Author Archives: Sarah Conway

A Tale of Two Amazing Open Source Hypervisors

Born in the logic of ones and zeroes and forged in the heat of battle, two hypervisors–sworn foes in the realm of virtualization–are about to unite in a way many never thought possible. Over beer and code.

Join the teams behind Xen Project Developer Summit and KVM Forum in Seattle as they co-host a social event that will rock the virtualization world. On August 18, 2015, at the close of the Xen Project Developer Summit and on the eve of KVM Forum, attendees of both events can come together and collaborate in the best way possible: with crudites and hors d’oeuvres (and beer).

Virtualization is one of the most important technologies in IT today, so it makes perfect sense for the two best hypervisor projects to collaborate and socialize at an event that celebrates their similarities and bridges that gap between all things KVM and Xen.

virtlogos

The party will get started Tuesday, August 18, at a time and location to be announced shortly! Attendees of both conferences are welcome to come and join the fun and be reminded of what open source is all about.

And before raising a pint to toast to friends both old and new, there’ll be an opportunity for some serious coding. So, if you’re a KVM contributor, a Xen zealot, or a power user of XenServer or oVirt, the joint KVM Forum and Xen Project Developer Summit Hackaton is the place to be during daylight hours.

The hackathon will be held on Tuesday, August 18, 2015, in the Virginia Room, 4th Floor, Union St. Tower of the Sheraton Seattle from 1:00pm to 5:00pm. Aiming to foster technical collaboration between the two best hypervisors in IT today, the event will enable participants to learn more about what makes each project work, as well as to delve into work on libvirt code that could bridge the gaps between Xen and KVM. Bring your laptops, your ideas, and your code and help improve open source virtualization for the good of both projects. Collaboration is what makes open source truly great, so come be a part of greatness.

Finally, we all know greatness is nothing to be shy about, so we encourage Xen ecosystem developers, contributors and users to submit a speaking proposal for Xen Project Developer Summit.  The CFP is open through May 1. The topics of discussion are nearly endless — from scaling and optimizations, nested virtualization, performance enhancements, and hardening and security to high availability and continuous backup desktop virtualization, new devices, boards and architectures and more. Presenting at #xendevsummit is the excellent way to share your knowledge of all things Xen and help define and plan for the future of Xen. If you’re still looking for inspiration, check out last year’s slides and topics. Register soon to benefit from early bird pricing. See you in Seattle!

Future of Xen Project: Video Spotlight Interview with Cavium’s Larry Wikelius

With several companies introducing ARM servers recently, cloud providers and enterprise datacenters are excited to see new alternatives for reducing costs and power use come to market. Cavium, a semiconductor leader with a long heritage in security and wireless/ networking, entered the race with the introduction of ThunderX™ the industry’s first 48-core and 96-core family of ARMv8 workload optimized processors. To get to this point, numerous companies, developers and organizations, including Cavium, put great effort into the development of server software, standards and products to make ARM based SoCs a viable option in these environments. For Cavium, joining the Xen Project was a critical part of its work to advance the evolving ARM ecosystem. According to Larry Wikelius, Xen Project Advisory Board member and Cavium’s Director of Ecosystems and Partner Enablement, it has also been crucial to competing in this evolving market.

In our latest “Future of Xen” video, Larry says working with Xen Project hypervisor is an important requirement for certain customers. With many Cavium customers and partners already using the open source hypervisor, the company needs to not only support Xen, but commit to optimizing the hypervisor for private and public clouds as well as corporate datacenters. Cavium joined the Xen Project community last year and is pleased to see the Project dedicate significant resources and development cycles to ensuring full support, peak performance and efficiencies for ARM-based servers and SoCs. As a board member, Cavium is also able to shape the Project’s roadmap, ensuring it protects Xen deployments and a scale-out strategy to support cloud, telecommunications, Internet of Things devices, big data analytics and more. While the Project’s early commitment for ARM support is relevant, what’s equally important is the hypervior’s small footprint and the growing number of silicon vendors, software companies and end users investing in the Project.

