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August 10, 2005

Microsoft talks up Linux lab, R2 at LinuxWorld

The Microsoft executive who sometimes is asked what shoes he wears to stomp on all those baby (Linux) penguins, Bill Hilf yesterday talked up Microsoft's open-source strategy at the LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco.

By CBR Staff Writer

Hilf, who heads Microsoft’s open-source lab at the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters, also discussed Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Server 2003 R2 operating systems and demonstrated some of its Windows-Unix interoperability features.

He also gave a rare glimpse into the company’s open source lab, which he describes as really funky. In an attempt to create numerous types of workloads and scenarios, the lab has more than 300 server and client systems, including various models of Compaq Proliant, Dell, Sun, IBM xSeries, Pogo, Toshiba, Neoware and many other machines.

The lab’s operating systems include Red Hat/Fedora, SuSE Linux, Novell Open Exchange Server, Windows XP and Vista, Freedows (South American), and at least a dozen others.

We make it a hugely mixed environment, Hilf said. If you can make it through my lab and you’re claiming to be interoperable, you have a high probably of success in taking [your product] to market.

Contrary to the popular belief that his job is to kill Linux, Hilf said Microsoft’s open-source strategy was to drive product improvement by understanding the technology landscape in Linux and open source.

He pointed to the hiring, a couple of months ago, of Daniel Robbins, founder of Gentoo. Robbins is now one of Microsoft’s collection of Linux, Unix and open-source administrators and developers at the lab, Hilf said.

On the company’s pending Windows R2 OS, Hilf said it had really taking a big step forward with Unix interoperability. For instance, users would be able to download or port the same utilities to R2 as they used on Unix or Linux, he said. There would be a new subsystem for Linux applications and not just an emulator, he stressed. There would be no non-native shimmy layer in between, he said.

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Hilf, who said he spent about a dozen years in the open source community before joining Microsoft, said this would be a powerful tool for people to move Unix applications to alternate platforms.

One of Microsoft’s upcoming technologies that Hilf said he is most excited about is Monad Shell, which enables users to access the operating system using text-based commands in an open-source language rather than a Windows interface.

[Monad] allows me to use things I’m comfortable with after using Linux and Unix for a long time – on a Windows system, Hilf said.

He also denied previous media reports that Monad was removed from Windows Vista. Monad will be available on different products and eventually will be part of the operating systems, Hilf said.

Also, Microsoft gave each of the roughly 100 attendees of Hilf’s presentation yesterday a free copy of its Virtual Server 2005 enterprise edition, as well as a 180-day trial of Windows Server 2003 Enterprise – for those who don’t own copies.

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