitted to the Linux kernel community for inclusion in the Linux tree. The drivers will be available to the Linux community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V

From IDC: “Although Microsoft has open sourced the code and submitted it to the Linux Driver Project, it is not yet part of the main Linux kernel. The code will have to be reviewed and tested by the community and then submitted for official inclusion into the Linux kernel tree. Assuming all goes well, these integration components should eventually get accepted and make its way into nearly every Linux distribution, commercially supported and free. Exactly when that happens will be unpredictable, since it depends on when and what version of the kernel it gets accepted into, and when the various distros pick up the new kernel from the tree.”

“Until the new drivers trickle through the system, users wishing to leverage the components will have to compile their own Linux kernels or driver modules, making the process more complicated, and along the way moving into an unofficial kernel configuration This primarily applies to the unpaid Linux market, as commercial providers Novell and Red Hat will (or already have) integrated these components and support them”

Support is always a funny one when talking about the whole Microsoft & VMware saga.  VMware will actively market that they ‘support more versions of Windows than Microsoft’ to which I say, “Do you though?”.  The key thing about supporting an OS, is that typically, you have to be the one that makes the OS, to support it.  When I say support, I mean, hotfix, bug, update type support, which is not the same as providing VMTools for OS’s.  This is compatibility.  As an example, take Windows NT for example.  Can you run it on VMware?  Yes.  Do VMware provide VMtools for it?  Yes.  Does that mean it’s supported?  No.  Can you run it on Hyper-V?  Yes.  Do Microsoft provide Integration Components for it?  No.  Does it mean it’s supported?  No.  The end result is the same.  Windows NT is out of lifecycle support, so there is little value in investing in producing Integration Components for the OS.  Same goes for Windows Server 2003 SP1, XP SP1, and the list goes on.  Microsoft provides IC’s for the OS’s that customers can call up, and ask for help with.  These are the OS’s that Microsoft support, in the true sense of the word.  So, when I see images like this in blog posts:

os-support-compare-between-hyper-v-and-vsphere

I sigh and think, yes, that list is longer, but can I call VMware and ask them to support me with anything OS-related on say, Ubuntu.  Probably not.  What about Asianux?  Probably not.  Debian?  I’ll check the forums.  NT 4.0?  Let’s not go there…  Compatibility, yes, support, no.

Again, from IDC, in summary:

“Microsoft still has to figure out a support structure and certification for unpaid Linux. Novell and Red Hat remain the only officially supported Linux guest OSes on Hyper-V, while VMware officially supports a much larger list of guest OSes. The problem is that many of the Linux distros have no official support organization behind it, leaving no one for Microsoft to create a cross support and certification agreement with. Realistically, VMware faces this same support issue, so its support only extends to ensuring that the virtual hardware emulates real hardware and validation efforts to test that the OS runs correctly”

So, in a nutshell, I think this is a good move by Microsoft.  Streamlining the experience of non-Microsoft OS’s again shows how forthcoming Microsoft is being when it comes to heterogeneous environments, and follows in the footsteps of other technologies like SCVMM and SCOM, both of which have heterogeneous capabilities.  From the IT Admin’s perspective, it opens the door to a more centralised administration experience, which, again, can only be a good thing.  Let’s just hope the LinuxIC’s end up in the kernel!

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