Tag Archives: virtualisation

VirtualBox continues to innovate, 3.1 released

I’m really impressed with Sun’s VirtualBox. Ever since they bought it from Innotek the development has not stood still. Today it’s probably one of the easiest to use and most popular virtualisation technologies, especially on the desktop. Sure, there are closed source bits which is annoying (USB and Remote Desktop support), but that aside, the project has really been innovating.

Now version 3.1 is out and it has some high-end features which might make VMware a little nervous:

VirtualBox 3.1, introduced Nov. 30, offers what Sun officials call “teleportation” capabilities. The software enables businesses to move a running VM between hosts that are running different operating systems, are different classes of computers—including moving from a server to a client—and running different processors, such as chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The VMs can be moved uninterrupted when a physical host needs to be brought down.

The grass roots have also been improved:

In addition, VirtualBox 3.1 offers enhanced execution speed—including a 30 percent improvement in memory handling over the previous version of VirtualBox—upgraded network performance that offers better throughput and reduced CPU cycles through a new high-speed, paravirtualized network driver, and a new two-dimensional video acceleration feature for Windows VMs. It also includes better snapshotting features, according to Sun officials.

Here’s the list of new features:

* Teleportation (aka live migration); migrate a live VM session from one host to another (see the manual for more information)
* VM states can now be restored from arbitrary snapshots instead of only the last one, and new snapshots can be taken from other snapshots as well (“branched snapshots”; see the manual for more information)
* 2D video acceleration for Windows guests; use the host video hardware for overlay stretching and color conversion (see the manual for more information)
* More flexible storage attachments: CD/DVD drives can be attached to an arbitrary IDE controller, and there can be more than one such drive (the manual for more information)
* The network attachment type can be changed while a VM is running
* Complete rewrite of experimental USB support for OpenSolaris hosts making use of the latest USB enhancements in Solaris Nevada 124 and higher
* Significant performance improvements for PAE and AMD64 guests (VT-x and AMD-V only; normal (non-nested) paging)
* Experimental support for EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface; see the manual for more information)
* Support for paravirtualized network adapters (virtio-net; see the manual for more information)

Now, if only OpenOffice.org innovated like VirtualBox..

Linux on Mac Pro with multiple drives

Update: This is possible using EFI only installs, yay!

The Apple Mac Pro at work has four bays for 3.5″ hard drives. My plan was to have OS X on the main drive with Linux on a secondary drive for virtualised environments. Native Linux could run on drives in the other slots if necessary.

I installed OS X on the primary drive and install rEFIt to manage all operating systems. So far so good.

Next I installed Fedora 12 on the secondary drive, but no matter the installation layout (whether MBR or GPT) I couldn’t for the life of me get rEFIt to boot it.

The install would be detected and come up in the pretty menu, but booting it resulted in a completely black screen. Nothing I tried seemed to fix the issue (for some reason even a single drive with Linux and EFI only wouldn’t work).

At my wits end I decided to Google the issue and came across an entry in the Debian wiki which explains my issue:

rEFIt assumes that you have only one disk drive. If you try and install linux onto a secondary drive, you will probably have found that rEFIt lets you try and boot your newly-minted linux partition/drive, only for you to get a “Missing operating system” error message. This is actually a Syslinux error message. What happens is that rEFIt looks on the primary disk for an MBR record, fails to find one (obviously!), so sticks the syslinux MBR onto the primary disk, and tries to boot that.

So the problem appears to be with rEFIt 🙁 Hopefully this will be fixed at some point, because being able to boot the OS from any drive on a Mac Pro would be oh, so handy.

In the mean time, I’ve installed Fedora on the same drive as OS X and will then use the other drives for virtualisation. I guess in theory putting /boot on a small partition on the primary drive with OS X might also work.


Microsoft’s HV driver to enter 2.6.32, out in 2.6.33?

Greg Kroah-Hartman has posted a status update for drivers in the 2.6.32 kernel. This in particular, was rather funny:

hv (Microsoft Hyper-V) drivers. Over 200 patches make up the
massive cleanup effort needed to just get this code into a
semi-sane kernel coding style (someone owes me a bit bottle of
rum for that work!) Unfortunately the Microsoft developers
seem to have disappeared, and no one is answering my emails.
If they do not show back up to claim this driver soon, it will
be removed in the 2.6.33 release. So sad…

After all his work to get the patches in, Microsoft no longer gives a crap? Perhaps they did just do it because they were forced to after violating the GPL.

Microsoft submits code for Linux kernel

Yes, the unthinkable has just happened. Microsoft has submitted code for the Linux kernel, licensed under the GPLv2.

The code in question includes three drivers for their Hyper-V virtualisation technology which makes Linux guests work better.

Why is this a big deal? Well it signals that Linux and free software is powerful and gaining influence, else Microsoft wouldn’t bother at all.

Also, Microsoft previously called the GPL a virus and even anti-American and even Communist.

As Greg Kroah-Hartman mentions in his blog

But, on the other hand, this is Microsoft, so it is a big deal. There are two major aspects of what they did here:

* They released the code under the GPLv2 and publicly stated that this is a valid license for companies to release code under. They will be continuing to contribute under this license, as they work to clean up the code, and add new features and fix bugs as time goes on. This is a huge step forward for Microsoft from what they have previously stated in the past.
* They publicly stated that the proper license to release a Linux kernel driver is under the GPLv2

Of course Microsoft is doing this for their own gain. It is not to benefit the community, but themselves by ensuring Linux runs properly under their own virtualisation technology so that they can compete with other products out there such as Xen, KVM, and VMware.

Still, it’s interesting to see Microsoft do a complete 180 degree flip about Linux and the GPL, as it shows just how influential free software has become.

Update: Groklaw has a good article on this too.

Microsoft wants Linux to run on Windows, in short. So remember what comes after the ‘Embrace’ part… So this is about not losing customers to Linux. And ultimately to replace it, if they can. That’s the ‘Extinguish’ part.


Lately I’ve been using open source VirtualBox for my virtualisation needs instead of KVM because it is so simple and works well (no nightmare of VMware kernel modules, vmware-any-any or any of that rubbish either!). If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend that you do.

Anyway, version 2.2.0 has just been released with the following major new features:

* OVF (Open Virtualization Format) appliance import and export
* Host-only networking mode
* Hypervisor optimizations with significant performance gains for high context switching rates
* Raised the memory limit for VMs on 64-bit hosts to 16GB
* VT-x/AMD-V are enabled by default for newly created virtual machines
* USB (OHCI & EHCI) is enabled by default for newly created virtual machines (Qt GUI only)
* Experimental USB support for OpenSolaris hosts
* Shared folders for Solaris and OpenSolaris guests
* OpenGL 3D acceleration for Linux and Solaris guests
* Added C API in addition to C++, Java, Python and Web Services

Experimental OpenGL support for guests was enabled in 2.1.0 and appears to be more complete in this new release. Sun blogger Calum has released a short video of Compiz in action on an OpenSolaris guest. I have yet to test it out myself, but it looks pretty neat.