The Linux Foundation-hosted Xen Project released the latest version of its open source hypervisor that is used by cloud providers and is the base for commercial virtualization products and security platforms.
At a high level the Hypervisor 4.10 release is focused on security, with more specific updates to the architecture, documentation, user interface, and integration with ARM-based hardware.
Security updates limit what device models can do after start up, which reduces the ability for a hack into one host to migrate into other hosts. A re-architecting of the platform’s code also provides for a smaller footprint that results in an smaller overall attack surface for hackers. This is a similar claim used for containers versus virtual machines (VMs).
Lars Kurth, chairperson of the Xen Project advisory board, noted in a statement that the security updates are also driving interest from the embedded device and connected car market.
The UI updates make it easier to modify certain boot parameters without having to reboot the hypervisor. They also support backward compatibility on new hardware without the need to maintain old code.
The last Xen Project release was in late June.
Past and Future
The Xen hypervisor began as part of the XenoServer research project at Cambridge University in the late 1990s. The hypervisor itself formed the core of each XenoServer node and provided resource management, accounting, and auditing. It was open sourced in 2002 and eventually moved into the Linux Foundation with a focus on cloud computing in 2013.
The project has more than 10 million users. Cloud providers using the hypervisor include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Tencent, Alibaba Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and IBM SoftLayer. The Xen Project is also integrated into cloud orchestration platforms like OpenStack and is used in commercial platforms from Citirx, Huawei, and Oracle.
However, recent reports have indicated that Xen support may be waning. The Register reported AWS was leaning away from continued use of Xen in favor of kernel virtual machine (KVM) as a hypervisor for its cloud platform. But a follow up story from TechTarget indicated that AWS planned to continue support for Xen.