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[Xen-users] rump kernels running on the Xen hypervisor

Hi all,

I have written initial support for running rump kernels directly on top the Xen hypervisor. Rump kernels essentially consist of unmodified kernel drivers, but without the added baggage associated with full operating systems such as a scheduling policy, VM, multiprocess support, and so forth. In essence, the work enables running minimal single-image application domains on top of Xen while relying on real-world proven kernel-quality drivers, including file systems, TCP/IP, SoftRAID, disk encryption, etc. Rump kernels provide a subset of the POSIX'y application interfaces relevant for e.g. file systems and networking, so adapting existing applications is possible.

I have pushed the implementation to github. If you wish the try the few demos I put together, follow the instructions in the README. Please report any and all bugs via the github interface. Testing so far was light, but given that I wrote less than 1k lines of code including comments and whitespace, I hope I haven't managed to cram too many bugs in there. I've done my testing on a x86_32 Dom0 with Xen 4.2.2.


I'll explain the implementation in a bit more detail. Rump kernels are made possible the anykernel architecture of NetBSD. Rump kernels run on top of the rump kernel hypercall layer, so the implementation was a matter of writing an implementation of the hypercalls for the Xen hypervisor. I started looking at the Xen Mini-OS to figure out how to bootstrap a domU, and quickly realized that Mini-OS implements almost everything the rump kernel hypercall layer requires: a build infra, cooperative thread scheduling, physical memory allocation, simple interfaces to I/O devices such as block/net, and so forth. As a result, the implementation is more or less plugged on top of Mini-OS, and contains a lot of code unnecessary for rump kernels. I'm unsure if I should fully fork Mini-OS or attempt to merge some of my changes back. For example, it seems like the host namespace leaks into Mini-OS (i.e. -nostdinc isn't used), and it would be nice to get that fixed. If anyone has any smart ideas about which direction to go in, please advise.

I thank the people who have suggested this project over the years. I believe the first one to suggest it on a public list was Jean-Yves Migeon quite some years ago, so explicit thanks go to him and "you know who you are" thanks go to others. I also thank Juan RP of Void Linux, who re-added support to Void for Xen 4.2 about 5 minutes after I told him I'd like to do some Xen testing with a x86_32 Dom0 (moving to 64bit systems is on my TODO list ;)

  - antti

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