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Why Microsoft Resorts to Dirty Tricks with Virtualisation

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Virtualisation, Xen at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It seems safe to suspect that Microsoft is trying to make VMWare a prisoner of Redmond and exclude competitors this way. VMWare, unlike GNU/Linux can be of used to promote Windows and demote Free software if manipulated properly. Consider, for instance, companies like Novell and Xandros that pay Microsoft for unspecified claims.

This has already happened to XenSource after a Microsoft General Manager had entered the company. Later came a similar move through a newly-crowned Partner of the Year, EMC. We saw it coming months ago.

EMC: Microsoft’s Partner of the Year, Chauvinistic Too?

The riddance of Diane Greene in favour of 'Microsofthead' Paul Maritz was appalling because of Diane’s role in bringing the company from nothing into something… in nowhere other than Wall Street! There may be more to the story than just Microsoft obedience. It’s arguably about sexism, too.

EMC accused of stifling discrimination claims while battling class-action

EMC ignored internal discrimination claims from female employees whilst fighting a class action lawsuit filed by other female employees.

That is the claim made by ex-EMC VP Paul Goetz in papers filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It strikes a chord with the recent ousting of VMware CEO Diane Greene, EMC’s highest-ranked female executive.

How to Kill Hypervisor Innovation on the Desktop

This is actually the more interesting part.

Remember what we shared yesterday about a VMWare executive predicting the death of the operating system (as we know it) due to hypervisors. For more information, see the following new article:

Will hypervisors make Ubuntu and other Linux operating systems obsolete?

I think this is feasible. After all, consider successful projects like WINE – which allows a wide range of Microsoft Windows applications to execute on top of Linux. The way this is achieved is by providing Linux equivalents for the Windows operating system functions that the software applications call.

In the same way, the virtual environments of the future will provide their own equivalents for the major functions that an operating system performs, particularly where related to hardware. The virtual environment is already providing a layer whereby it exposes its fictional set of devices to the virtual computer, and translates any calls to these into appropriate calls to the genuine hardware. Why bother having an operating system sit between this layer and the applications on the virtual computer? Why not just let the virtual machine take the application request in the first instance?

Here are some more articles and snippets of interest (roughly reverse chronological, so you might want to start at the bottom for the series of developments to be read in turn):

1. Windows will be killed by virtual appliances: VMware exec

Large commercial operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, will no longer exist within five to ten years, according to a senior VMware executive. Instead there will only be very thin open source operating systems supporting virtual appliances.

2. Evidence mounts for August Eee PC carnage with $299 Dell E launch

For that price, assuming everything we’ve heard so far is correct, you’ll get an instant-on Linux distro…

3. SplashTop Linux On HP, Dell Notebooks?

In addition to the instant-on Linux excitement this week for the HP Envy 133, Dell is apparently working on a similar Linux solution. Engadget has shared details surrounding the Dell E and E Slim.

4. Dell Creating Consumer PCs Complete with Virtualization

And in a similar fashion to what Parallels and VMware Fusion did for the Intel-based Mac community, this could give the Linux operating system a boost from consumers who want to use the open source software but don’t want to lose out on what Microsoft’s Windows platforms offer.

5. Dell considers bundling virtualization on motherboards

It’s one of those ideas that you read and say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

6. Linux and virtualisation are ideal partners: Dell

Virtual machines are easier to build if you are running Linux, according to Dell’s chief technical officer Kevin Kettler.

7. VMware Predicts Death To Operating Systems

Mendel Rosenblum envisions a world run by virtualization appliances where software makers wouldn’t need a bulky or complex OS.

8. Dell Hoping Hypervisor Will Open Up Desktop Linux Market

Plenty of vendors are jumping into the virtualization marketplace, so it will be interesting if Dell is able to garner a following with this approach, especially if the sole purpose is to help break open the enterprise Linux market.

9. Dual Booting Windows-Linux: The Dell Option

Generally when a company is considering an upgrade to new workstations or notebook computers, they will elect to use Microsoft Windows. Not out of love for the operating system, rather out of understanding for the importance of familiarity and compatibility with the existing office ecosystem. Sounds like a good approach, until the ecosystem breaks down with a security breach targeting the OS used almost exclusively by the business in question.