So beyond scale out Data Center and Cloud deployments, what else is ahead for ARM-based servers and SoCs? Larry already sees the networking and carrier space mobilizing behind network function virtualization (NFV). Versions of its ThunderX chip aimed at (NFV) workloads as well as telecommunication, media, and gaming systems offer more I/O in general and security accelerators. Larry recently spoke about this topic at The Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit 2015 last month. Be sure to watch his video and check out slides from his talk to learn more. 

 

Future of Xen Project: Video Spotlight Interview with Intel’s Donald Dugger

Intel’s Virtualization Architect Donald Dugger started working on Xen Project software eight years ago. We recently interviewed Don to find out why Intel continues to support, contribute and invest in the Xen Project. One of the first companies to contribute to hardware-assisted virtualization, today Intel remains equally focused on actively promoting open source virtualization. The company continually adds new virtualization features in its CPUs and is constantly evolving its virtualization support. Improved cache monitoring technology, which provides faster processing and better utilization to resolve the “noisy neighbor” dilemma when hosting large, resource-hungry data sets, is the latest contribution from the world’s largest chip company. Don spoke to eWeek about this new feature last week for the release of Xen Project Hypervisor version 4.5.

In this video, Don discusses the pressure data centers face today to reduce costs and achieve more efficient use of hardware. Open source Xen provides a very secure, efficient and cost-effective way to solve these problems and allows organizations to do more with less. Don also talks about the key role open source virtualization plays in cloud computing, which is poised for continued growth as datacenters struggle with capacity and resource availability. Don says Intel remains deeply committed to the Project to best service customers running a cloud environment based on Xen virtualization and utilizing Intel hardware.

Xen & Docker: Made for Each Other!

By Olivier Lambert

Containers and hypervisors are often seen as competing technologies – enemies even. But in reality the two technologies are complementary and increasingly used together by developers and admins. This recent Linux.com article talked about this supposed battle, noting however that developers are using Docker in traditional VMs to bolster security. Containers allow users to develop and deploy a variety of applications with incredible efficiency, while virtualization eliminates any constraints and/or exposure to outside attacks.

Uniting these technologies helps developers and system administrators be even more efficient. Let’s take a closer look at how to achieve this with Docker and Xen Project virtualization, and why we expect more and more organizations to use them together in the near future. This will also be a key topic at the September 15 Xen Project User Summit at the Lighthouse Executive Conference Center in New York City. Register today to learn more about enabling Docker in Xen environments for a truly open infrastructure.

xen-docker

Caption: Xen In Action: lifting Docker, which is lifting containers. I heard you like boats, so I put boats on your boat :).

Who’s Who: What is Xen Project Virtualization?

Xen Project Hypervisor is mature virtualization technology used by many of the world’s largest cloud providers like AWS, Verizon Terremark, Rackspace and many more. Founded in 2003, Xen Project virtualization is proven as a highly reliable, efficient and flexible hypervisor for a range of environments, running perfectly from x86 to ARM.

It’s now completely integrated in the Linux upstream and is hosted by the Linux Foundation. The same big cloud users mentioned above also contribute regularly to the project along with many of the world’s largest technology companies, including Citrix, Cavium, Intel, Oracle and more.

Feature updates and broader community collaboration are on the upswing too: more commits, more communication, better integration, new use cases and simpler and more powerful modes, such as PVHVM then PVH, as outlined in this recent blog.

The core Xen Project team takes security seriously. The technology has also been battle-tested by many in the defense industry including the NSA. Xen Project users have benefited from this for years, and developers building, shipping and running distributed applications will profit as well.

XenLogoBlackGreen

What is XenServer and Xen Orchestra?

XenServer is a packaged product consisting of the Xen Project Hypervisor and the Xen Project Management API (XAPI) toolstack within a performance tuned CentOS distribution. It’s free and can be installed in just a few minutes; click here to download it: http://xenserver.org/open-source-virtualization-download.html.

