Recap of LinuxCon China and Xen Project’s Growth in the Region

It’s been a very busy month or so for the Xen Project. During mid-June, I was lucky to attend and speak at LinuxCon + ContainerCon China held in Beijing. There I spoke on the topic of securing embedded systems with the hypervisor and live patching, virtual machine introspection and vulnerability management alongside my colleague Cheng Zhang of Citrix.

Open source has grown tremendously in China over the last few years, with Xen Project technology being a key enabler for cloud computing. Most recently, the Xen Project announced Huawei joining the Project’s advisory board. Huawei is one of a growing number of Chinese companies leveraging and contributing to the Xen Project’s software. Other organizations include Alibaba, Fujitsu (China), Intel (China), Tencent, Inspur, and more.

The Xen Project hypervisor currently powers Alibaba Cloud, which is growing at a massive rate with incredible potential.

Many ask why is this growth happening in China and why now? There are many different reasons, but I think the main point is: As key technologies are increasingly built collaboratively, more and more Chinese companies are using open source to leapfrog competitors. By joining Linux Foundation projects, in-country organizations are helping to drive further growth and development.

Collaboration in China and at the Conference

Contributions with the Xen Project have greatly expanded over the last few years, especially in contributions and membership coming from China. In our latest release, Xen Project 4.9, we had 25% more contributors to the core hypervisor, and an increase of 17% of contributions coming from the hypervisor, tests, and other components. We received several contributions from individuals based in China as well as Fujitsu (China), Huawei Technologies, and Intel (China).

We are generally seeing more companies (in China and beyond) participating in the project with an eye toward automotive, embedded, security, and native-cloud computing.

During the conference, I was able to meet up with community members from Alibaba, Huawei, Hyper_, Intel and others.. Key highlights and conversations for me included:

  • In the last year, we have seen very rapid adoption of Xen Project based products in government (e.g. China State Grid), industry (e.g. CTCI), telecoms (e.g. China Mobile), banking/financial (e.g. ICBC, People’s Insurance Company of China) and are starting to see adoption in High Performance Computing. One surprising factor that is leading to rapid adoption of open source in China is that many industries are required to perform code audits on software with the aim of strengthening cybersecurity, which gives open source software a significant edge.
  • I had lots of discussions on the “ins and outs” of Virtual Machine Introspection, after I highlighted that VMI defeated WannaCry/EternalBlue a priori mentioned in my live patching, virtual machine introspection and vulnerability management talk. As I learned most WannaCry victims were based in China including a number of companies such as the China National Petroleum Corporation, which led to 20% of petrol stations across the mainland going offline.
  • Live Patching, and its potential limitations and the complexities of how to build and validate them, were also high on the list of discussions which came up several times.
  • Another highlight was a discussion around the proposed Shared coprocessor framework for Xen, whose design is currently being finalized and will support sharing of GPUs, DSPs, FPGs and security once the prototype has been completed and upstreamed. I had originally assumed that co-processor sharing was mainly of interested either in embedded or for niche cloud use-cases, but was surprised to learn that there may be much more market pull than anticipated.

I’m looking forward for continued collaboration and innovation in this region.

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About Lars Kurth

Lars Kurth is a highly effective, passionate community manager with strong experience of working with open source communities (Symbian, Symbian DevCo, Eclipse, GNU) and currently is community manager for xen.org. Lars has 9 years of experience building and leading engineering teams and a track record of executing several change programs impacting 1000 users. Lars has 16 years of industry experience in the tools and mobile sector working at ARM, Symbian Ltd, Symbian Foundation and Nokia. Lars has strong analytical, communication, influencing and presentation skills, good knowledge of marketing and product management and extensive background in C/C , Java and software development practices which he learned working as community manager, product manager, chief architect, engineering manager and software developer. If you want to know more, check out uk.linkedin.com/in/larskurth. Personally, Lars has a wide range of interests such as literature, theatre, cinema, cooking and gardening. He is particularly fascinated by orchids and carnivorous plants and has built a rather large collection of plants from all over the world. His love for plants extends into a passion for travel, in particular to see plants grow in their native habitats.

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