Trimming the Longhorn, threatening the Penguin

Microsoft: friend or foe?

Some weeks, the dog is man's best and fuzziest friend; others he's chasing you around the yard and snapping at your heinie -- I'm having a real "Tom and Jerry" moment here.

Same for Redmond. One week, I'm thinking about all the hands-on travail I have to do on Longhorn; the next, Microsoft cripples virtualization and jumps on the patent-extortion wagon. All this following a rumour that Microsoft is going to officially name Longhorn Windows Server 2008 because it's going to release it early next year instead of during the second half of '07.

We can address the snapping canine jaws one at a time, easy one first: I have gotten no substantiation on the Windows Server 2008 thing. It apparently came from a Web page that a Microsoft marketing person mislabelled and then hurriedly took down as soon as the news started bubbling across the Web. Most of the press releases and marketing statements we've received to date say Longhorn goes shrink by the end of 2007. The latest few, however, are saying that Longhorn will RTM by the second half of 2007, so what that means for shrink is up in the air. Personally, I think 2008 is about right for a full working version, and as such, the new name would fit.

The virtualization news is related, for the usual reason: "We had to get Longhorn out the door on time; virtualization was getting in the way; virtualization has to get sliced." The good news is, Redmond still seems to be looking at virtualization as a cohesive whole, which means that the features being sliced should be part of an upgrade we can tack onto Longhorn some time in the future.

Cuts included limiting support to only 16 logical processors (no biggie from my end). There's also no hot-add resources, including storage, networking memory, or CPUs. That seems to mean that virtual machine configs are static, where before you could alter them on the fly. I'm going to miss that. Lastly, Redmond also killed off the ability to live-migrate a virtual machine from one physical host to another. That's another one I'm going to miss.

Again, Microsoft is only nuking these features with regard to the Longhorn release, and we should see all of them released at a later date. Downside is that two of these were the real reasons I was looking forward to Viridian, and without them, I'm not really looking at something that can compete with third-party virtualization solutions.

That brings us to the last chomp of the doggy's jaws: Ballmer's patent problems. It seems two senior Microsoftees, Brad Smith (general counsel) and Horacio Gutierrez (VP of intellectual property and licensing) told a Fortune reporter that open source software in general, including Linux, violates 235 Microsoft technology patents. Then they made some vaguely threatening remarks about "what to do" about the violations.

I'm usually on Microsoft's side, but that's only because they're a reality. Condemning Redmond, fighting against the proliferation of the Windows scourge, all that stuff just seems like fighting city hall. I'll tilt at windmills in my personal life, but when I'm working, I just want to get the job done. Most of the time, that involves Windows, so spending umpteen precious hours trying to figure out a way to do the same thing without Windows simply because I dislike big, rich companies seems like a waste of time for me and money for my clients.

That said, this intellectual property thing is juicy, gourmet-class FUD. Microsoft can't enforce some kind of class-action fee structure on open source software -- not going to happen. And if what the Linux guys say is true -- that Microsoft inadvertently made itself subject to the GPLv3 license by distributing Enterprise Suse as part of the Microsoft/Novell alliance -- the open source world isn't suddenly going to get access to all the secret bits and bytes behind the Windows curtain.

The lawyers are going to have a payday. I'm going to get ammo for a whole bunch of literary zingers. And in the end, it'll be business as usual for both the Penguin and the rainy Northwest.

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Oliver Rist

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