A thread on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list began by discussing whether or not XEN had been ported to OpenBSD, "is it planned at some point to release a paravirtualized xen kernel for OpenBSD 4.3 or 4.4?" Later in the discussion it was suggested that virtualization should be a priority for security reasons, "virtualization seems to have a lot of security benefits." OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt strongly disagreed with this assertion, "you've been smoking something really mind altering, and I think you should share it." He went on to describe virtualization as "something on the shelf, [which] has all sorts of pretty colours, and you've bought it", explaining:
"x86 virtualization is about basically placing another nearly full kernel, full of new bugs, on top of a nasty x86 architecture which barely has correct page protection. Then running your operating system on the other side of this brand new pile of shit. You are absolutely deluded, if not stupid, if you think that a worldwide collection of software engineers who can't write operating systems or applications without security holes, can then turn around and suddenly write virtualization layers without security holes."
Later in the thread, Theo went on to note, "if the actual hardware let us do more isolation than we do today, we would actually do it in our operating system. The problem is the hardware DOES NOT actually give us more isolation abilities, therefore the VM does not actually do anything what the say they do." He then suggested that companies marketing virtualization should soften their claims to something supportable, such as, "yes, it [increases] hardware utilization, and the nasty security impact might be low".
As expected, Linus Torvalds released the 2.6.23-rc1 kernel two weeks after the release of 2.6.22, ending the merge window, "and it has a *ton* of changes as usual for the merge window, way too much for me to be able to post even just the shortlog or diffstat on the mailing list". He noted, "I personally like how 'sendfile' is now totally gone internally, and the kernel now ends up doing all that with splice insted. Good riddance, although we'll obvously end up supporting the old user level interfaces for a long time." Linus went on to summarize the other changes:
"Lots of architecture updates (for just about all of them - x86[-64], arm, alpha, mips, ia64, powerpc, s390, sh, sparc, um..), lots of driver updates (again, all over - usb, net, dvb, ide, sata, scsi, isdn, infiniband, firewire, i2c, you name it).
"Filesystems, VM, networking, ACPI, it's all there. And virtualization all over the place (kvm, lguest, Xen).
"Notable new things might be the merge of the cfs scheduler, and the UIO driver infrastructure might interest some people."
The Xen virtual machine monitor was recently merged into the upcoming 2.6.23 Linux kernel in a series of patches from Jeremy Fitzhardinge. The project was originally started as a research project at the University of Cambridge, and has been repeatedly discussed as a merge candidate for the mainline Linux kernel.
Xen is described in the project's FAQ as:
"Xen is a virtual machine monitor (VMM) for x86-compatible computers. Xen can securely execute multiple virtual machines, each running its own OS, on a single physical system with close-to-native performance."
Rusty Russell's lguest was recently merged into the upcoming 2.6.23 Linux kernel. The merge comment describes the project, "lguest is a simple hypervisor for Linux on Linux. Unlike kvm it doesn't need VT/SVM hardware. Unlike Xen it's simply 'modprobe and go'. Unlike both, it's 5000 lines and self-contained." The comment goes on to note:
"Performance is ok, but not great (-30% on kernel compile). But given its hackability, I expect this to improve, along with the paravirt_ops code which it supplies a complete example for. There's also a 64-bit version being worked on and other craziness.
"But most of all, lguest is awesome fun! Too much of the kernel is a big ball of hair. lguest is simple enough to dive into and hack, plus has some warts which scream 'fork me!'."
Andrew Morton [interview] sent out the latest lguest patches for review, noting that he intends to merge the code into the mainline kernel, "some concern was expressed over the lguest review status, so I shall send the patches out again for people to review, to test, to make observations about the author's personal appearance, etc. I'll plan on sending these patches off to Linus in a week's time, assuming all goes well." The project's FAQ notes, "lguest is designed to be simple to use and modify, with the aim of keeping the codebase small. Currently it's around 5000 lines including userspace utility, whereas kvm is over 10 times that size, and Xen is around 10 times bigger again (of course, both have far more features)."
The lguest patches are written and maintained by Rusty Russell [interview] who also authored Rusty's Remarkably Unreliable Guide to Lguest, the project's documentation. The guide explains, "lguest is designed to be a minimal hypervisor for the Linux kernel, for Linux developers and users to experiment with virtualization with the minimum of complexity. Nonetheless, it should have sufficient features to make it useful for specific tasks, and, of course, you are encouraged to fork and enhance it." In the FAQ, lguest is compared to kvm [story], "kvm requires hardware virtualization support (most recent Intel and AMD chips have it), but it can run almost any Operating System (since it does full virtualization. It also has 64-bit support. Lguest doesn't do full virtualization: it only runs a Linux kernel with lguest support." The FAQ also compares lguest to Xen, "Xen is similar, in that it doesn't need hardware virtualization support (although it can use it), but Xen supports an extensive range of features such as PAE (ie. lots of memory), SMP guests, 64-bit. You have to boot your kernel under the Xen hypervisor; you can't simply modprobe when you want to create a guest."
Avi Kivity is the lead developer and maintainer of the Kernel-based Virtual Machine project, better known as kvm. The project was started in mid-2006, and has been part of the Linux kernel since the 2.6.20 release in February of 2007. kvm is a full virtualization system for x86-based Linux hosts, allowing users to run isolated x86 guest operating systems in virtual machines.
Avi Kivity suggested that combining KVM, the Kernel-based Virtual Machine [story], with the dyntick patch [story] could improve overall KVM performance. He noted that it would likely improve performance of both the host by "avoiding expensive vmexits due to useless timer interrupts," as well as on the guest by "reducing the load on the host when the guest is idling (currently an idle guest consumes a few percent cpu)". Ingo Molnar [interview] pointed out that KVM with his -rt kernel already works with dynticks enabled on both the host and the guest, "using the dynticks code from the -rt kernel makes the overhead of an idle guest go down by a factor of 10-15". Ingo added that he hopes the dyntick patch will be ready to be merged into the upcoming mainline 2.6.21 kernel.
Rik van Riel [interview] noted that there were other ways to reduce the load of the guest when it's idling, "you do not need dynticks for this actually. Simple no-tick-on-idle like Xen has works well enough." Ingo explained, "s390 (and more recently Xen too) uses a next_timer_interrupt() based method to stop the guest tick - which works in terms of reducing guest load, but it doesnt stop the host-side interrupt. The highest quality approach is to have dynticks on both the host and the guest, and this also gives high-resolution timers and a modernized time/timer-events subsystem for both the host and the guest."