Xen to meditate at Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation and Citrix have come together to announce that the Xen Project will become the latest collaborative project at the foundation. Other companies, including Amazon, AMD, Bromium, Calxeda, CA Technologies, Cisco, Google, Intel, Oracle, Samsung and Verizon, have all committed to support the project as founding members. The GPLv2-licensed Xen virtualisation technology has an estimated ten million users.
The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin welcomed the project under the Foundation's wing and noted that the organisation will continue organising the KVM Forum and KVM Technical End User Summit. "The market has proven there is opportunity for more than one way to enable virtualization in Linux, and both KVM and Xen have their own merits for different use cases", said Zemlin. Recent developments around the project have included the creation of the MirageOS web protocol library, ARM-based servers, improved nested virtualisation, enhanced security, and new virtualisation modes.
The idea of finding a new non-profit home for the Xen project was, apparently floated within Citrix by community manager Lars Kurth, shortly after establishing community-led governance within the project around a year ago. He points out in a blog post that governance issues had cut down vendor contributions, and the reworking of governance along with the new home will bring together not only hardware vendors and software developers who use Xen in their applications, but also large-scale users, like Amazon and Google. Kurth expects users and developers to see little change initially, but that, over time, there will be more contributions and collaboration.
There will be some changes made though – the project's site will move from xen.org to xenproject.org and there will be a new Xen Project logo. An FAQ covers other issues about the changes taking place.
Xen itself is a bare metal hypervisor which pioneered virtualisation with Linux. Using a modified Linux or other host operating system, to run as a high privileged OS, referred to as Dom0, Xen is able to host many operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows. It made its public debut in 2003 as the product of a research project at Cambridge University that dated back into the late 1990s, and in 2004, Xen 1.0 (and 2.0) appeared. XenSource, the company, was founded to productise the software and in 2005, Red Hat, Sun and Novell made Xen their lead virtualisation platform. In 2007, Citrix moved in and acquired XenSource. The Xen Project was spun off to Xen.org and a Xen Project Advisory Board was revealed which featured members such as Fujitsu, IBM, Intel and Oracle. Xen continued its development and is deployed on, for example, Amazon's Web Services cloud.
By 2011, work began in Linux 2.6.37 to use the Linux kernel unmodified as the Xen Dom0 operating system, and by the release of Linux 3.0 all the essential components were in place. But by then, KVM, an upcoming virtualisation alternative, had gained ground on Xen, so much so since Red Hat bought its creator in 2008 and switched its long-term plans and set out a future without Xen in 2009. Xen though has continued development and has maintained strength in the bare metal virtualisation business. The most recent release, Xen 4.2 (and its 4.2.1 update) offer the ability to manage 4095 physical CPUs and 5TB of RAM, and offer it as huge or small virtual machines. Xen has also made inroads into the ARM world – in Linux 3.7, Xen code was included to allow it to run as a hypervisor on ARM processors.