10. Microsoft Says No Windows Virtualization on Top of Linux

Microsoft will not allow Windows Vista or Windows XP to be virtualized on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft’s open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.

11. Vista Aiding Linux Desktop, Strategist Says

For example, a number of companies have moved back to Windows XP after deploying Vista, Crawford said, before quoting Scott Granneman, an author, entrepreneur and adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis, as saying, “To mess up a Linux box, you need to work at it; to mess up your Windows box, you just have to work on it.”

12. Dell to stuff hypervisors in flash memory

Dell CTO Kevin Kettler today confirmed these plans during a speech here at LinuxWorld, saying the company expects to see major performance and power-saving improvements by dumping a hypervisor in flash. Customers will basically “boot to a virtual machine-ready” state, he said.

13. Dell plans virtualization-oriented server

Any new x86 server can run virtualization software, but Dell plans to release a model that’s geared specifically to those drawn to the newly mainstream computing trend, CNET News.com has learned.

14. Virtualization: Linux’s killer app

Think about it. Even Microsoft supports running Linux on its Virtual Server product. Why would it do that? Wouldn’t an OS partitioning technology, such as that used by OpenVz or Sun Solaris, be more in keeping with the kind of homogeneous environments that Microsoft would like to see? Why would Microsoft invest its resources to support a virtual machine technology that can only open the door to Linux in the datacenter?

There are some other tactics Microsoft has tried to battle this, until antitrust allegations forced Microsoft to step back. There is clearly a lot of manipulation and market distortion on Microsoft’s behalf.

Xen Revisited

Xen, as an open source project, seems kaput.

It’s all about proprietary software, including the transition of Xen from OSS to proprietary, courtesy of Microsoft's Partner of the Year 2008. Microsoft used Citrix as its proxy to hijack Xen away from developers and onto a Windows-only agenda, thus fighting both the GPL and antitrust regulators. We argued this a year ago and our predictions now materialise.

Xen has almost nothing to do with OSS anymore. It has yet to announce some collaborations with Microsoft, if Crosby’s recent interviews/announcement are anything to go by.

Moving on a little, that brings us to Novell too. According to Ron Hovsepian, part of Microsoft’s agreement with Novell was that GNU/Linux should be a guest on a Windows host. It’s all about control to Microsoft. GNU/Linux is treated just like some application on the Big Irons. It’s servitude on Windows servers.

A few days ago, Rex Ballard had posted an analysis that concurs. It is posted below in full.

Message-ID: <02a79375-771f-4d8b-9320-17935bdd8292@p25g2000hsf.googlegroups.com>
From: Rex Ballard <rex.ballard@gmail.com>
Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
Subject: Re: Linux Champions Virtualisation, So Microsoft/Citrix Ruin Xen
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2008 15:30:08 -0700 (PDT)
References: <5118696.5gaNpKjB77@schestowitz.com>

On Jul 14, 9:44 am, Roy Schestowitz <newsgro…@schestowitz.com>

> Linux based virtualization – the way to save money and go green
> http://www.itwire.com/content/view/19418/1143/

Server virtualization has been around since the 1960s, and many
companies have known it as VM/CMS. Even when the production server/
mainframes were running in “Native” mode, most companies preferred to
use VM to help manage development environments, test environments, and
staging invironments, so that by the time an application went into
production, administrators could be pretty sure that a new
application, bug fix, or upgrade would work well and not create new
problems in the production environment.

When IBM ported it’s AIX operating system to the ES/9000 mainframe,
they decided to use VM rather than try to create drivers for “bare

The critical element is that the underlying “Core” system had to be
designed to optimize memory management, I/O bandwidth, and still
maintain security, performance, reliability, availability,
serviceability. There was also a desire to support load balancing,
resource optimization, and disaster recovery.

