Category Archives: User Story

A user explains how they employ Xen Project software

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Xen Project Hypervisor: Virtualization and Power Management are Coalescing into an Energy-Aware Hypervisor

Power management in the Xen Project Hypervisor historically targets server applications to improve power consumption and heat management in data centers reducing electricity and cooling costs. In the embedded space, the Xen Project Hypervisor faces very different applications, architectures and power-related requirements, which focus on battery life, heat, and size.

Although the same fundamental principles of power management apply, the power management infrastructure in the Xen Project Hypervisor requires new interfaces, methods, and policies tailored to embedded architectures and applications. This post recaps Xen Project power management, how the requirements change in the embedded space, and how this change may unite the hypervisor and power manager functions. Read the full article on Linux.com here.

Xen Project Community Spotlight: DornerWorks

The Xen Project is comprised of a diverse set of member companies and contributors that are committed to the growth and success of the Xen Project Hypervisor. The Xen Project Hypervisor is a staple technology for server and cloud vendors, and is gaining traction in the embedded, security and automotive space. This blog series highlights the companies contributing to the changes and growth being made to the Xen Project, and how the Xen Project technology bolsters their business.

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Name: Robert VanVossen
Title: Embedded Engineer
Company: DornerWorks

When did you join the Xen Project and why/how is your organizations involved?DornerWorks has been involved with Xen Project since 2011 when we submitted the ARINC653 scheduler to the mainline. Through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the US NAVY, we worked to develop some ARINC653 extensions to the Xen Project Hypervisor. This led to DornerWorks gaining expertise in the Xen Project Hypervisor and we combined this expertise with our knowledge of the embedded world to help our customers design the embedded virtualization solutions they need. This formed the basis for our Virtuosity product (a hypervisor distribution based on the Xen Project) and design services around embedded hypervisors.

DornerWorks still tries to propagate changes and bug fixes to the Xen Project Mainline whenever we can as we take great pride in being a part of this community. We want to help improve both the technology and the community through our work.

How does your involvement benefit your company?
A hypervisor is a complex piece of technology and DornerWorks is a small company.  By colloborating with the larger Xen community, DornerWorks is able to provide a competitive embedded virtualization solution without needing to become an expert at all the technology areas encapsulated in Xen Project technologies.

As a primarily services based company, the Xen Project community also provides us with an indirect marketing platform. The opportunity to publicly showcase our contributions and present on technical topics at Xen Project conferences allows us to share our expertise with the community while getting our name in front of potential customers.

The Xen Project community has also been instrumental in encouraging Xen’s use in embedded platforms, which while different from Xen’s original cloud based goals, is an area poised for growth in virtualization implementations.

How does the Xen Project’s technology help your business?
Xen Project technologies provide a basis for services that we provide to our customers. Through the DornerWorks Virtuosity distribution (http://dornerworks.com/xen/virtuosity), we give customers the means to get started quickly prototyping with Xen on embedded systems. From there, we provide services to refine their solution or develop new components around Xen that they may need, such as new guest OS, new PV drivers, etc. We also provide a Quick Start Package (http://dornerworks.com/xen/xen-quick-start) to help train others on Xen, virtualization, and specific platforms. This is a good option for both those that are just getting their feet wet and those that want to know all the nitty-gritty details.

What are some of the major changes you see with virtualization?
We see virtualization becoming more and more of a necessity in the embedded world. As the complexity of processors increases, the difficulty of utilizing them increases. Processors, like the Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, that have a Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A53, a Dual-Core ARM Cortex-R5, and an FPGA in a single chip, can be difficult to manage. Virtualization provides a means to isolate out various pieces in a more manageable and effective way. Not only does the Xen Project Hypervisor help manage complexity, but it also can reduce size, weight, and power (SWaP), provide redundancy, address obsolescence of legacy systems, and more.

However, while the temptation is to use virtualization to create a single integrated platform for all computation, this approach could create a single point of failure unless it is mitigated by system wide redundancies. In these applications, Xen Project technologies can be used to provide an embedded “cloud,” which provides the reliability required by the application with a large measure of integration. This approach is both familiar and different in embedded applications, which frequently use both hardware and software to provide both isolation and redundancy, but have traditionally leaned more on hardware based solutions.

What advice would you give someone considering joining the Xen Project?
Just jump in and get involved. Go to the conferences, meet people, submit patches, review patches, ask questions, and enjoy yourself. It is a great community that is friendly, open, and has a lot of people with similar goals. They want to help each other and improve the technologies we are all utilizing. I have personally had a blast at the Developer’s Summit and look forward to going to more.

