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Microsoft so very, very proud of its ties to open source Xen

VMware spat gets nasty

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VMware this week started its own publicity war against Microsoft.

In a globule, VMware VP Brian Byun framed the Microsoft and Xen tie-up as he sees it. Here are a few highlights.

"It’s a one-way street that favors Microsoft and Windows running Linux. The arrangement will allow Linux to run on future Microsoft hypervisors through translated calls to the hypervisor when Windows is controlling the hardware, but not the other way around; i.e. there is no mention of Longhorn optimizations or 'enlightenments being ported to Xen or licensed to XenSource to enable a Xen hypervisor to run full optimizations with Longhorn OS."

"XenSource, in diverging from its open source and Linux virtualization roots, is enabling the commercial interests of Windows and building to proprietary Windows API layers. It stands to reason that in order to protect Windows from GPL contamination, XenSource will need to undertake a lot of non-GPL development to translate and buffer the Linux kernel from Windows hypervisor interfaces; and nothing that Microsoft licenses to, or develops with, XenSource is GPL and can be used directly by the Xen or Linux communities and commercial distributions."

"It’s odd to trumpet future interoperability for the Windows hypervisor whose first release is roughly two years away or more, while the Linux hypervisor interfaces are still being actively discussed in the open source community."

There's some rich history behind this Microsoft and VMware war of words and press releases.

Few took VMware seriously when it started out around the time of the dot-com boom. The software maker offered Unix-like partitioning on x86 servers, but everyone was buying Unix servers with glee back then. Why waste your time on an immature, low-end software package?

When the bust hit, VMware took off as a "server consolidation" miracle. To its credit, Microsoft became nervous in a hurry. It refused to support customers who ran Windows in a VMware virtual machine. It could see VMware starting to form basic, OS level relationships with customers.

Microsoft eventually caved on the support issue but didn't exactly embrace VMware as a rival/partner. Instead, Microsoft found it could not compete all that well against VMware with the Virtual Server product it acquired in the Connectix buy. So, it made Virtual Server free this year. On top of that, Microsoft announced that it will bundle "Viridian" with its operating system. Now, bundling a browser with a desktop operating system is one thing. Bundling a type of product that VMware sells for thousands of dollars per server is a much hairier beast - the kind of beast some judge or AG somewhere must be eyeing.

Lurking behind this nastiness is an element of the Microsoft and Xen relationship that we had forgotten about until a helpful reader sent in a reminder.

If you peek at this image, you'll see that a Microsoft researcher named Tim Harris once did quite a bit of work on the Xenoserver project, which turned into Cambridge University's Xen project. As it turns out, Microsoft gave Cambridge some funding for the Xen effort.

If you add this whole puzzle together, you realize that Microsoft got interested in virtualization long ago, primarily through the Xen research. Of course, Microsoft could never lower itself to pick up GPLed code. Instead, it decided to spend about five years hammering away on a Redmond clone of Xen.

Knowing that it can't compete in the market in the interim, Microsoft has played the old IBM trick of creating confusion. Don't go with VMware. Go with XenSource. That's who we like. Have a look at what they have to offer.

You can be sure that those niceties will end come 2008.

Until then, it's all open source press releases and love, love, love in Redmond - well, except for the VMware crowd. ®

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