> Sun seems to still rely on Xen (despite VirtualBox’ takeover):
> Sun xVM hypervisor opens TACC supercomputer to developers
> http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/news/article/0,28914…

One of the nice things about OSS projects is that when they are
abandoned by their original sponsors, they take on a life of their

Most of you don’t remember WAIS. It was a “search engine” that could
search other servers as well as it’s own repository. The original
WAIS server was released under a GNU type license, but the original
authors eventually created customized and commercialized versions
which were licensed to companies like Dow Jones. Eventually, WAIS Inc
was purchased by AOL for 10 million dollars, which might have led most
people to think that the OSS search engines were dead.

The problem was that the OSS version was still out there, and quickly
evolved into better and better search engine technology, including
features like Digg, WebCrawlers, and commercial variants such as
Verity. Various spin-offs of WAIS and it’s related standards such as
Z.39.50 lead to search engines for companies like Yahoo, Lycos,
InfoSeek, and of course Google.

Ironically, Google was actually based on the original concepts of
Brewster Kahle when he was still working at Thinking Machines Inc.
The original concept was that the engines would index millions of
pages across hundreds or even thousands of low-cost servers, and the
machines would be searched in parallel. Google scaled it to Billions
of documents on thousands of machines.

What made Google more successful than the others was that they made
sure that the only advertizing content being shown with a search was
content that was directly related to the search criteria. For
example, if you wanted to search for information about HDTV, you would
also get links to stores who were able to sell you an HDTV system, but
you wouldn’t get links to beer commercials, 4×4 trucks, and other
searches that might force an advertiser to pay for the display of the
link, even though it was rarely followed. The problem is that all of
those unrelated links reduced the space available to the relevant

Google’s approach led to more links being FOLLOWED, which meant that
Google was the referer, and the result was also much higher number of
actual sales per million hits.

> With Microsoft’s virtual control of Xen (it’s now owned by its Partner of the
> Year), one has to wonder…
> Citrix/Microsoft seems to have turned XenSource into assholes.
> http://www.internetnews.com/software/article.php/3758606/Citrix+Virtu…

One of the big problems with the Citrix/Microsoft deal is that Citrix
has pretty much stopped supporting Linux as they primary “Host” OS,
and seems committed to making sure that only Microsoft can be used as
the host desktop OS.

Citrix seems to have completely abandoned the idea of actual
virtualization of desktop systems, which is a key element of the
success of companies like VMWare. The problem is that you have to be
network connected to the server to have access to the Citrix Virtual
Server/Virtual desktop.

Essentially, Citrix is ignoring the very drivers and motivators behind
desktop and server virtualization, and trying to fit Xen into their
old business model.

It’s a bit like when Citrix tried to use ICA and GoToMyPC as a means
to kill off VNC and Linux X11 virtual desktops and graphic displays to
desktop. The strategy “sorta worked” because people did use the
service, but they also had problems with security, connectivity, and
corporate compliance.

Many corporate customers have gone with more secure solutions that
combine ssl, ipsec, LDAP, and e-meetings, which include IRC and VNC
components. The point is that there are better competitors who can
provide better products at lower cost.

> Recent:
> KVM and Xen cofounders engage in war of words
> http://blogs.zdnet.com/virtualization/?p=415

Many people feel that Citrix has illegally abused the Xen OSS licensed
software. Thousands of people contributed software, bug fixes,
enhancements, testing, and risk management to assure the success of
XEN, but they had their own issues. Novell wanted Xen to make Linux
the primary OS, with Windows running as a virtual client. Red Hat
held back because there was so much mischief around Xen and it’s
licenses, especially around Microsoft.

The irony is that Citrix is trying to “kill off” Xen.org and force Xen
customers to use their commercial hypervisor, adopt their patents, and
submit to their license terms. Ultimately, they are trying to kill
off all of the other XEN developers, forcing them either out of the
market, or into their control.

All of this seems to have the hands of Microsoft guiding it.
Remember, Citrix got a huge boost back in 1997 when corporations
started using VNC on Windows 95 to access Windows NT 4.0 desktops.
Later, Microsoft expressly forbid the use of any PC running anything
other than Windows XP to access a remote XP desktop. Furthermore, the
license actually mandates that you use Microsoft’s application (kinda
messed with Citrix there).

