Yes, you heard me right.
Microsoft is taking another step forward to show its love for Linux and open source community by shipping a full Linux kernel in Windows 10 this summer.
No, that doesn’t mean Microsoft is making its Windows 10 a Linux distro, but the company will begin to ship an in-house custom built Linux kernel later this year starting with the Windows 10 Insider builds.
Microsoft announced the move in a blog post while unveiling Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2.0 (or WSL 2) that will feature “dramatic file system performance increases” and support more Linux apps like Docker.
So, to support this entirely new architecture for the WSL 2, Windows 10 will have its own Linux kernel.
Although this is not the first time Microsoft has shipped a Linux kernel as the company has already shipped its own custom Linux kernel on Azure Sphere last year, this is the first time a Linux kernel is shipped with Windows.
Unlike Windows Subsystem for Linux version 1.0 (WSL 1) which used a Linux-compatible kernel, the first WSL 2 release will be based on the latest long-term stable Linux release, i.e., version 4.19 of Linux at Kernel.org.
By making the switch to using the Linux kernel itself, Microsoft is getting all of Linux’s features like Docker containers for free and promising “noticeably faster” performance, with faster boot up and lesser use of memory.
“Initial tests that we’ve run have WSL 2 running up to 20x faster compared to WSL 1 when unpacking a zipped tarball, and around 2-5x faster when using git clone, npm install and cmake on various projects,” Microsoft writes in the announcement blog.
You can see a preview of Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2.0 in the given video.
While the source code for the Linux kernel will come from Kernel.org, Microsoft says the company will include its custom kernel in Windows Update to deliver security updates and improvements to Windows 10.
Moreover, Microsoft will host its custom WSL2 kernel on Github and will be making it fully open source, so that developers and researchers can contribute to the WSL2 kernel. The company will also provide build instructions so that developers can create their own customized kernels.
WSL 2 will be rolling out to Windows 10 Insider builds by the end of June 2019.
Besides the Linux kernel, Microsoft also announced the company’s plan to launch a new Windows Terminal app that will make WSL 2 work even better. The source code of Windows Terminal is already available on GitHub.