Intel’s VT-x technology and the secrets of virtualization

Quoting from Intel DevX Software Network:

There’s a problem with virtualization. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s an impediment, in my opinion, to some large-scale deployments of virtualization technology across the enterprise data center. The problem is that the venerable x86 architecture wasn’t designed for virtualization. Operating systems have complete control over the processor and the hardware; they understand the full instruction set, and can exercise every mode, use every interrupt, access every page of memory. That makes it hard for a virtual machine monitor (VMM) to exercise supervision over operating systems running in virtual machines, often called guest operating systems.

If the guest OS is trying to access physical memory, physical devices, or invoke specific interrupts, a software-based VMM is largely powerless to stop it. If there are multiple guest operating systems running in different virtual machines, the VMM has to work really hard to trick those guest operating systems into playing nicely with each other, and not stomping all over each other’s resources. These workarounds waste CPU cycles, lowering overall efficiency. They’re also not always perfect.

In this article, we’re going to talk about what I see as the biggest challenge facing virtualization, which is the ring privilege problem. VT-x neatly solves this problem…

Read the whole article at source.

Thanks to VMTN Blog for the news.

Microsoft releases Virtual Server 2005 R2 for beta testers

Microsoft finally granted the promised Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition (x86 or x64) to its beta testers:

Microsoft is proud to announce the release of Virtual Server 2005 R2. As a participant in the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 Beta tester program you can get your complimentary* product activation key just by completing the order form below.

Offer good only to registered participants of the Microsoft Beta Tester program. Limit one complimentary copy of Virtual Server 2005 R2 per person, original PIN and/or e-mail address. This offer is non-transferable and not available to employees of Microsoft Corporation. This offer expires on March 30, 2006 and is not redeemable for cash.

If you are among them you just received the instructions email and downloaded your copy.

Community virtual machines started appearing at light speed

As I predicted announcing the VMware opening of its Community Virtual Machines site, many projects immediately started producing a virtual machine for VMware Player to be sponsorized online.

So we’ll soon have a VM providing a development environment for pfSense (which is a worderful liveCD firewall based on FreeBSD and forked from the well-know m0n0wall project); a VM creating new virtual machines by customers orders through The Virtual Machine Order HOTLINE; and how knows how many other projects actually in planning phase.

I’ll update this post with more interesting projects as soon as I know about them.

Xen virtualization quickly becoming open source “killer app”

Quoting from SearchOpenSource:

As the end of the year approaches, it appears that virtualization’s time in the open source spotlight has all but come.

Whether it is because of the machinations of companies like Palo Alto, Calif.-based XenSource Inc. or analyst endorsement, emulating an enterprise-class infrastructure environment using open source has been on the rise in 2005. And, now, it looks ready to burst next year.

This period of hot growth was buoyed last week when XenSource announced the release of Xen 3.0, which the company said was specifically targeted at enterprise infrastructure virtualization needs.

The rise of OSS virtualization has caught the eye of CEO of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) Stuart Cohen, who noted that the rise of Linux means virtualization will become a key requirement in enterprises that had adopted open source technologies…

Read the whole story at source.

Sun Solaris 10 Containers run other operating systems binaries with BrandZ

With Solaris 10 Sun launched an OS partitioning technology known as Containers.
Containers permit to create Zones where the original operating system appear as a new instance, with its own network settings and applications.

By default Solaris Containers, which offer what SWsoft offers today on Linux and Windows with Virtuozzo, can only create multiple native OS partitions so they aren’t comparable to VMware or Microsoft virtualization technologies. But this could change soon.

A new project called BrandZ appeared on the Open Solaris community:

BrandZ is a framework that extends the Solaris Zones infrastructure to create Branded Zones, which are zones that contain non-native operating environments. The term “non-native” is intentionally vague, as the infrastructure allows for the creation of a wide range of operating environments.

Each operating environment is provided by a brand that plugs into the BrandZ framework. A brand may be as simple as an environment with the standard Solaris utilities replaced by their GNU equivalents, or as complex as a complete Linux userspace.

Actually BrandZ is already in the work, with an available lx brand able to run Linux binary application unmodified on a Solaris zone, on x86 or x64 environments.

Another project called ZoneBSD, started quite a year ago, aims to run a FreeBSD environment on a Solaris zone as well.

Will Google embrace virtualization?

On a interview of 9th December, a Google engineer warned about risks of electrical costs for datacenters hardware.

Google engineer reports that following actual trends within 10 years hardware will cost less than power needed to stay on.
And he suggests the industry to embracing multi-threading chip solutions.

I think following this advice could also lead to lowering the total amount of bare metal deployed in IT infrastructures. And the actual best method to achieve this result is consolidating servers with virtualization.

Google has a very particular hardware needs and server virtualization could not be the best solution for them. But eventually they are evaluating this kind of solution.

In any case all other world companies could find in virtualization a huge help in mantaining low costs for hardware TCO and should start considering it seriously.

VMware launches Community Virtual Machines

VMware Player launch is a really earthquake in the virtualization market, and VMware knows how to drive community attention on a new product like this.

The company just launched a new branch of its VMware Technology Network (VMTN) called Community Virtual Machines:

Community-built virtual machines are built and hosted by individuals in the VMware community. The list of community-built virtual machines contains a growing set of virtual machines designed for a variety of purposes. See what your peers in the community are building.

So you build a cool virtual machine working with the new VMware Player and VMware will sponsorize it on the Community Virtual Machines site.

I bet every mature project outside there will provide a wonderful VM in no time, starting from some security projects where installation can be really difficult.

Community Virtual Machines, which already counts 4 projects, now goes beside VMs provided by various well-known IT vendors in the Virtual Machine Center.

You really have a lot to play with!

VMware Player going to be extensible and customizable in early 2006

VMware in the official announcement for VMware Player 1.0 reported that the product will have a second release in early 2006 to be extensible and customizable by developers.

In the announcement is included a quote from Jeff Shardell, director of Google Web Search and Syndication, explicitly referring Google is working with VMware to provide search and security features.

This is a big announcement, much bigger than VMware Player itself:

  1. VMware started promoting Player by releasing a virtual machine secure for internet browsing, based on Ubuntu Linux and Firefox.
  2. Google is highly involved in Firefox development and started a wide sponsorship campaing, paying AdSense publishers for promoting it.
  3. VMware and Google have a common competitor: Microsoft (well, quite every IT company in the planet has Microsoft as competitor)

In these months many speculated about an upcoming GOffice (a Google office suite), which has been denied by Google itself, but now, with VMware Player help, I can see Google putting out a GLinux (a self-made Google Linux) very soon. Soon enough to ruin the Microsoft Vista launch…