What excites you most about the future of Xen?
I am excited to see hardware become more virtualization friendly. When Xen can utilize these features, the overhead added to the system can be decreased even further than it already has been. This will help make the Xen Project Hypervisor an even more attractive solution in the embedded space.

Embedded hypervisors have been around for a long time, but with the increasingly complex SoCs being produced by chip vendors and the industry drive towards system integration, the number of deployed hypervisor based embedded systems continues to increase. While it has taken longer than we thought when we first joined the Xen Project community, we can see the fruits of these efforts starting to pay off.  We are excited to be a part of the many Xen Project contributors putting Xen in systems quite different from the cloud, utilizing the same underlying technologies in order to provide the security and reliability we have become accustomed to in cloud applications to embedded ones.

Additionally when we first started working with the Xen Project there was not much talk about the safety certification of Xen, but with the increasing interest of the automotive industry in hypervisors, we are seeing a lot of discussion and progress on this front. There is still a long way to go, but at least the will is currently there.

*If you want to stay in the know around embedded virtualization and Xen, sign up for DornerWork’s weekly newsletter here

Xen Project Contributor Spotlight: Kevin Tian

The Xen Project is comprised of a diverse set of member companies and contributors that are committed to the growth and success of the Xen Project Hypervisor. The Xen Project Hypervisor is a staple technology for server and cloud vendors, and is gaining traction in the embedded, security and automotive space. This blog series highlights the companies contributing to the changes and growth being made to the Xen Project and how the Xen Project technology bolsters their business.

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Name: Kevin Tian
Title: Principal Engineer of Open Source Technology Center
Company: Intel

When did you join the Xen Project and why/how is your organizations involved?
My journey with Xen Project has been ~13 years now (since 2005), with a focus on hardware-assisted virtualization using Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT). I’m acting as the maintainer for VT-x/VT-d sub-system in the Xen Project community. The Xen Project is the first open source virtualization project embracing Intel® VT and is a leading community in demonstrating new hardware virtualization features.

How does your involvement benefit your company?
Working with open source communities can definitely bring great value to the whole ecosystem around new technologies, which Intel debuts every year. For example, being the pioneer on Intel® VT, the success in the Xen Project accelerated the market transition from software-based virtualization (binary translation, para-virtualization, etc.) to hardware-assisted virtualization (HVM, PVH, etc.). Hardware-assisted virtualization helps with reduced maintenance overhead, full guest OS compatibility, and better performance.

How does the Xen Project’s technology help your business?
The ecosystem built around the Xen Project is definitely helpful in generating demand of Intel servers (with Intel® VT).

What are some of the major changes you see with virtualization and the transition to cloud native computing?
While virtualization technology has become the fundamental building block in the Cloud, there is still a major gap regarding I/O capabilities when comparing virtualized environment to bare metal. Although network and storage virtualization has been in place for years, efficient virtualization and sharing of new booming accelerators (GPU, NVMe, FPGA, QAT, etc.) are still not widely available. The ceiling of what cloud-native computing can achieve could be severely limited, if disconnected from powerful accelerators existing in the physical server.

What advice would you give someone considering joining the Xen Project?
The Xen Project is possibly one of the most successful open source virtualization projects in the world. The mature community and rich features accumulated in the decade plus the project has been in existence has provided a strong foundation to save you time either in developing a value-add business or exploiting new virtualization research.

What excites you most about the future of Xen?
I’m excited by the fact that the Xen Project keeps embracing new innovations, e.g. PVH, XenGT, etc., and penetrating new markets.

Xen Project Contributor Spotlight: Stefano Stabellini

The Xen Project is comprised of a diverse set of member companies and contributors that are committed to the growth and success of the Xen Project Hypervisor. The Xen Project Hypervisor is a staple technology for server and cloud vendors, and is gaining traction in the embedded, security and automotive space. This blog series highlights the companies contributing to the changes and growth being made to the Xen Project, and how the Xen Project technology bolsters their business.

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Name: Stefano Stabellini
Title: Virtualization Architect
Company: Aporeto

When did you start contributing to the Xen Project?  
I started contributing to Xen Project in 2008. At that time, I was working for Citrix in the XenServer product team. I have been contributing every year since then, that makes it 10 years now!

