In my blog post from the Xen Summit, I promised to follow up on the Xen Summit once the presentations were posted. I put together a list of the presentations and presenters in this post. Now I would like to dig down into a few of the more interesting presentations. The first one I will discuss is the Project Update by Ian Pratt.

The first presentation of the Xen Summit was by Ian Pratt, founder of Xen. For those of you who are not familiar with Ian Pratt, here is bit of his bio -

Ian Pratt is the leader and chief architect of the Xen project, which he founded in 2001 with the aim of making virtualization ubiquitous on scale-out hardware, and was a founder of XenSource. Ian has played a key role in both the architecture of Xen and formation of industry partnerships that led to the emergence of Xen as the open source virtualization technology. Ian is a member of Senior faculty at the Computer Laboratory of Cambridge University, UK, where he has led Systems Research for 7 years. He holds a PhD in Computer Science, and was elected a Fellow of Kings College in 1996. Ian was a founder of Nemesys Research, acquired by FORE Systems, and has consulted widely in the technology industry.

In addition to being on the faculty at Cambridge and leading the Xen hypervisor open source project, Ian Pratt is also VP of Advanced Projects for the VMD division of Citrix.

UPDATE: This project status and road map is specifically for the Xen open source hypervisor, not the Citrix XenServer product. While Citrix XenServer is built on top of the Xen open source hypervisor, it provides numerous additional management features on top of the Xen open source hypervisor.

Here is a bit of info from Ian’s Xen Project Status Presentation at the Xen Summit –

Creation of the new Xen Project Avisory Board and

Members of the Xen Advisory Board include the following

  • Citrix
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • HP
  • Novell
  • Red Hat
  • Sun

The Xen Project Mission Statement is –

Build the industry standard open source hypervisor
- Core “engine” that is incorporated into multiple vendors’ products
• Maintain our industry-leading performance
- Be first to exploit new hardware acceleration features
- Help OS vendors paravirtualize their OSes
• Maintain our reputation for stability and quality
- Security must now be paramount
• Support multiple CPU types; big and small systems
- From server to client to mobile
• Foster innovation
- Be a great platform for research and experimentation
• Drive interoperability
- Between Xen-based products
- With other virtualization products

UPDATE: I have received some questions about the status of the Xen Open Source project since the aquisistion. This project is going forward under the Xen Adfvisory Board, as mentioned above. The project is extremely active. As I mentioned in this earlier post, the Xen project is getting a great deal of industry wide participation.

there is wide industry participation in the Xen hypervisor open source project. In this Xen Summit alone there were six presentations from Intel, three presentations from Sun and Red Hat, and two from HP and three from Citrix. In the Spring 2007 Xen Summit, there were eight presentations by IBM, three presentations by HP, two presentations by AMD, three by Red Hat, and seven by XenSource/Citrix. The Xen Open Source hypervisor is pulling in the creativity, innovation, knowledge and experience of a wide range of industry heavyweights. This effort is completely focused on building a highly scalable, stable and a powerful 64 bit virtualization engine.

Another slide covers Xen Architectural’s Advantages –

 Xen’s true hypervisor architecture enables
excellent security and scalability
• Lightweight service domains
- I/O driver domains and utility domains
- Device emulation domains
- Domain building / measurement domains
• Allows efficient large SMP scalability
• Minimum privilege, small TCB
- De-privilege and disaggregate domain 0
True hypervisor design
- Small privileged component, principle of least privilege
• Secure compartmentalization
- Grant tables allow controlled sharing
• Optimized as a hypervisor
• Cross-platform: x86, ia64, Power and ARM
• OS agnostic: Windows, Linux, Solaris, *BSD
• Flexible to enable domain0 disaggregation
- Control-plane OS (e.g. OpenBSD or MiniOS)
- Driver domains
- Service domains (e.g. virus scanners, firewalls etc)

Ian briefly covers the Xen Project Roadmap as well –


- Performance and scalability optimizations
- Enable Smart IO devices
- SCSI pass-through

• Security
- Domain0 disaggregation; XSM Xen Security Modules
- Secure boot, TPM, certification, multi-level secure systems

• Client
- Power management
  Suspend and hibernate; Clock management
- 3D video
   direct h/w access; high-performance guest virtualization
- USB device pass-through

Xen vs ESX  Performance

The last few slides from Ian’s presentation include updated performance graphs from a recent XenServer Enterprise vs ESX performance test. XenSource did receive permission form VMWare to publish the ESX numbers, and you can find the compairson to XenEnterprise 3.2 here . Ian’s slides have some newer graphs that included testing on an early beta of XenEnterprise v4 (though the chart legends were not updated).

Here are three graphs from the presentation –

XenServer Enterprise Compared to ESX 3.01 with RHEL5 running a Sun JVM

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Windows 2003 Passmark CPU Results

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Windows 2004 Passmark memory Results

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As you can see, the performance of XenServer Enterprise v4 vs. ESX 3.01 is very similar, and in several cases, slightly better (at about 40% of the cost).

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