Xen for Human Beings

Tom Hibbert tom.ubuntu at thoughtcrime.org.nz
Tue Apr 25 01:24:08 BST 2006

The case for Xen virtualisation

Xen 3.0.2 has opened new opportunities. For the first time, the Xen
kernel is fully modularisable and supports most
hardware. The Xen subarchitecture still has warts - such as not
supporting anything other than a 31 bit mode dma mask,
leaving some hardware like the ice1712 soundcard behind, and not
supporting the nvidia kernel mode driver, though this is likely an
issue to take up with NVIDIA themselves. As one of the targets of Xen
development is inclusion of the subarch in the main Linux kernel
distribution, we can expect to see these problems cleared up in the near

Xen has proved extremely useful in the server environment, as well as on
 desktops for Linux development.

Testing Ubuntu livecds can be tedious, because sometimes they take an
annoyingly long time to start up because of all
the autodetection and questions asked.
Granted, this does make them work really well once they've booted.
Autodetection of almost almost hardware is seamless.
However this process must be performed many times and can get tedious.
Hence the idea of distributing Xen images of the liveCDs that people can
boot up on their Dapper workstations to play with.

Steps in the right direction

I've proven that Ubuntu is very usable under Xen 3.0.2 right now, and is
genuinely useful as a dev environment - I can
get my hands dirty in etch on a scratch VM in a matter of seconds.

My packages are built from the Debian repository with really very little
changes. They could be synced into the
universe repository or maintained in a semi-official manner at an
external site.

Building the xenlinux kernel should perhaps be left up to the user. i
have some notes that will be wikified probably
later today.

Xenlinux kernels built against ubuntu kernels do boot, albeit with less
hardware support then the standard kernel.
I havent begun to explore the Ubuntu specific patch sets.

I would like to work closely with the kernel team to build a usable kernel
that works on a wide range of systems including workstations, so it can
be used to test bleeding edge Ubuntu development
without having to sacrifice the stability of your workstation.

Xen also has tremendous power at the server end. It offers huge
flexibility to the administrator with regard to service
deployment and scalability, as well as providing virtual staging grounds
for administrators to easily test operational
changes to production server blocs. It can be leveraged to greatly
streamline the development and deployment
of the Ubuntu datacenter.

The Xenubuntu project

The Xenubuntu project would begin by remastering the lightweight xubuntu
livecd into a liveDVD containing casper images of all the *buntus,
as well as state files of them fully booted up (~256mb ram, if
practical), that boots into a GUI that can connect via
VNC/xDMCP/FreeNX/fooprotocol to the guest and displays it in full screen.

>From there we can find more fun stuff to do with Xen and Ubuntu.

I tried to edit the xen kernels and Xen and NX integration specs on
launchpad, but apparently i dont have permission to do so. What do I
need to do to be able to edit these?



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