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Microsoft, Novell detail virtualization plans

Novell and Microsoft laid out their joint development roadmap for virtualization, which promises "paravirtualized" SUSE Linux running on Windows virtualization - and vice-versa.

Virtualization appears to be the primary beneficiary of the partnership between Microsoft and Novell that was forged last November.

The two companies today laid out their joint virtualization roadmap, which promises bi-directional support of their respective virtualization platforms – the virtualization technology being built into Windows Server "Longhorn" and the open source Xen hypervisor that ships with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10.

Specifically, Microsoft and Novell promise to deliver:

  • SLES 10 running as a virtualized guest in the upcoming Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 service pack 1;
  • SLES 10 as an "enlightened" or paravirtualized guest running under the Microsoft Windows Server "Longhorn" virtualization technology, code-named Viridian; and
  • Windows Server "Longhorn" running as a paravirtualized guest on the Xen hypervisor.

Of those three deliverables, only the last bullet point is news. It is significant because in order to run as a paravirtualized guest, Microsoft must develop a special version of its operating system. In theory, paravirtualized guests exhibit better performance than "unmodified" guests, and do not require the use of specialized virtualization-enhanced chips such as AMD-v or Intel-VT.

But for at least one analyst, the details of the roadmap aren't nearly as significant as the fact that the two companies released the roadmap at all.

"I'm pleased to see that they've gone here; Microsoft and Sun never got as far as doing a roadmap," said Al Gillen, research director for system software at IDC in Framingham, Mass. [Ed. note: the two companies settled outstanding patent and antitrust litigation and signed a ten-year technology collaboration agreement in April 2004]

"Putting a hard roadmap in place tells us that we're going to see some real technology come out of this," he said. "This relationship wasn't just formed to work out some legal issues."

The release timeframe
Microsoft and Novell put forth an aggressive schedule for these deliverables: this year.

The Microsoft Virtual Server R2 service pack seems entirely feasible, since Virtual Server is already shipping, but technologies that rely on Microsoft Windows Server Longhorn may be more of a stretch.

"Longhorn" has been promised for the second half of 2007, with the virtualization component, code-name Viridian, scheduled to arrive 180 days later. Most pundits expect Longhorn closer to the end of 2007, which would mean that Viridian would ship in the second quarter of 2008.

But Gillen said that the gap between when Longhorn and Viridian ship could close.

"Longhorn they tell us is still on track for the second half of 2007, but as the operating system release slides back, the two deliverable dates are closing in on one another," Gillen said. "It's possible that virtualization may in fact ship with [Longhorn]."

The two companies also laid out a plan for developing virtualization management software in the form of the Web Services for Management (WS-Management) specification, based on the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) model. Novell is fostering development of the WS-Management spec through open source channels, and both companies will incorporate it into their respective systems management tools, ZENworks Orchestrator and Microsoft Systems Center Operation Manager 2007 this year.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director

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