If you pay attention to Linux-related news, you may have heard that Microsoft has contributed code adding Hyper-V acceleration to the Linux kernel. This event is not something that falls outside of their corporate agenda (whether it falls out of their strategy, I’ll let Steve Balmer voice).
Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hypervisor, included with the server editions of Windows (somewhat similar to VMware Workstation or Sun’s VirtualBox). It lets you run other guest operating systems within the currently running one (called the host OS). Typically, virtualizing guest OSes is slow. To improve performance, rather than virtualizing everything, special drivers and software can be installed into the guest OS to make certain things faster (such as graphics, disk I/O, etc).
The popular Linux hypervisors (Xen, KVM, etc) don’t have special drivers like these for Windows, so they won’t be able to run Windows particularly quickly. With Microsoft’s contribution, Linux now will ship with built-in acceleration for Microsoft’s hypervisor, making Linux run that much faster. If you were an IT shop that simultaneously needed to maximize performance and run both Linux and Windows, would you:
- Run an open-source Linux hypervisor, and virtualize Windows (slow)
- Run Microsoft’s hypervisor, included with expensive Windows Server licenses, and virtualize Linux (fast)
The answer’s clear. Microsoft’s kernel contribution brings them good PR and satisfies real-world customer demands, while continuing to promote their agenda to make running Windows seem like the best choice. Smart move!