Xen Orchestra (XO) is a simple but powerful web interface working out-of-the-box with XenServer, or any host with Xen and XAPI (the most advanced API for Xen). Take a look on the project website to learn more. Both of these tool are of course free software.

What is Docker?

In its own words, Docker defines itself as an open platform for developers and sysadmins to build, ship, and run distributed applications. Consisting of Docker Engine, a portable, lightweight runtime and packaging tool, and Docker Hub, a cloud service for sharing applications and automating workflows, Docker enables apps to be quickly assembled from components and eliminates the friction between development, QA, and production environments.

docker-logo-370x290

Main Advantages:

  • fast (boot a container in milliseconds)
  • simple to use, even in complex workflows
  • light (same kernel)
  • container density on one host

The other side of the coin:

  • all containers rely on the same kernel (isolation, security)
  • less maturity than traditional hypervisor (Docker is still young)
  • containers are using the same OS on the host (less diversity than hypervisors)
  • some friction between developers and admins about its usage: not Docker’s fault, more a classical friction when you bring new toys to your devs. :) We’ll see why and how to cope with just that below.

Best of Both Worlds

An ideal world would:

  • Let admins do their admin stuff without constraints and/or exposure to dangerous things.
  • Let developers do their developer stuff without constraints and/or exposure to dangerous things.

Fluid Workflow

In other words, they’d be able to create really cool workflows. For example:

  • An admin should be able to easily create a Docker ready VM running in a hypervisor, with the exact amount of resources needed at a given point in time (he knows the total amount of resources, e.g a VM with 2 CPUs and 4GB of RAM.
  • He should delegate (with the same simplicity) this Docker-ready VM to the dev team.
  • Developers can use it and play with their new toy, without any chance of breaking stuff other than the VM itself. The VM is actually a sandbox, not a jail; developers can create their containers as they need in this scenario.

Now you can easily imagine other exciting things such as:

  • An admin can delegate rollback snapshot control to a developer. If he breaks the VM, he can rollback to the “clean” snapshot — without bothering the admin staff. Live, die, repeat!
  • Need to clone the same container for other tests? One click in a web interface.
  • Need to extend the resources of this current VM? One click, in live.
  • Ideally, let a developer create its container from the same web interface.

Xen Orchestra: A Bridge Between Docker and Xen Project Hypervisor 

So how do we do all this without creating a brand new tool? As you may guess, the answer is Xen Orchestra, which today achieves much of this. Updates planned for later this year and 2015 will deliver even more efficiencies between the two technologies.

What XO Does Today

  • Adjust Resources In Live: You can reduce/raise number of CPUs, RAM, etc., while the VM is running! Doing this, you can grow or reduce the footprint of your Docker VM, without interrupting the service. Check it out in this short video.
  • Snapshots and Rollback: Snapshots and rollback in XO are totally operational since XO 3.3. Check out how this works in this feature presentation. Coupled with Docker, this is very helpful. When your fresh Dockerized VM is ready, take a snapshot. Then you can rollback when you want to retrieve this clean state. All with just a few clicks and in a few seconds.

Coming Soon

  • Docker-Ready Templates in One Click: This feature will be released this year. In a few words, you can request our template directly from your XO interface, it will be downloaded and operational in your own infrastructure with a Docker listening and ready for action,Iin the resources you choose to allocate (CPU, RAM, Disk). No installation: It works out of the box. Read more in this article.
  • ACL and Delegation: The perfect workflow rest upon integration of ACLs in Xen Orchestra is our current priority. In our case, it allows VM delegation for your team using Docker; the VM can be rollbacked or rebooted without asking you. More info. here.
  • Docker Control from XO: Because we can get the IP of a VM thanks to its Xen tools, we should be able to send command to the Docker API directly through XO. In this way, you’ll just have to use one interface for Docker AND Xen (at least, for simple Docker operations). And take the best of XO for both: ACLs, visualization etc. This last feature is not in our current roadmap, but will probably pop up early in 2015!

We-need-to-go-deeper_inception

Caption: Coming soon — deeper integration between Docker and Xen.

