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Microsoft pledges Linux boost for Windows Server and Center R2 duo

Oh, the things we'll do to be your cloud partner

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Microsoft has vowed Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 will be the “best” platform for running Linux in the cloud.

Microsoft shops departing from the faith and running Linux will get a “consistent” experience on a par with its beloved Windows, Redmond promised.

The software giant made the pledge to persuade cloud-building Linux lovers to use Windows and Hyper-V, rather than go all in on Linux with Canonical or host Linux using VMware.

Corporate vice president for Windows Server and System Center Brad Anderson said in a blog post that Microsoft is "committed to being your cloud partner".

That means Windows Server 2012 R2 will run Linux smoothly with "end-to-end support that is versatile, flexible and interoperable in any environment with any guest OS".

The upcoming two R2s will feature fixes as well as new features that will "tackle several key issues needed to bring Linux to the same baseline as Windows" when running on Hyper-V, Microsoft’s virtualisation engine.

You'll also be able to back up and manage Linux instances live, without taking them offline, says Anderson.

Microsoft’s Server and Tools team made the pledge while feeding out Linux-friendly features on the forthcoming Server and System Center.

Eric Chapple, a partner group program manager in Microsoft’s Windows Server and System Center team, echoed the message from Anderson:

To provide our customers with one cloud infrastructure, one set of system management tools, and one set of paradigms to transform their datacenter with the cloud, we knew that we needed to ensure that Windows is the best platform to run Linux workloads as well as open source components. With Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and in the public cloud with Windows Azure, IT pros now have this assurance.

Microsoft hospitality

Windows Server 2012 R2 will see updates to Linux Integration Services (LIS) that allow you to automatically add and remove Linux guests; allow you to spread interrupts across more than one virtual CPU; and allow you to perform crash dumps while running in Hyper-V – all features available for Windows – while 2D video performance has supposedly been improved to fix earlier performance problems.

“Going forward, Microsoft will continue the cycle of enhancing the Linux Integration Services to match new Hyper-V capabilities,” Chapple said.

The updates extend to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9 and 6.4; SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 and SP3; Ubuntu Server 1204, 12.10 and 13.04; CentOS 5.9 and 6.4; Oracle Linux 6.4; and Debian GPU/Linux 7.0.

System Center 2012 R2, meanwhile, adds the ability to back up Linux guest VMs running on Hyper-V as well as the ability to take a file-system-consistent snapshot of the VM to backup. This means Linux file system buffers are automatically flushed through integration with the LIS for Hyper-V. Chapple said this was analogous to application consistency via VSS writers that are available for Windows VMs.

Elsewhere, the blog rehashed past work that the Microsoft’s Server and Tools team has done to improve the performance of open-source software, such as supporting the PHP on Windows project and working with the Linux community on Hyper-V drivers.

OK, you can't be loyal. But can you sit down and talk to us?

Support for Linux and open-source Windows server and management suites has been a long path for Microsoft, a path it started down reluctantly but has become realistic about needing to complete.

From the late nineties to the start of the 2000s, Microsoft campaigned vigorously against Linux and open source, with a “get the facts” campaign that lobbed TCO and a fair amount of FUD at the growing competition.

But customers didn’t respond - quite the contrary - loyal Windows shops started running Linux in addition to Windows. Also, non-Microsoft customers began to seriously consider going Linux rather than Windows.

Microsoft was faced with a stark realisation: work with Linux and open source or see existing and new customers lost to platform rivals forever.

The company's conversion started in 2005, with a demonstration of Red Hat Enterprise Advanced Server 3 running on Windows Virtual Server SP1 beta at that year's Microsoft Management Summit. A jocular chief executive Steve Ballmer on hand during the MMS demmo remarked: “As much as that hurts my eyes, I know that's an important capability for the virtual server technology for our customers.”

Fortunately for Microsoft, the enemy is no longer Linux or open source. Armed with Hyper-V, the enemy is VMware, and it now suits Microsoft to have the free application and its OS rivals run smoothly together inside Windows.

First unveiled at June’s TechEd as part of Microsoft’s “Blue” wave of updates, the R2 pair are due before the end of calendar 2013. ®

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