Very clear article on Virtualization in Xen 3.0, including a good basic introduction on how Xen works.
Archive for September, 2006
I’m doing some research on the current state of play for virtualisation hardware, as I need to build a basic VT or Pacifica system. This system is so I can do some testing between Xen and VMWare for hosting Windows 2003 TS. The Xen wiki has a list of the HVM capable CPUs and since I’d prefer something basic, I’ve been looking mainly at the desktop Intel and AMD solutions. Which are the Intel Core Duo and Core Duo 2, and AMD AM2 socket CPUs.
Given that the Core Duo is no longer available as a retail CPU in NZ, the only VT based Core Duo systems are laptops or Apple Macs. Since I want a lab system this choice is not as effective, lacking the option for additional HDDs or NICs. For the Core Duo 2 option according the Intel motherboard list and this review, the only Intel chipset that supports VT is the Q965/963. I’m still trying to confirm this, but if so it complicates matters as there are no Q965 based motherboards available in NZ at the moment.
There maybe non-Intel chipsets for the Core Duo 2 which support VT, but this is something I need further information on.
Conversely with AMD it seems that all AM2 socket systems support AMD-V (Pacifica) and these systems are readily available in NZ. That said, I’m not sure how good the AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPU is at supporting HVM. There are no reviews or howtos on AM2 motherboards which discuss AMD-V on the net.
With the lack of basic options, I’ve also considered server grade CPUs. The new Woodcrest 5100 Xeon and a simple Intel Server SC5400 chassis is at least twice the price of any potential Core Duo 2 system.
AMD have also recently released their new series of Opterons, the Opteron 1000, 2000 and 8000 series. Based this info from AMD and wikipedia, these are the only Opteron’s with AMD-V. Sun have also released this month two new x86 servers based on these chips: the x2100 M2 and the x2200. Both are SATA based and a x2100 M2 with a 1210 is pretty close to the price of a desktop white box solution, but a noisy rack system on my desk
as a lab machine is not very appealing.
A first up review of the Opterons vs Xeon, shows that Xeon 5100 series has really jumped forward with at least a 15% advantage for the same clock speed over the Opterons. It would be interesting to see if this improvement held out against the Opteron’s better 64bit mode. However, obviously the Opterons have lost their clear advantage.
So it seems right at the moment I have two options, an expensive Xeon 5100 or an unknown AMD Athlon 64 X2 system at half the price.
Update 2: Only the older single core Orleans and newer dual-core Windsor AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPUs support AMD-V. Windsor Athlons are the only AM2 socket Athlons at present, but it might be possible to confuse them with the older models if you are not careful.
Another indication that the future of computing is appliance oriented, Amazon S3… Building a Telco for only $0.15 per hour:
Your company doesn’t need to invest in a server farm to crunch numbers (example – monthly CDR conversions to customer bills), you can now via Amazon have Amazon S3 take your stored CDRs and send them to Amazon’s EC2 service (this is free…Amazon doesn’t care if this transfer of data is multi-terabytes…it’s still free) and EC2 will do the number crunching to generate your monthly customer bills.
From Amazon Web Services Blog.
Well, maybe not quite; but here are some discussions about things that are going on now.
The thin embedded hypervisor in your future:
In order for a future like this to happen — with an embedded, thin hypervisor and a full mix-and-match set of virtual appliances cooperating on your desktops and servers — the hypervisor must be independent of the underlying operating system.
Where is all this virtualization going?
The trusted desktop is now behind a line of security that will protect it from the outside and from other VMs. Then you have a default non-trusted application VM. Maybe this VM runs applications like an Internet browser, media player, etc. This VM (or more likely its applications) is invoked whenever the user makes a call outside its trusted area or uses an application specifically configured for high security. This application is then presented to the trusted desktop (kind of like an ICA seamless window) but
is actually running in another VM. The non-trusted application VM might not even have an entire OS like we know it. Instead this VM may be another VM Appliance that has a small OS that loads just enough to support that browser app and a few multi-media type apps and presents the screen (like ICA or RDP) into a window in the Trusted VM.
The notion of a rentable VPU leads itself to considerations of a Trusted Computing Platform. It seems likely to me that a future appliance firewall will mediate both the ingress and egress of data not just from the network but to the processor.
At the moment one of my side projects is understanding how Sun Ray works, and how maintainable its infrastructure is. As part of this I’m building a small lab with a trial version of Window 2003 Terminal Server and Solaris 10. Initially I installed Windows TS on a spare dual Xeon, then I changed by mind and decided to install both Windows and Solaris in VMWare machines.
This gives more flexibility, especially as Solaris 10 is a rather new experience with a learning curve greater than I expected. Multiple snapshots are very useful and save a lot of reinstall time. I went though all three main versions of VMWare, Player, Server and Workstation, before deciding that Workstation was definitely worth the money in this of situation. I put Ubuntu and VMWare Server on the dual Xeon for a larger test, but Server is not as useful for the development of machines.
During the week while doing some research on VMWare, I discovered something that had really only been a side consideration in the past. The growing development of virtualisation appliances. This revolution that seems to have been pushed along nicely but VMWare’s release of Player and Server as free products. I’ve used UML and Xen for a long while to both reduce the cost of hardware and admin time, but free access to VMWare’s more generic technology combined with the new high performance Dual Core desktop platforms is creating a whole new field of development. A network effect, like that of the fax machine or OSS, is creating a lot of opportunities for interesting stuff.
A case in point are the winners from VMware’s recent Appliances Challenge: HowNetWorks, Trellis NAS Bridge and Sieve Firewall. Other examples are the appliances at rPath: Sugarcrm, Foresight Linux, and a VoIP platform. And similar examples in the wide like Asterisk in an Hour with a Trixbox VoIP appliance.
The demand is there.
Discovering new areas of technology development like usually this gets me thinking, and my thoughts at the moment are that we are seeinga leading edge of the next revolution in user computing.
So for example, rather than carrying a phone, people will simply have a piece of software. There is no need for a laptop when even the local traffic lights will rent you some time on a virtual CPU or VPU. Within twenty years even your pocket pen will have the equivalent of a Duo Core 2 and so surrounded an ocean of computing, the notion of a PC becomes meaningless. Generic structured software virtual appliances will provide utility and carried by the end user, accessible via a PAN and mediated via other
appliances, they will interact with the world. The hardware platform itself like a pen will become disposable.
Data is the new platform carried by the Virtual Processing Unit.
PSGw (Personal Skype to H.323/SIP gateway) is an application that allows connecting Skype network with H.323 and SIP networks. PSGw works as a router that should be placed between Skype and H.323 or SIP network and route calls according to user-defined rules.
Also a Linux version!