> Citrix opens Xen for business, still Linux shy
> ,—-[ Quote ]
> | Xen may have become the de facto virtualization platform for Linux, but,
> | ironically, don’t expect to see Citrix applications running natively on Linux
> | any time soon.

Of course. Microsoft didn’t put $millions into the deal to have Linux
running as the primary OS for XEN. Microsoft wants to control the
desktop completely, and as much of the server as they can possibly do.

The irony is that many corporate customers are out to REDUCE
Microsoft’s control of servers and desktops. They want Linux as the
primary OS with Windows as the client, and even that is only for the
handful of applications that can’t be supported on Linux.

> | “It’s market driven and we never got the uptake on Linux,” Willis said. “Our
> | focus for XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) is as a Windows application
> | which we recommend customers run on bare metal for performance reasons.”

Which means they didn’t find anyone willing to fork over the $millions
that Microsoft was offering to put Linux on the desktop as the primary
Operating system. The irony is that Windows performs better when
Linux is the primary OS, because Disk, I/O, Network, and memory are
more efficiently managed, while Windows tends to suffer from memory
churn, garbage collection pauses, disk drive delays, inefficient disk
accesses, poor disk caching, and other problems which tend to cause
huge pauses, hangs, and waiting.

Remember when Microsoft bragged about how XP would give you a
“Desktop” very quickly rather than having to wait for everything to be
ready? We have learned that this meant that you would see a static
desktop, but you wouldn’t actually be able to DO ANYTHING until the
rest of the start-up was completed. Meanwhile, Linux boots up and
takes about 60 seconds (longer that that “first desktop, but still
pretty good) to come up with a fully functional desktop capable of
running any application you want to launch.

> | Willis said Citrix has partnered with Microsoft to develop Linux extensions
> | for its Hyper-V platform.
> `—-

That just seems like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. :-D

> http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;311906363

> Ubuntu picks KVM over Xen for virtualization
> ,—-[ Quote ]
> | KVM will be built into Ubuntu’s next version, called Hardy Heron and due in
> | April. “For the Hardy Heron release, we’ve really picked up the
> | virtualization ball. Virtualization is making its way into data centers and
> | onto developer workstations everywhere. Even ‘regular’ users are using it to
> | run Ubuntu on Mac OS X all the time,” Hansen said. “Virtualization has been
> | on our agenda for a long time, but it became a top priority at UDS (Ubuntu
> | Developer Summit) in November. We could see that demand for it was growing.”
> `—-
> http://www.news.com/8301-13580_3-9867657-39.html?part=rss&subj=news&t…

This is a very real trend, and one of the challenges for any
virtualization vendor is trying to keep up with the work being done by
VMWare. VMWare was very smart. They provided “free” applications
like VMWare Player, and VMWare Server, which allows people to use
VMWare “Appliances” generated with VMWare Workstation or ESX. In
addition, they have VMWare Converter, which can be used to save any
existing Windows environment (desktop or server), with or without the
converter footprint, and use that Windows environment as an

The result is that a Linux user can purchase a PC with Windows XP or
Vista installed, an external USB drive, and generate a Windows VMWare
“appliance” on the USB drive. Then they can install Linux and copy
the appliance back to their PC Linux drive. Then, the user can take
“snapshots” of the Appliance, allowing user with a corrupted Windows
Appliance to fall back to an earlier snapshot.

All that free software seems to make no sense, until you start to see
that if you have VMWare Workstation, you can change the sizes of
memory, hard drive, and peripherals. The net result is that lots of
people end up buying workstation.

As people start to become with VMWare Workstation, they begin to
realize that ESX is a really practical server solution, and then they
see that upgrading to Virtual Center gives them disaster recovery,
load balancing, fail-over, and reliable back-up/recovery that are much
easier to manage than having to create new images from scratch on
“Bare metal” (as Citrix reccomends), which means that the system is
easier to manage and deploy.