How does contributing to the Xen Project benefit your company?
Aporeto is a cloud-native security company. By participating in Xen Project development, Aporeto gains access to the technology it needs. In fact, Xen Project is a great platform to build secure sandboxing solutions. Xen Project has always made security one of its top priorities. The clear and transparent security policy, the disaggregated architecture, and the many open source security projects based on Xen Project stand as proofs of that.

How does the Xen Project’s technology help your business?
The world of today is very different from the world when Xen Project started, but the need for solid security solutions has only increased. Xen Project distinguishes itself for providing a trustworthy foundational platform with strong security and isolation properties. At Aporeto we intend to use those properties to provide a secure runtime environment for cloud-native applications.

What are some of the major changes you see with virtualization and the transition to cloud native computing? 
Virtualization will become less about virtualizing hardware and more about providing secure execution environments for applications in different formats. For that to happen, it needs to move away from the emulation of ancient hardware devices and compatibility with aged boot processes. Virtualization is transitioning to modern, nimble, and legacy-free executing models that are a better fit for cloud-native applications.

What advice would you give someone considering contributing to the Xen Project?
Learning the intricate details of the Xen Project hypervisor can be daunting at first, but it is fun, and the community is great. My advice is never to stop learning, take nothing for granted, and empower your curiosity to discover how things work at all levels.

What excites you most about the future of Xen?
Xen is an extremely flexible platform for building vastly different disaggregated architectures. For this reason, it can be used at all levels, from Big Iron to IoT and safety critical domains. We are seeing new use-cases and new sub-projects being created, and I think the trend will only increase in the next few years. This is very exciting!

Xen Project Membership Spotlight: Citrix

The Xen Project is comprised of a diverse set of member companies and contributors that are committed to the growth and success of the Xen Project Hypervisor. The Xen Project Hypervisor is a staple technology for server and cloud vendors, and is gaining traction in the embedded, security and automotive space. This blog series highlights the companies contributing to the changes and growth being made to the Xen Project, and how the Xen Project technology bolsters their business.

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Name: James Bulpin
Title: Senior Director, Technology
Company: Citrix

When did you join the Xen Project and why/how is your organizations involved?
Citrix was a founding member of the Xen Project and, through the work of XenSource, which was acquired by Citrix in 2007, has been active in the open-source Xen Project hypervisor since 2005. Personally I’ve been involved with Xen since its very early days as a research project in the early 2000s.

Citrix is a significant contributor to, consumer of, and leader in the Xen Project. The Xen Project hypervisor forms the core of our XenServer platform, which has widespread use as a free platform for general purpose server virtualization, a commercial server virtualization and cloud hosting platform, a technology component in other Citrix products, and the platform of choice for Citrix’s flagship application and desktop delivery solutions. We see the Xen Project hypervisor as a powerful, flexible and secure foundation on top of which a wide variety of products, solutions and services can be built.

How does your involvement benefit your company?
A hypervisor is a complex entity, requiring deep knowledge of many areas of technology in order to implement successfully; it requires deep knowledge of CPU virtualization instructions, interrupt and exception handling, efficient resource management (such as CPU scheduling), a wide variety of I/O virtualization mechanisms, multiple mechanisms to boot virtual machines, multiple security boundaries, and so on. By collaborating with other vendors who share our need for an efficient, flexible hypervisor, and with vendors whose technology can be enabled through the hypervisor, we are able to achieve far more than any one of us could on our own. Ultimately this allows us to bring a very sophisticated solution to our customers at a low cost.

How does the Xen Project’s technology help your business?
In addition to the Xen Project hypervisor and other components being a core part of our commercial products, Xen Project has enabled rapid multi-vendor innovation that helps us to get ahead of the competition and helps our customers solve their problems. The open-source nature of the hypervisor removes barriers to collaboration and accelerates innovation. In recent years this has allowed Citrix and its partners to be first to market with innovative solutions such as virtualized GPUs with NVIDIA and Intel, VM introspection with BitDefender, and hypervisor live patching built in collaboration with Oracle, Amazon and others.

What are some of the major changes you see with virtualization and the transition to cloud native computing?
Over time we expect to see virtualization creeping up the stack. Hypervisors and the CPU virtualization instructions they rely upon virtualize at the lowest layers; PaaS and cloud-native services are effectively performing virtualization further up the stack (e.g. a Linux container virtualizes the kernel, and a “lambda” type function virtualizes a language runtime environment).

