Virtualisation giant VMware has announced that it has joined the Linux Foundation, lining up alongside existing members such as Adobe, Google and IBM.

Virtualisation, the ability to run software in virtualised containers so multiple operating systems or versions can run on one physical machine, is becoming more prevalent in IT environments. At its core, virtualisation is enabled by software called a hypervisor, and can help drive down data centre costs, among other benefits.

The announcement is VMware's latest embrace of open source, and comes one month after the removal of co-founder and CEO Diane Greene.

Last year, the vendor open-sourced a number of its tools, and in 2006 opened up the specification for its Virtual Machine Interface, which enables guest operating systems to communicate with the hypervisor.

Those moves, as well as VMware's move to join the Linux Foundation, mean good news for end-users on one level, as they point to a general rise in openness and collaboration among virtualisation vendors even as the competition tightens around higher-end tools, according to one industry observer.

"VMware has been focusing on standardisation efforts much more seriously of late. They realise that the actual hypervisor functionality is being quickly commoditised, or near-commoditised, and like every other virtualisation vendor, they're eyeing virtualisation management as the source of green-field revenue," said Michael Coté, an analyst with Redmonk. "IT management is by its nature a heterogenous undertaking, and even for market leaders like VMware, that means promoting standards and openness, at least at the lower levels of the stack."

While VMware is the biggest virtualisation player, it is facing increased pressure from companies like Microsoft. To stave off this competition, VMware recently said it would offer a small-footprint version of its ESX virtualisation software free.

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