While observers hail Microsoft's Linux kernel code submission as good for the industry and a substantial step forward, the move isn't pure altruism.
The drivers will make it easier to support Linux guest operating systems in their emerging cloud infrastructure, and it will guarantee Windows is a part of every enterprise conversation around virtual Linux servers.
And virtualization integration baked into the Linux kernel appears to provide Microsoft with a heavy stick with which to beat up VMware.
"Why should Microsoft let a religious distaste for Linux get in the way of making a lot of money on Windows Server 2008 being the hypervisor under all those Linux servers?" asked Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Microsoft's desire to take money away from VMware and other alternatives has outweighed its distaste for embracing Linux and the GPL. That is a sign of the opportunity they see here."
Microsoft, however, won't have an exclusive on virtualization drivers in Linux. VMware has certified kernel mode power virtualization drivers but administrators have to install them separately because they are not part of the mainline Linux kernel."Microsoft is taking a short cut," said Chris Wolf, an analyst with the Burton Group."This is a big deal. When you get in the mainline Linux kernel it is a competitive advantage for Microsoft."
Microsoft's Ramji used a gentler spin. "We see more opportunity to work together and grow open source on the Microsoft platform," he said.
Ramji called virtualization a crucial technology for consolidation in the data center. "The question becomes am I going to pick multiple versions of virtualization technology; one for each operating system or workload, and if I do that, will I get the benefit that I need? Or can I pick one virtualization technology, one management technology and have one set of skills to support that whole infrastructure regardless if it is Unix, Linux or Windows running on top of it. We can clearly and consistently state we are a great choice to be your virtualization infrastructure provider."