The Xen Project stemmed from an idea at The University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in the late 1990s and now touches more than 10 million users every day. The Xen Project recognizes its official birthday coinciding with the first public release of Xen; it was released 15 years ago this October.
We commemorate Xen’s 15th year with a look back on a few of the amazing Xen Project achievements that impacted cloud computing, virtualization, security and more.
Ian Pratt (founder of the Xen Project) announces the first stable release of the Xen virtual machine monitor for x86, and port of Linux 2.4.22 as a guest OS.
Intel® releases its first Pentium 4 Models with VT-x Hardware Virtualization support in November 2005. A month later, Xen 3.0.0 is released as the first hypervisor with Intel® VT-x support.
AMD introduces Xen’s HVM abstraction layer which refactors Xen's Hardware Virtualization support into a common software layer. Xen 3.0.2 releases with HVM support, including support for AMD-V virtualization.
Amazon announced a limited public beta test of Xen based EC2 on August 25, 2006. Amazon EC2 went into full production in 2008.
Citrix Systems, Inc. acquires XenSource in August 2007 for $500 million. The industry starts to put money into creating a reference standard for virtualization, which prompts the rapid, ubiquitous adoption of virtualization.
Samsung releases Secure Xen on Arm which uses paravirtualization to implement Xen as a fork of Xen upstream — Samsung maintained this until 2014 when Xen on Arm support was available upstream. Subsequently, Samsung runs mobile operating systems on top of Xen for several Samsung devices, including a dual-Android platform on the Google-Samsung Nexus 10 tablet using Xen on Arm with high-performance PV GPU support.
While at VMworld in 2009, the Xen Project announces a new initiative for cloud computing called the Xen Cloud Platform. In 2011, the Xen community delivers the first version of the Xen Cloud Platform — later replaced by a fully open sourced XenServer in 2014.
Linux 3.0 includes Xen Dom0 support allowing Linux to work out-of-the-box with Xen. Now, the vast majority of Linux distributions are used out-of-the box with Xen by first installing the Dom0 Linux and simply installing Xen packages.
Initial patches for Xen Armv7 with virtualization extensions are applied to Xen Project 4.2. The hybrid model, maximizes the use of the hardware’s capabilities and paravirtualization where appropriate. Although Samsung had already tested Arm paravirtualization for mobile devices, this model stuck.
Snowden-approved Qubes OS 1.0 is released. Built on Xen, Qubes enables people and companies to compartmentalize various parts of their digital life to keep intellectual property, data, and control of various computer systems out of the hands of attackers.
The latest iteration of Qubes (Qubes 4.0) uses PVHv2. PVHv2 guests are lightweight HVM guests which use PV drivers for I/O and native interfaces for the rest of the operations. This approach significantly reduces the potential of security vulnerabilities in a Xen Project based software stack.
The Xen Project is one of the first projects to be hosted by The Linux Foundation, which now houses over 80 projects, including The Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Hyperledger, Let’s Encrypt and the Node.js Foundation.
Sparked by the Intel SYSRET privilege escalation, the Xen Project community establishes one of the most codified, fair, transparent and battle-hardened security processes in the industry: The Responsible Disclosure Security Process.
The Xen Project launches an embedded and automotive initiative as more companies looked to develop virtualization outside the datacenters thanks to the initial code contributions from Bosch, GlobalLogic, Arm, Citrix, DornerWorks, EPAM, Galois, Renesas, and Washington University.
GlobalLogic introduces a new automotive virtualization platform called Nautilus that runs on Xen at CES 2015.
170,000 people attended CES in 2015. Trends included cable TV’s slow demise and rising competition; virtual reality becoming a reality; drones; and wearables looking more into health and getting smarter.
After a series of reboots from major cloud providers, the Xen Project brings non-disruptive patching to the hypervisor to minimize disruption and downtime during security upgrades for system administrators and DevOps practitioners.
Bitdefender introduces the first commercial implementation of Virtual Machine Introspection, leveraging the Citrix XenServer Direct Inspect APIs. Hypervisor Introspection (HVI) helps organizations reduce the attack surface and prevent, detect, investigate and respond to advanced, memory-based threat techniques, both known and unknown, especially in new security threats like Cryptojacking.
Unikraft becomes an incubation project.
Xen Project releases 4.11 to bring a cleaner architecture to the hypervisor’s core technologies as virtualization begins to grow in new markets. Contributions to the latest release show companies from a mix of industries including cloud, hardware, embedded, automotive, security and more.
In collaboration with Perforce and EPAM, with support of Perforce's Helix QAC static code analysis solution, the project starts an initiative to make Xen MISRA compliant and safety certifiable for automotive and industrial IoT deployments.
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