Microsoft is also overhauling WSL. Later this year, it’ll start shipping with a full Linux kernel, created and customized in-house by Microsoft’s engineers.
You heard that right. The Linux kernel will eventually be a component available within Windows. That’s nothing short of amazing considering that, in 2001, then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called it a “cancer” over licensing fears.
Microsoft’s kernel will be based on the current-generation long-term stable (LTS) release of Linux, Version 4.19. According to Microsoft program manager Jack Hammons, this will be rebased at the advent of any new LTS release, so that it’s always at the cutting edge.
Why does this matter? Because the former WSL didn’t have a “real” Kernel, instead using a sophisticated compatibility layer. This meant that some things wouldn’t work. Tasks which relied on kernel functionality not implemented in Windows Subsystem for Linux, like CUDA processing, would fall flat.
Obviously, Microsoft isn’t making any specific claims about functionality at this premature stage. Hammons says the kernel that features in the upcoming version of Windows Subsystem for Linux, which Microsoft called WSL2, will be a “minimal” kernel designed to be a drop-in replacement for the current emulation architecture.
For those worried about a return to the sordid days of “embrace, extend, extinguish,” don’t be. Microsoft is promising to be “be good citizens and contribute back the changes that we make.” This isn’t purely altruistic. Failing to do so could introduce irregularities into the Microsoft-maintained Kernel, and potentially even security risks.