By offering some free applications, and getting VMWare on the desktop,
the company makes corporate decision makers MUCH more receptive to the
VMWare solutions. Suddenly, a VMWare player user is saying “Yes, we
can run on VMWare” because he’s using it. Before long, you have
VMware Virtual Center running on blade servers with a few hundred
processor cores, and balancing the load optimally. A free application
leads to several million dollars in Virtual Center sales.

Then we go back to Citrix.

> Related:
> Citrix strays far from XenSource’s original open source mission
> ,—-[ Quote ]
> | “Citrix is not a virtualization company,” said Phil Montgomery, Senior
> | Director of Citrix’s Virtualization and Management Division. “We’re not
> | trying to be another VMware. Citrix is an application delivery software
> | company.”

Put another way, Citrix WON’T be offering something like “Converter”
to put Windows into a VM image that can be started under a Linux
system running Xen.

Microsoft hasn’t been particularly worried about the success of it’s
partners lately, and they seem quite willing to have Citrix lobotomize
Xen, go bankrupt, and then claim that virtualization was a failure,
just to try and provide “VaporWare” that is “Just like VMWare”.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has it’s own virtualization solutions, which it
will probably start shipping as “Shovel-ware” if they can’t stop
VMWare any other way.

I’m sure that Microsoft will call this an “Operating System
Enhancement” rather than a strategic function being provided by a
competitive market, which Microsoft will try to strangle using it’s
monopoly power.

> http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=1984

> Citrix strips XenSource of virtualization, open source…everything
> ,—-[ Quote ]
> | Citrix either got completely snowed in the acquisition or, much more likely,
> | it’s getting pressure from its bosom-buddy, Microsoft. What it’s not getting
> | is much value for its $500 million.
> `—-

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Microsoft is using Citrix as
a “sock puppet” to throw off the DOJ, EU, and other antitrust
regulators, in an attempt to do what it did to Netscape.

Remember, Microsoft was able to convince the NSF to rewrite the
licenses unilaterally, so that they could pirate Mosaic code, written
and managed by many employees who had joined Netscape, in an attempt
to “Cut off Netscape’s Air Supply”. The result was Internet Explorer
and Outlook, complete with an 8-lane-highway for viruses, worms, and
other malware.

[snip other great references]

It’s pretty clear that Ballmer is more than willing to tell Citrix and
corporate customers to “Bend over and crack a smile, it won’t hurt a
bit, you’ll even like it”.

In conclusion, it’s no longer the Xen that promised its contributors zen. It’s Citrix. By association, it’s the Microsoft ecosystem. It was devoured.

VMWare mustn’t be taken on a similar type of ride under EMC’s reign. EMC, just like Citrix, is one of Microsoft’s top partners and it controls VMWare, in charge of which it put a Microsoft man.

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  1. Ian said,

    July 17, 2008 at 7:43 am


    A few things that don’t quite add up for me:

    1. Xen is an open source project. What’s to stop someone from forking Xen if the Citrix control does indeed put its thumb into the developers?

    2. If the fork happened, and people still wanted to develop for Xen, there’s absolutely nothing to stop them. Due to that, the only real thing that can kill a free Xen is a complete lack of interest to develop it. Lack of interest is the only real way for an open source project to “die” in my opinion.

    3. Microsoft’s RDP client isn’t only available on XP. It started life on XP, but there are separate downloads for 2000 and OSX for that matter.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 17, 2008 at 7:59 am


    I was going to write about forking of Xen later today. See the following short (and new) analysis:

    Tony Asaro, who recently joined Virtual Iron as Chief Strategy Officer, pointed out that the Xen technology is also the result of the efforts of others, therefore the results are not owned by Citrix.

    Acquiring a virtualization company is easy, especially if you can pay an high price for it, retaining its community maybe a more difficult task, though.

    Bear in mind that VMWare too sort of ‘forked’ the Linux kernel (2.4) for at least one product.


  3. wariola said,

    July 18, 2008 at 6:15 am


    forking is easy to say, but hard to do due to resources. You need to have a new dedicated team to do it and resources (money) to sustain it.

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