Microsoft touts Linux virtualization improvements coming in Windows Server 2012 R2

Microsoft is beefing up its Linux guest support in the coming Windows Server 2012 R2, a k a Windows Server "Blue" release.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Last year, Microsoft announced plans to host Linux in virtual machines -- along with Windows Server VMs -- in Windows Azure. But that's not the end of what Microsoft is doing to try to make its Windows server and cloud the best platform for running Linux workloads.


With the coming Windows Server 2012 "Blue" (Windows Server 2012 R2) release, Microsoft is adding improvements targeted at those running Linux on Hyper-V in Windows Server.

A July 24 post to the company's Server & Tools blog detailed some of those coming updates, which revolve around the Linux Integration Services (LIS) network, disk, time-sync, shutdown and other drivers Microsoft built. Microsoft also built into its Hyper-V hypervisor features to enable live backups for Linux guests and live migration for Linux guests work the same as they do for Windows guests, according to the post.

"(W)e worked across the board to ensure Linux is at its best on Hyper-V," said Server & Tools Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson, author of the post.

Microsoft has been working with the Linux community, after a rough start, to get its drivers built into various Linux distributions. Currently, LIS is built into:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9 and 6.4
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 and SP3
  • Ubuntu Server 12.04, 12.10, and 13.04
  • CentOS 5.9 and 6.4
  • Oracle Linux 6.4 (Red Hat Compatible Kernel)
  • Debian GPU/Linux 7.0

With the Windows Server 2012 R2 release, Microsoft is making the following updates to LIS, endeavoring to make sure it works as well as Windows on the coming version of Hyper-V:

  • Dynamic memory: Increase Linux VM density on Hyper-V by having Hyper-V automatically add and remove physical memory for Linux guests based on the guest needs, just like for Windows.
  • 2D synthetic video driver: Better 2D video performance for Linux guests.
  • VMbus protocol updates: Linux guests have the ability to spread interrupts across multiple virtual CPUs for better performance, just like for Windows.
  • Kexec: Linux guests running in Hyper-V can get crash dumps, just like on physical hardware.
  • SQM support. Collects statistical data from Hyper-V about the usage of Linux distributions.

Windows Sever 2012 R2 is expected to be released to manufacturing the same time that Windows 8.1 is, which means some time in August 2013. Microsoft officials have declined to say when customers will be able to get their hands on the RTM bits of these client or server updates.

In other Windows Server and Windows Azure news this week, Microsoft's Open Technologies subsidiary and Azul, maker of the Zing Java runtime for enterprise, plan to release a newly-built OpenJDK for Windows Server on Azure by the end of the year. This will give Java developers writing Windows Server apps another option, in addition to the recently announced Oracle one.

Also this week, Microsoft competitor Amazon announced it is adding support to its .Net software development kit (SDK) for Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Windows RT developers who are using its cloud services (as opposed to Azure). The SDK is in preview.

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