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Who’s going to Run Linux Workloads on Microsoft Hyper-V Now?

Even taking off my VMware hat – or actually my VMware Army uniform- I doubt that many were really considering running Linux workloads on Windows Server Hyper-V in the first place. But if they were, these statements today by Bob Muglia, President of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, which includes Hyper-V, probably stopped them in their tracks.

 Microsoft States the Obvious – Linux is a Top Competitive Priority

Network World editor John Fontana, in an article titled, “Top Microsoft Execs Outline 2010 Challenges” wrote of asking Bob Muglia to identify his top three threats (Bob, like any good executive, of course re-categorized them as “opportunities”). Winning the Bronze Medal for third place — Linux!

Concerning Microsoft competition with Linux, Bob says:

“We’ve gained share, almost two points of share against Linux last year, but we still see a great opportunity for us to serve our customers better than the open source Linux world. And here we’re focusing on doing it with workloads where we have relative weakness like Web and high-performance computing, and we see great opportunities to continue to grow in those spaces," he said. "So, we’re making the right investments there."

So only a month or so after contributing code to the Linux kernel, seemingly embracing Linux as a viable alternative to Windows and validating the open source software development model, Microsoft is now stating that taking share from Linux is a top competitive priority for 2010 and that Windows can serve customers “better than the open source Linux world.”

 The Big QuestionHow Credible are Microsoft Statements that Windows Hyper-V will Support Linux?

So given Microsoft’s statement of the obvious, let me ask, how believable is Microsoft when it claims that Linux workloads will be first class guests on the Hyper-V component of Windows Server 2008? How can a company, Microsoft, claim to fully support a guest operating system, Linux, that it would really like to see disappear?

 But Again, There’s More!  There are Also Many Technical Reasons Why One Wouldn’t Want to Run Linux on Hyper-V

Microsoft’s lack of interest in encouraging anyone to run applications on Linux is reflected in the limitations it puts on Linux guests run on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V

1) Hyper-V Supports only a small number of Linux guest operating systems

According to Microsoft documentation, Hyper-V R2 supports only these Linux guest operating systems:

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with Service Pack 1 (x86 or x64 Edition
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with Service Pack 2 (x86 Edition or x64 Edition)
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 (x86 Edition or x64 Edition)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.2 and 5.3 (x86 Edition or x64 Edition) (Emulated devices only)

The "Emulated devices only" limitation for RHEL guests is there because no guest additions (similar to VMware Tools) have been released by Microsoft for RHEL.  That means that RHEL guests will suffer from performance limitations because they lack paravirtualized guest network and storage drivers.  VMware vSphere provides high performance paravirtualized network (vmxnet3) and storage drivers (PVSCSI) with the VMware Tools available for all vSphere-supported guests.

2) Microsoft Hyper-V lacks Linux SMP support for those small number of Linux guest operating systems

Hyper-V R2 supports only single virtual processor configurations for any Linux guests.

3) Microsoft Hyper-V lacks core features to support those Linux guests.

Additional features not supported in MSFT Linux guests -the following features are not supported:

  • Integration Services: Operating System Shutdown, Time Synchronization, Data Exchange, Heartbeat, Volume Snapshot
  • Backup Networking: Jumbo Frames and TCP Offload
  • Storage: Hot Add/Remove (VHD’s and Pass-through Disks)

VMware solutions will always treat Linux as a tier one guest operating system

VMware vSphere can and does support the most demanding workloads in Linux guests with its high-performance paravirtualized in-guest drivers, up to 8-way virtual SMP, and 255GB maximum guest memory for all supported Linux guests.  With VMware vSphere, Linux is considered a full peer to Windows guests. We fully enable Linux deployments in your virtualized infrastructure.

7 thoughts on “Who’s going to Run Linux Workloads on Microsoft Hyper-V Now?

  1. Ian

    re: “Emulated devices”
    Doesn’t that mean that Microsoft is only certified without the integration components that are available form Microsoft (and currently being discussed in the linux kernel community)
    Aren’t VMware in the same boat?
    With VMware tools needing to be installed separately also?

  2. Michael Hong

    Ian, thanks for the comment. Yes, Microsoft supports RHEL 5.2/5.3 guests only with emulated devices, not synthetic devices, since there aren’t any integration components that work with RHEL yet. The current Linux Integration Components for R2 only supports SLES 10 SP2 and 11. As the blog states above, there will be a performance limitation with using emulated devices. Also check out this MSDN doc, http://bit.ly/CX7hM. It mentions that using emulated network adapters will cause higher CPU overhead than with synthetic network adapters.
    On the other hand, with VMware vSphere, all supported guest operating systems support VMware tools, which improves the performance of the virtual machine.

  3. Tim Stephan

    Trevor – thanks for the comment – Yes, you are correct about Microsoft’s submissions to the Linux kernel. It was funny that only a day or so after attempting to position the move as altruistic or a “truce” of sorts, it was revealed that MSFT has actually violated the GPL and was forced, or “encouraged”, to submit the code. Then, of course, it was revealed the MSFT was dragging its feet on the submission and hadn’t committed the engineers necessary to get the code in shape…last I had heard, the Microsoft code was approved, however I doubt it will ever amount to much.

  4. whatever

    Sounds like a cry baby to me lots of software companies work together and compete at the same time. To use this a some valid agrument is weird at best.

  5. cartucho r4i

    Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 with System Center Operations Manager provides for the same kinds of peak load handling, and security previously available only with dedicated servers.

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