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7/20/2009
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Microsoft Submits Code To Speed Linux VMs

Withholding the 20,000 lines of code for the Linux kernel would have put Linux virtual machines at a disadvantage.

In a move that helps it in its competition with VMware, Microsoft is contributing three Windows operating system drivers to the Linux operating system. The move promises to make Linux virtual machines running on a Windows host under Hyper-V perform more effectively.

To withhold the drivers would mean Linux virtual machines would be functioning at a disadvantage. Having the drivers in the Linux kernel allows Linux virtual machines to run in "enlightened mode," a pun on the open source Xen approach to hypervisors. The Xen approach introduced shortcuts because the operating system realizes it's functioning in a virtual environment.

Enlightened mode allows a virtual machine operating system to bypass intercepting and rerouting messages from an application when it needs to talk directly to auxiliary devices. The more direct communication speeds operations. In addition to the effects on virtualization competition, the move also reflects Microsoft's acceptance of Linux as a growing and long-term occupant of the data center. Intellectual property lawyers at Microsoft are still seeking patent agreements with Linux vendors, like the one it signed with Novell three years ago. But other parties want to make sure Windows is aligned with long range trends such as virtualization and open source.

In a bid for rapprochement with the open source community, Microsoft's Tony Hey, VP of the External Research Division, will address OSCON, an O'Reilly Media open source conference, in Santa Clara Wednesday.

The release of the drivers comes on the eve of that appearance. Hey will discuss Microsoft's commitment to open access, open tools and interoperability "in the heterogeneous world of research," according to the Microsoft announcement today.

The three drivers consist of 20,000 lines of code for the Linux kernel, which includes the drivers for all devices to be controlled by the operating system.

Earlier, Microsoft recognized that many open source developers were potential Windows users. It has sought to make the PHP open source dynamic language run fast under Windows and work well with Microsoft SQL Server. PHP is frequently used on Web sites to call for services from databases.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the current state of open source adoption. Download the report here (registration required).

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