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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in xen project

Next Generation High Density App Servers Don't Require Scrapping Your Hypervisor

Recently, I sat in a conference session extolling the seemingly endless virtues of Linux Containers.  I heard claims that hypervisors were old hat: ancient bloated engines which rely on inefficient replication of a large operating system stack in order to serve up applications.  The speaker painted a picture of a future where hundreds of applications are virtualized on each piece of hardware.  "What is really needed," glowed the speaker, "is a lightweight, efficient means of serving up application: containers."

Containers are cool, but not a panacea

Containers share the same kernel as the host, so they are not burdened with the extra memory and CPU cycles it costs to replicate a full operating system stack in a hypervisor scenario.  Compared to hypervisor-generated virtual machines, containers can be fast and lean.  But they are also limited.  

Since Linux containers share the same kernel as the host, it is impossible to run Windows.  Or FreeBSD. Or NetBSD.   Or another version of the Linux kernel.  Or another Linux distribution which requires a different kernel.  All of those scenarios are best handled by a real hypervisor.  And the security aspect of hypervisors is huge, worthy of a separate blog entry of its own.  Still, if you need an environment within your organization where many workloads can leverage a single kernel environment, containers can be a viable solution.

However, some of the most vocal container advocates insist that these problems relating to containers are really application problems in disguise.  Issues about kernel support and security are the results of improper application design, they claim.  When we raise the bar on applications so that they are based solely on access to application servers, then the objections to containers will melt away -- and so will hypervisors, for the most part.  Or that's what some of these advocates claim, at least.

The death of the hypervisor is greatly exaggerated

But is there another scenario which could answer the call for highly responsive and lightweight virtual instances which does not use the container solution?  Maybe one that can actually leverage the flexibility and security which is part and parcel with most hypervisors?

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You may have heard the new buzz word “Cloud Operating System” in the last few months. The term gained prominence when Cloudius Systems launched OSv at LinuxCon in September. Many people working on OSv - namely Glauber Costa, Pekka Enberg, Avi Kivity and Christoph Hellwig - are well known in the Linux community, due to their role in creating KVM. But the concept of a cloud operating system isn’t new. There are many cloud OSes from which to choose, including the Xen Project's Mirage OS, which had its first release a few weeks ago.

Cloud Operating Systems: A New Incarnation of an Older Idea

The approach taken by OSv (as well as others before OSv), revisits an old approach to operating system construction - the Library OS - and puts it in the context of cloud computing within a virtual machine. The basic premise of this approach is to simplify the application stack in the cloud significantly, removing layers of abstraction and offering the promise of less complexity, increased system security and simplified management of application stacks in the cloud.

b2ap3_thumbnail_CloudOSDiagram.png
Figure 1: on the left, you see a typical application stack run in the cloud today. Of course this is a simplification (leaving out AWS or other cloud APIs). On the right you see. that Cloud Operating systems such as OSv remove the Operating System and replace it with a Language Runtime that is designed to cooperate with the virtual environment the Hypervisor provides (which may include access to Hypervisor APIs).

As you can see, Cloud Operating Systems are designed to run a single application within a single Virtual Machine: thus much of the functionality in a general purpose operating system is simply removed. In other words, you strip out everything that your language and APIs do not need and let the hypervisor take care of it: what you end up with a lean language specific software stack that runs much faster than a normal VM, and is more secure simply because there is less code that could be attacked.

Examples of Cloud Operating Systems

As stated earlier, OSv is not the first Cloud Operating System on the market. To the credit of OSv’s creators, it did put the technology on the map by creating lots of buzz.

Cloud OS

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I have been working with Clouds since before the coining of the term itself (back then, the startup I was working for called it "Agile Infrastructure"; now it's known as "IaaS"). From the very beginning, a frequent blocker to adoption has been the question of security. "We can't go to the Cloud because it is simply not secure," goes the complaint.

Well, I'm here to say it's bunk -- pure bunk. There is NO new security problem in the Cloud.

There is, in fact, a security problem in external Clouds -- but it is already in your data center right now.

If you take a truly secure system and place it in an external or hybrid cloud, it will remain secure. Simply exposing a secure system to a larger number of potentially hostile assailants is not enough to make it vulnerable. No, a truly secure system is designed to remain that way even during escalating pressure.

The problem is that very few of our current systems are truly secure. They rely heavily on the notion that threats are few behind the corporate firewall, so they don't need to have air-tight security. That concept is -- and always was -- a mistake. And now that conditions are changing in the Cloud, the inappropriate assumption is causing major headaches. The leaks in the boat are becoming apparent now that it is finally in the water.

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Open Matters

Posted by on in Open Source

This is my first post here at Open@Citrix, so I thought I'd start with an introduction and a story about openness. 

Who is this guy: My name is Lars Kurth and am the community manager for the Xen Project; more recently I have also been elected to be the chairman of the Xen Project Advisory Board.

My mission: help the Xen Project do well and prosper!

My background: a lot of different things. My first contact with the open source community took place in 1997 when I worked on various parts of the ARM toolchain - that is compilers, debuggers and instruction set simulators. This set in motion a chain of events that led to a passion for open source, building communities and above all people. Of course technology always was a passion of mine. I worked in a lot of different industries: parallel computing - I was involved in designing development tools for the Eureka Prometheus Project (the largest R&D project ever in the field of driverless cars), semiconductors, mobile and now the cloud industry. I did loads of tools and infrastructure work for ARM, Symbian and Nokia and my journey eventually led me to look after the Xen Project. I also happen to work for Citrix, in the newly formed Open Source Solutions team.

My other passions: travelling to weird and wonderful places, gardening and growing orchids. My favourite weird places: Socotra and Roraima. My favourite orchids: Neomoorea irrorata and Arachnis flos-aeris insignis.

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Tagged in: community xen project
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Open Source Cloud Projects to Watch

Posted by on in Open Source

We often have our heads down looking at the projects we regularly work on (Apache CloudStack and Xen Project) and don't always pay attention to the other cool things going on in the open source world. So once and a while it's good to poke your head up olut of the clouds and take a look at some of the awesome projects being developed in the open source community. These projects are very promising and especially usefully for cloud comptuing.  

Hybrid Cloud => Segregated Workloads

I am not convinced of the hybrid cloud scenario as espoused by many cloud pundits. I think it's more theoretical then the common place. What I do think happens is that organizations are using the public cloud and private cloud simultaneously with different applications in each and will continue to do so. That's why I like some of these tools that help users manage mutliple clouds (hopefully one of them will be Apache CloudStack ;) from a single tool. 

Scalr 

Scalr InterfaceOne of my favorite projects is Scalr which gives users an easy-to-use menu-driven interface (See screenshot to the right) that enables them to deploy applications on multiple clouds. I have seen Scalr in use on a number of CloudStack clouds as well as being used to manage Amazon Web Services. Their template system makes cloud deployments a point-and-click proposition. 

jclouds 

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Open@Citrix

Citrix supports the open source community via developer support and evangeslism. We have a number of developers and evangelists that participate actively in the open source community in Apache Cloudstack, OpenDaylight, Xen Project and XenServer. We also conduct educational activities via the Build A Cloud events held all over the world. 

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