Conclusion

Docker is a really promising and growing technology. With Docker and Xen on the same team, the two technologies work in tandem to create an extremely efficient, best-of-breed infrastructure. Finally uniting them in one interface is a big leap ahead!

Any questions or comments? Go ahead!

By Olivier Lambert, Creator of Xen Orchestra Project

 

Customers Call the Shots — Verizon Cloud Adds Business Value with Quality of Service

dslutz

Both businesses and consumers rely on public clouds for a range of tasks and activities from collaboration and video streaming to gmail and Netflix. New companies are born with just a dozen employees, a laptop and an Internet connection practically overnight. This is all thanks to cloud computing.

It’s no surprise that in the next six years, almost 90 percent of new spending on Internet and communications technologies, a $5 trillion global business, will be on cloud-based technology, according to industry analyst firm IDC. Cloud applications will also account for 90 percent of total mobile data traffic by 2018, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013–2018.

The benefits for users are almost too numerous to count, but most IT professionals agree that cloud computing epitomizes constant change. Its ability to provide ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of networks, servers, storage, and services whenever and wherever they are needed is creating both market opportunity and market upheaval.

To temper the turbulence, capitalize on the opportunities and best prepare for any number of cloud unknowns, several of the world’s largest public providers including Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, IBM/SoftLayer and Verizon Terremark rely on Xen Project virtualization. Open source Xen Project software offers superior IT efficiencies, workload balancing, hyperscalability and tight security by running VMs on a cloud service.

While today the media is focusing on price wars and the possible commoditization of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), cloud providers like Verizon Terremark are innovating with novel Quality of Service agreements and new levels of automation. In his talk in Chicago at our Xen Project Developer Summit, Verizon Terremark’s Don Slutz will present an overview of the Verizon Cloud architecture based on Xen.

“It’s the core foundation of the Verizon Cloud, allowing our users to run any type or size workload they’d like to. Xen is critical to Verizon. Competing solutions were either too cost prohibitive or lacked the security controls that Xen has,” Don said.

Verizon Terremark is a long-time advocate of open standards and is more actively involved than ever before in the open source ecosystem. Verizon sponsors and participates in Xen Project software, invests in CloudStack and most recently joined the Cloud Foundry Foundation, hoping to see the cloud market mature quickly and provide businesses with cloud-based offerings that address specific needs like performance, choice, cost and flexibility.

For the past three years, Don has worked on integrating and designing Xen for the Verizon Cloud architecture along with seven full-time engineers. Today, clients are fully deployed on Verizon’s IaaS based on Xen. A focal point of his talk will be Verizon’s Quality of Service (QoS) goals with CPU, memory, network and disk performance.

“Often clouds end up requiring far too much support personnel, which we are trying to rectify. With our QoS agreement, we allow users to set the performance parameters their business requires and guarantee that Verizon will back these up at all times. Instead of focusing on speed or load size, we’ll guarantee certain CPU, memory, network or disk performance. This is really unique in the industry,” he added.

In addition to delivering workload efficiency, security and cost savings to its cloud customers, Verizon is also giving back to the Xen Project community.

“We’re working to make Verizon Cloud a high capacity service that allows people to move existing VMs easily onto it it,” Don said. “Our goal is to add enough VMWare support so that a guest can be exported from VMWare and automatically run without any changes on Xen.”

Verizon’s VMWare code is currently in review and in the past year has contributed 40 change sets that totals 4,300 lines of code.

Proof that demand for cloud services is growing and spurring more change, Don will also address Verizon’s design goals to move from three to seven data centers in the near future. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to register today for the Xen Project Developer Summit to hear Don present on Tuesday, August 19 from 9 to 9:45 a.m.

About Don Slutz
Currently, Don works for Verizon Terremark enhancing Xen, which is the basis for Verizon Cloud. He got started early (1970) in computers because of his father Dr. Ralph J. Slutz and spent 16 years at Prime Computer in operating systems. He has extensive networking, performance, and testing experience.