Although we’ve seen FUD that argues that these high levels of virtualization render the lower levels obsolete, in reality the different layers of virtualization bring different values to an overall cloud computing platform. We see that cloud platforms will evolve to use multiple virtualization techniques, albeit in a more integrated fashion than we see today. For example we anticipate that platforms providing container or PaaS services will actually rely on hypervisor techniques and CPU virtualization instructions to provide a strong security boundary (particularly in a multi-tenant context) at the bottom, and use container technology, software sandboxing and other lightweight virtualization techniques on top. Such as solution will likely have a very tight integration between the layers to minimize overhead. The small, flexible, and efficient structure of the Xen Project hypervisor makes it an attractive technology to embed in a system like this.

What advice would you give someone considering joining the Xen Project?
Although many members will join with a particular goal in mind, such as adding functionality to the hypervisor to enable their own products/technology, I would recommend looking beyond that and considering how to best leverage the opportunity to collaborate with the other members. For example, adding a mechanism to Xen to enable the use of a particular piece of hardware is valuable in its own right, however using the Project to collaborate with a vendor that can exploit that mechanism and that piece of hardware and take it to a broader customer base could end up providing an ever better return on investment. I would also encourage new joiners to get involved in code and design review of other members’ contributions. This is a great way to quickly learn about Xen, helps improve the code, and fuels the necessary “give and take” model that an open source project needs to operate successfully.

What excites you most about the future of Xen?
Xen has already proven itself in a number of diverse use-cases including traditional server virtualization, large-scale cloud computing, and client virtualization. I’m excited to see Xen, as a reusable technology component, grow in new use-cases such as edge computing, automotive, aviation and aerospace. Xen’s flexibility, small footprint, and OS independence make it a good fit in these growing sectors.

 

Q&A with GlobalLogic on the Xen Project and Automotive Virtualization

The Xen Project is commonly used in embedded scenarios due to its security features, light-weight architecture and open source community. These core attributes are now making it more pervasive in the automotive industry, which has similar demands to the embedded industry, especially when it comes to security requirements.

To better understand how the Xen Project is used in the automotive space, we sat down with the folks at GlobalLogic to discuss updates on its Nautilus platform, which uses the Xen Project hypervisor; why they originally chose Xen; how hypervisors generally work in the automotive space; and the company’s upcoming plans with automotive virtualization.

Last year when we talked to GlobalLogic, you mentioned that GPU Virtualization was the next phase of automotive innovation. Where are you at in terms of implementing GPU Virtualization?

We have successfully implemented our Nautilus platform’s GPU virtualization feature for several Tier 1 automotive vendors (located in Japan, the US, and Europe). This was a big win for us and we learned a lot along the way and experienced some major benefits. Mainly, GPU virtualization has eliminated almost all performance degradation during the rendering of heavy 3D graphics scenes, allowing us to create a new level of IVI systems.

Why is the hypervisor important for automotive virtualization and GPU Virtualization in general? Why is Xen Project the hypervisor of choice for you within this space?

The hypervisor allows a significant decrease to the cost of automotive production and reduces the cost of BOM because the functions that were previously executed on different CPUs can be run on separate VMs. At the same time, GPU virtualization is beneficial in the process of 2D/3D graphics rendering. Therefore, the use of hypervisor enables building systems that perform better than their more expensive completely-hardware analogues.

Moreover, there are less processors per board, which leads to higher fail-safety. Essentially, a virtual system divided into a number of small subsystems is cheaper to maintain.

At the dawn of our project, GlobalLogic engineers considered various hypervisors, and finally decided that Xen Project was the most suitable solution because it is open source and has a rich history of application in various fields. Using the Xen Project, lets us concentrate on specific vehicle-related challenges instead of reinventing a virtualization solution.

What are the top three benefits you get from using the Xen hypervisor?

The first benefit that we have experienced is the decreased time to market for the manufacturers. Secondly, our customers get demos for free – if we used a proprietary product, we couldn’t afford this. Finally, it is great to experience the constant support of the global community and the community-driven approach to vulnerability detecting and fixing that we get with the Xen Project.

Were there any challenges with implementing Xen? How did you overcome these challenges?

The main challenges that we had with Xen and GPU virtualization was related to the different based ARM platforms. To overcome this, we developed a bench of drivers and extended the environment around them.

What are the next stages of growth for with automotive virtualization? Any trends that we should watch out for?

GlobalLogic is actively working on the commercialization of the Nautilus platform. We are expanding the GPU feature to a network of customers and vehicle models. At the same time, we are expanding the functionality of virtualization in areas like self-driving, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), connected services, safety, etc.