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Microsoft Outlines Windows Server 2012 R2 Support for Linux

Microsoft today reiterated its support for Linux server operating systems with its emerging R2 products.

Erin Chapple, a Partner Group program manager on the Windows Server and System Center team, provided a summary of the developments in Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, Windows Azure and System Center 2012 R2 Service Pack 1 that support various Linux distros for datacenters. Microsoft's aim is to provide a "consistent experience" and be "the best cloud for Linux," she contended.

The Linux support has been an ongoing project in recent years, but Microsoft lately has pivoted its R2 products more toward supporting heterogeneous environments. Microsoft outlined this position at TechEd last month in a session that focused on Linux and Unix OS support in Hyper-V.

Microsoft's "Linux integration services" (LIS) effort is responsible for building support drivers for Linux. LIS drivers enable Hyper-V features to work with Linux virtual machines, including features such as live backups and live migration of Linux guests. Those features work for Linux guests in the same way as they do for Windows guests, Chapple stated. The LIS drivers get reviewed by the Linux community before being added to Linux kernel source code, she explained. Currently supported Linux distros include CentOS, Debian, Oracle, Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu.

Red Hat is currently working to certify Hyper-V drivers for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 by this summer, according to a blog post by Ben Armstrong, a program manager on the Hyper-V team at Microsoft. While Microsoft initially started distributing the LIS drivers, they're increasingly being delivered by the Linux distro builders themselves, he explained.

New Support for Linux
Armstrong outlined some "new features" that will be supported by Linux distros running on Windows Server 2012 R2, including:

  • "Linux Synthetic Frame Buffer driver -- Provides enhanced graphics performance and superior resolution for Linux desktop users.
  • "Linux Dynamic memory support -- Provides higher virtual machine density/host for Linux hosters.
  • "Live Virtual Machine Backup support -- Provisions uninterrupted backup support for live Linux virtual machines.
  • "Dynamic expansion of fixed size Linux VHDs -- Allows expansion of live mounted fixed sized Linux VHDs.
  • "Kdump/kexec support for Linux virtual machines -- Allow creating kernel dumps of Linux virtual machines.
  • "NMI (Non-Maskable Interrupt) support for Linux virtual machines -- Allows delivery of manually triggered interrupts to Linux virtual machines running on Hyper-V.
  • "Specification of Memory Mapped I/O (MMIO) gap -- Provides fine grained control over available RAM for virtual appliance manufacturers."

So far, those new features are supported in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 Service Pack 3. Work is currently being done to integrate them into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5 and Ubuntu 13.10, Armstrong noted.

Management Support for Linux
Linux distro management is supported by some components of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 SP1, including Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Virtual Machine Manager and Data Protection Manager. The aim is to provide a single interface for managing both Windows and Linux OSes.

On a more abstract level, Microsoft is supporting a "data center abstraction layer" for both Windows and Linux cloud computing environments. The data abstraction layer is based on the Common Information Model (CIM) and the WS-Man standard. Microsoft has contributed an open source implementation of this data abstraction layer for Linux and Unix systems, which is called "Open Management Infrastructure" (OMI). Microsoft has described OMI as the "equivalent of the WMI service in Windows."

Microsoft admits in a blog post about OMI that OMI does not support all "12 foundation CIM classes" to collect data from Linux and Unix machines. It just provides "a base level of inventory information." However, Configuration Manager does support OMI extensions for Linux and Unix to better customize the reporting.

Microsoft also added support for developers that need to manage open source application dependencies on Windows systems. The company initiated an open source project called "Common Open Source Application Publishing Platform" (CoApp), which serves as "a package management system for Windows that is akin to the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) on Linux," Chapple explained. CoApp packages can be added to Visual Studio development projects through the NuGet repository.

Microsoft has long supported the open source PHP language on Windows Azure. It also recently partnered with Oracle to support running Oracle's Java runtime, database management systems and WebLogic Server on Windows Server and Windows Azure. Microsoft also announced today that it is partnering with Azul Systems on an open source version of Java called "OpenJDK," which will be available sometime "later this year."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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