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Microsoft launches Linux site

Wants to help interoperability

Microsoft is expected to unveil a website for users to find information about its Linux and open-source interoperability efforts today at LinuxWorld, according to the executive in charge of those plans.

Bill Hilf, general manager of platform strategy group for Microsoft, will discuss the site during his keynote at the conference in Boston this morning. The site will also go live today.

Hilf, who formerly worked on Linux deployments at IBM, has been overseeing Microsoft's Linux and open-source interoperability lab at its Redmond, Washington, campus for the past two years. He recently moved into a more senior position, replacing Martin Taylor, who has moved over to the Windows Live team. Hilf now is in charge of all of Microsoft's open-source compatibility efforts, including its controversial Get the Facts anti-Linux campaign and its SharedSource initiative, which is the company's own version of allowing developers access to some of its proprietary source code.

The aim of the website is to make Microsoft's efforts to ensure its proprietary systems interoperate with open-source software, including Linux, are transparent. The company is encouraging advice about how to advance these goals, Hilf said.

"It's going to be the interface to all of the open-source lab work Microsoft does, where a variety of people blog - including myself and others on my team," he said. "People in the community can provide feedback and give us ideas for better interoperability."

Even the site's name reflects this notion of an open channel of communication, Hilf said. Port 25 is the server port that sends and receives email on a server, thus facilitating two-way communication, he said.

In the past several years, Microsoft has appeared to become more open-source friendly, but mainly from a market perspective. Without planning to support open source itself as a strategy, the company has realised that Linux and other open-source software is here to stay. From a business perspective, it's important that Microsoft technology can coexist peacefully in the same network with those products, Hilf said.

"The great thing is that as a market we've gotten past the David and Goliath stuff," he said. "The reality is that customers run different technologies. We’re still a commercial software company, but in some cases people want to run Linux, want to run Windows virtualised, want to manage Linux using [Microsoft products]. In those situations we can find a way to interoperate."

To that end, Microsoft earlier this week at LinuxWorld released Virtual Server 2005 R2, the latest version of its virtualisation environment for Windows that also supports the client and server versions of Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell. Microsoft announced that it would offer the product for free.

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