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Novell and Microsoft swing both ways

Bidirectional virtualisation is virtually there

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The possibilities for recursive virtualisation have just increased, with Novell and Intel announcing that you can now run Windows unmodified on Novell's SUSE Linux, via Xen and an Intel VT-capable processor, while Microsoft says an upcoming service pack will let its Virtual Server run SUSE Linux as a virtualised guest.

First off the block were Novell and Intel - which have developed paravirtualised network and block device drivers that let Windows 2000, 2003 and XP run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which incorporates the Xen hypervisor. The drivers and Intel's VT features make a virtual machine look like a real one, so no changes are needed to Windows.

While Novell plans to use the new technology to push server consolidation, Intel sees it as an opportunity to sell new hardware to companies which might otherwise be postponing server upgrades.

"Getting Windows to run with Linux unmodified and vice versa will bring an immense confidence boost to IT managers in making decisions on corporate platform standardisation and refresh," Intel software & solutions veep Doug Fisher said.

On the Microsoft side, Service Pack 2 for Virtual Server 2005 R2 will let Windows servers host SUSE LES 10 as a virtualised guest, while the company said that Longhorn would be able to host it as an enlightened guest - enlightenment is the Microsoft equivalent of paravirtualisation. It gave no dates for these releases, but Longhorn - the next major release of Windows Server - is due later this year

Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe said it's all about the ability to "consolidate server workloads in heterogeneous data centres". He added: "The majority of our customers have mixed-source environments, and they want their platform vendors to take responsibility for making things work together."

To complete the love-in, Microsoft and Novell also said they are working on interoperability between Active Directory and eDirectory, on common web services-based management tools for servers, and on bidirectional translators between the OpenDocument format (ODF) used by OpenOffice and Microsoft's OpenXML file format. ®

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