Xen Enters Mainline Kernel

Future versions of the Linux Kernel (such as 3.0) will include support for the Xen hypervisor. This means that Linux distributions will typically offer out of the box support for both hosting Xen and running as a guest operating system under Xen.

Xen requires operating system support from both the host and the guest. In other words, you need an operating system that has been modified in order to run Xen or to run under Xen. [Correction: Xen can run unmodified operating systems on a processor that supports x86 virtualisation, which to be fair, should include most modern desktop processors.] In the past, installing Xen (in most distributions) has been a more complicated procedure than for other virtualizers such as VirtualBox.

As it stands, the Linux Kernel offers support for KVM, a virtualization technology that can speed up the QEMU machine emulator. It is the hope of the Xen community that out of the box support for Xen will increase adoption. However, the degree to which built-in kernel support will raise the profile of Xen is debatable. The target of Xen has always been server admins who placed a higher premium on top-flight security and server specific features than they did on ease of use. Anyone who needs the features that distinguish Xen from other solutions would probably not have been dissuaded from using it by the difficult installation. Casual users, who need a simple installation via the package manager on distributions such as Ubuntu, would probably be better served by VirtualBox, QEMU or VMWare.

Who knows, perhaps someone will cook up a virtualization solution aimed at casual desktop users, but that uses Xen as its underlying technology? There might even be some scope for adding other features, such as application sandboxing, by making use of Xen.

The announcement on the Oracle website.

The image that I used in this article, a picture of a zen garden, was taken from the Flicker account of CyboRoZ. I was able to use it here because it of the Creative Commons license that he released the work under.

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