Xen Project Hypervisor Version 4.5 Released With Enhanced Cloud Performance and Security

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Xen Project, an open source virtualization platform with a similar governance structure to the Linux kernel, has announced availability of Xen Project Hypervisor version 4.5. The latest release would build on Xen Project hypervisor’s ability to deliver the performance, quality, security and scalability that today’s large-scale and scale-out computing workloads demand. 

For x86-based solutions, improved cache monitoring technology would provide faster processing and better utilization to resolve the “noisy neighbor” dilemma when hosting large, resource-hungry data sets in virtualized and cloud hosting environments. With market demand growing for 64-bit ARM data centers, Xen Project Hypervisor now supports larger VMs on ARM, handling up to 1TB of guest RAM.

xen-project“We’re clearly ahead of the market with x86 performance and ARM architecture updates,” said Lars Kurth, Xen Project Advisory Board Chairman. “This benefits our traditional strongholds where strong security, flexibility and multi-tenancy are required. At the same time, the new release opens up opportunities for Xen Project hypervisor in data mining, drones, avionics, Internet of Things, and automotive.”

Xen Project Hypervisor 4.5 would provide the following new features and capabilities:

  • Major performance enhancements –Xen PVH virtualization mode now supports running as dom0 with Linux platforms on Intel CPUs. PVH is an extension to the classic Xen Project Paravirtualization (PV) that uses the hardware virtualization extensions available on modern servers. Requiring no additional support other than the hypervisor, PVH boots as the first guest and takes on the responsibilities of the initial domain known as dom0. This means Xen Project Hypervisor is able to take advantage of contemporary hardware features like virtual machine extensions (VMX) to significantly expedite execution of the initial domain. Instead of asking the hypervisor to handle certain operations, the dom0 can execute operations natively without compromising security. Additionally, improvements to the interrupt delivery mechanism for PCI passthrough workloads will help decrease latency and increase guest performance.
  • Better utilization –Intel Resource Director Technology (RDT) is designed to help IT managers improve performance and manageability for virtual machines running on Intel processors. Cache Monitoring Technology (CMT), the first of many features that will be included in RDT, can be used to monitor Last Level Cache (LLC) usage by application threads. With this information, administrators and management applications can balance workloads more efficiently to improve both application performance and physical resource utilization.
  • More Powerful High Availability –Coarse-grained Lock-stepping (COLO) will help improve business continuity in virtualized data centers and clouds. COLO enables the state of a primary VM (PVM) to be replicated on demand to a secondary VM (SVM) on a different physical system. Application agnostic and enabling near-instantaneous local and remote recovery from a failed VM, COLO – to be fully integrated in a future release – is built on top of the Remus project, a periodic VM checkpointing solution that was included in earlier versions of Xen Project hypervisor.
  • ARM architecture updates – The new release supports larger VMs on ARM, handling up to 1TB of guest RAM. It also lowers the ARM virtualization overhead by supporting super page mappings in the hypervisor and faster interrupt EOIs with no maintenance interrupts. The release enhances interrupt handling on ARM by supporting priorities and irq migration (virtual and physical). Developers can also securely and quickly boot Xen Project hypervisor on ARM using UEFI firmware. Coupling this with availability of all the QEMU PV backends (disk, console, keyboard, mouse, framebuffer), it offers near feature parity with x86. Additionally, many new IP blocks, firmware interfaces and platforms are supported, such as the AMD Seattle 64-bit server SoC.
  • New Introspection of HVM Guests Security Feature – Because of infrastructure changes, such as multi-EPT views and hardware acceleration for memory introspection, Xen now provides a base layer of significantly improved security. This enables hardware-enforced isolation, which is able to protect against kernel exploits, zero days, rootkits and other advanced malware attacks.
  • Updates for automotive and embedded systems – A new experimental multi-core enabled real-time scheduler is included in Xen Project Hypervisor, allowing users to predict timing and performance of VM to lay the groundwork for Xen in embedded and automotive software stacks.
  • Systemd support –Included as part of the Xen Project code base, systemd support eliminates maintenance involved with multiple Linux distributions.

Major contributions to this release come from AMD, Bitdefender, Cavium, Citrix, Fujitsu, GlobalLogic, Intel, Oracle, as well as several individual and academic institutions.

Xen Project software powers more than 10 million users across enterprise and cloud computing in addition to embedded and mobile devices. Many of the world’s largest companies and service providers use and invest in Xen Project software including Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, AMD, ARM, Cavium, Citrix, IBM SoftLayer, Intel, Oracle, Rackspace, Verizon Terremark and many others.