VMware will now support what it calls para-virtualised Linux, and the Solaris x86 operating system in future releases of all its core products.

The news follows its earlier announcement to open its code with the aim of promoting open virtualisation standards. Techworld examines the issues behind that move here.

Para-virtualised Linux is an OS that's been specifically modified to run in a virtual environment. The technique involves modifying the guest OS slightly to run on an architecture similar to the host machine while omitting the parts that are hard to virtualise. It's particularly important on x86 platforms because that architecture has many features that are complex and inefficient to virtualise. The benefit is said to be decreases in the performance overhead of virtualisation - down from some 20 per cent to two per cent, according to some sources.

VMware said it would add support for such Linuxes "as they become adopted in commercial operating system distributions". This gives customers the choice of running both unmodified and para-virtualised operating systems, with or without assistance from underlying processor technologies, concurrently on the same virtualisation platform.

VMware is also adding support for Solaris x86 across its virtual infrastructure products. It said the advantage is that enterprises with mixed environments can deploy and manage any combination of Linux, NetWare, Solaris x86 and Windows and instances across the same VMware virtualisation platform.

According to VMware, its support for these additional operating systems means IT admins can use its management software VirtualCenter with VMotion technology - which allows live servers to be moved from one virtual machine host to another.

"VMware's support for para-virtualised Linux and Solaris x86 operating systems and our experience with enabling virtual operating environments for more than 10,000 enterprise server customers is consistent with our continued commitment to give customers greater choice," said VMware marketing VP Jeffrey Engelmann. "With more options available, customers can transition a larger portion of their data centre workloads to a virtual infrastructure and thereby benefit from the proven ROI of a virtual operating environment."

"Using VMware virtual infrastructure on a large scale since 2002 has brought us multiple benefits," said Tony Adams, technology analyst for J.R. Simplot. "VMware's support of a wide variety of operating systems gives us the flexibility to run key applications on multiple operating systems in test, development, staging and production, and manage them with one set of tools. We plan to leverage their support of para-virtualised operating systems to continue to strengthen our infrastructure."