Microsoft PowerShell goes open source and lands on Linux and Mac

The folks in Redmond really do love the open source operating system

100515 microsoft linux
Credit: Microsoft

Sysadmins, rejoice: PowerShell is coming to Linux and Mac. Microsoft announced Thursday that its automation and scripting system is breaking out of the confines of Windows and going open source.

The company is also releasing alpha versions of PowerShell for Linux (specifically Ubuntu, Centos and Redhat) and Mac OS X. A new PowerShell GitHub page gives people the ability to download binaries of the software, as well as access to the app's source code.   

PowerShell on Linux and Mac will let people who have already built proficiency with Microsoft's scripting language take those skills and bring them to new platforms. Meanwhile, people who are used to working on those platforms will have access to a new and very powerful tool for getting work done. 

It's part of Microsoft's ongoing moves to open up products that the company has previously kept locked to platforms that it owned. The company's open sourcing of its .NET programming frameworks in 2014 paved the way for this launch, by making the building blocks of PowerShell available on Linux and OS X. 

By making PowerShell available on Linux, Microsoft has taken the skills of Windows administrators who are already used to the software, and made them more marketable. It has also made it possible for hardcore Linux users to get access to an additional set of tools that they can use to manage a variety of systems. 

Jeffrey Snover, a Microsoft technical fellow and the architect of PowerShell, said in an interview that the core engine and cmdlets will be the same across PowerShell on Windows, Linux and Mac. Some cmdlets that use Windows-only features won't be available on other platforms, and PowerShell scripts written for Windows may have to be modified to work on Linux and Mac.

Right now, Snover said that Microsoft is still working on finalizing some of PowerShell's remote access capabilities on Linux. But once that's done, administrators will be able to use PowerShell on Windows to remotely manage a fleet of Linux systems, something that customers have been wanting for quite some time. 

They'll also be able to manage them on AWS, thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and Amazon, its biggest competitor in the cloud wars. New AWS cmdlets for PowerShell make it possible for users to administer services in the cloud. 

VMware has also partnered with Microsoft to release new cmdlets for PowerShell that work across platforms, too. 

Thursday's announcement also included the release of the PowerShell Editor Service, which lets Visual Studio Code and Sublime Text work with PowerShell, including support for debugging. Microsoft said that support for other editors will be coming in the future. 

When it comes to the PowerShell open source project, Microsoft will be accepting contributions to it through GitHub. Right now, the only people who can commit changes to PowerShell work for Microsoft, but Snover said that he expects to have committers from the community working on the project in the future. 

Speaking of those contributors, Snover said that Microsoft plans to make PowerShell for Linux generally available during the first half of next year, but its release date will be determined by when members of the community think it's ready. 

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