Will you give Xen a ride … or will Xen give you a ride?

And by “a ride”, we actually mean a ride. Like this:



Like, will Xen run in your car?  Well, it appears it will!

It all started with ARM Support

In fact, Xen Project developers started woking on supporting the ARM architecture (with hardware virtualization capabilities) a couple of years ago. The goal was simple: as soon as ARM server are available, it must be possible to run Xen Project software on them. That goal has been achieved, but that is another story!

It is well known that processors employing the ARM architecture are powering already the vast majority of the so called Embedded Systems, ranging from phones, tablets and smart TVs up to cars or even airplanes. But does that mean that at some point we will start to see virtualization capable chips in cars? And if yes, when? The answers to these questions are “Yes” and “really really really soon”! In fact, the Xen Project Hypervisor is uniquely placed to support this new range of use-cases. Its isolation and security features, flexible virtualization mode and architecture, not to mention driver disaggregation and the fact that it now supports ARM (and does it with only ~90K lines of code), make it a perfect fit for the embedded world.

Some Recent ‘History’

Mobile and embedded virtualization on ARM has a long history within the Xen Project, with research projects such as Samsung’s ARM PV port and the Embedded Xen effort. However these projects were mainly research focused. With ARM support becoming a part of the Xen Project Hypervisor last year and various market factors coming together, Xen Project based products are now on the horizon. Last autumn was pivotal in generating momentum for this concept. A number of companies showed real demos and prototypes at our 2013 Developer Summit, such as

  • The Xen Project Hypervisor running on a Nexus 10 (slides and video)
  • The Xen Project Hypervisor powering an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, and other systems on the TI Jacinto 6 automotive platform designed for cars (slides and video).

Since then, momentum has built within the community – as can be seen on xen-devel mailing list discussions – to port embedded OSes to the Xen Hypervisor  (some examples: FreeRTOS, Erika and QNX). Contributions and patches for making The Xen Project Hypervisor work better in such environments started to arrive too, from individuals, research institutions and small and big companies. Among the companies, GlobalLogic Inc., a full-lifecycle product development services company, has made the largest contribution so far, but we must also mention DornerWorks, GaloisUniversity of Washington and Evidence (in collaboration with the University of Modena).

A summary of the past and ongoing activities of this kind is below:

What about now?

On Monday (we told you: “really really really soon” :-D), The Xen Collaborative Project and The Linux Foundation announced a new Embedded and Automotive initiative. Artem Mygaiev, AVP Development at GlobalLogic, will serve as the Embedded and Automotive Project Lead.

The Embedded and Automotive team within The Xen Project intends to build a platform around the Xen Hypervisor that enables using it for all the non-data center use cases (automotive, internet TV, mobile, etc.) by providing a community focal-point within the Xen Project community as well as within the wider open source community.

The team plans to:

  • develop and upstream necessary changes to The Xen Project Hypervisor and Linux
  • implement new drivers (such as GPU, HID, …), protocols, capabilities and functionality that are needed for a complete automotive/embedded/mobile virtualization stack
  • upstream all necessary changes to support such functionality in operating systems that are needed for these use-cases (e.g. Android, Linux, etc.)

For the occasion, Alex Agizim, CTO of Embedded Systems at GlobalLogic, which also is a member of The Linux Foundation Automotive Grade Linux Steering Committee, said:

With ARM support, Xen Project technology is a perfect fit for embedded systems and automotive use. For example, our Nautilus platform, based on The Xen Project virtualization, enables ourin-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and auto manufacturing partners to quickly and cost-effectively develop hybrid Android/Linux-based systems. Using Nautilus, developers are able to run multiple sandboxed OSes on a single System-on-Chip (SOC). This provides superior functionality and security for both infotainment and operational functions within a car.

The latest demo of GlobalLogic‘s Nautilus Platform has been shown at the latest edition of the Automotive Linux Summit, in Tokyo. Check out the video and slides. We also heard about further use cases for Xen Project Software at this week’s Developer Summit. The rate of innovation in our community in this area is staggering: fasten your seat belts! We will tell you about these more in an upcoming event report. All this activity is also creating many benefits for the cloud and traditional server use use-cases. Certification will lead to quality improvements across shared components. Realtime scheduling can be used for graphics and gaming use-cases in the cloud and for Network Function Virtualization. And so on, and so on, …

Learn More

GlobalLogic, in partnership with The Linux Foundation, will present a free webinar at 9 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, August 27, 2014, titled “Virtualization in the Automotive Industry.” Register today to learn how Xen Project technology adds reliability and security when adopting virtualization for automotive software development.

Vendors and individual developers interested in collaborating on embedded, automotive and mobile use cases are encouraged to join the new Xen Project subproject at http://xenproject.org/developers/teams/embedded-and-automotive.html.