Difference between revisions of "Design Sessions 2019"

From Xen
(Sessions with published notes)
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For notes, see
For notes, see
* https://hackmd.io/-bCctH_TT4KOy_jF_UIFew
* https://hackmd.io/-bCctH_TT4KOy_jF_UIFew
== Rust and Xen ==
Discussing the usage of Rust with Xen. Rust is a safe systems language with a
focus on zero-cost abstractions. A low level effort is underway to provide
native bindings to the hypercall ABI to allow native simple recompiling of
Rust programs as unikernels.
For notes, see
* https://hackmd.io/Bffiwa9BQz2IbIV53h1Q0w
= Sessions without published Notes =
= Sessions without published Notes =

Revision as of 12:53, 9 August 2019

Sessions with published notes

Agreeing priorities for the next year

This is an attempt to agree on the top few (we can decide how many) development and 
community priorities for the next year. We should only include larger feature 
development (that may cover multiple series) with the aim to help code reviewers 
to coordinate review time to get these through the review cycle more quickly.

Attendees are expected to 
a) Propose major developments in the works or pipeline 
b) Vote / provide input on how important these are

For notes, see

osstest before push to nonrewinding branch - aka Branch management

Right now, if a bad commit (that cause osstest test failures) get pushed to staging, they get entangled with other work and have to be fixed or reverted. Most modern CI systems run tests on proposed branches before those branches are pushed to some shared non-rewinding branch.

Can we do the same for Xen and osstest ? How ?

For notes, see

Build System gripes

See https://lists.xenproject.org/archives/html/xen-devel/2019-07/threads.html#00786

Further defences for speculative sidechannels

The discovery of speculative sidechannels has undermined a lot of the security 
boundaries that software took for granted. Some defences have already been introduced, 
but other areas could do with further hardening. Additionally, we should look for 
ways to reduce the overheads where possible.


Xen Toolstacks

At the moment, we have a binary xl, which can be run; and we have libxl, which links 
against libxc and various other libraries, which must match 100% the hypervisor version. 
We have python and partial golang bindings for some of these libraries, but these may 
break and need recompilation when upgrading to a new version of Xen. This session is 
to discuss what, if anything, to do as a result of this.

A couple of options:

Make a daemon which links against libxl and exposes that functionality in a 
backwards-compatible manner

Make the Xen ABI fully backwards compatible, so that upgrades to Xen will work with 
older libraries


Xen Distros

Xen is packaged on several different distributions: CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and 
Arch. This is an opportunity for distro package maintianers (at minimum George 
Dunlap, who maintains the CentOS Xen packages) and distro package users to get 
together and talk about best practices and how things can be improved.


Live Updating Xen

Live-Updating Xen is replacing the running Xen hypervisor in-place on a system 
without guests noticing.

This feature does not yet exist - it's very early days to get involved and design 
the solution. Following up from the talk on Wednesday, we'll use this slot to talk 
about use-cases, how much and what will be of interest to the community, and 
design discussions on the feature.

For notes, see


There is an interest on Arm to support virtio on Xen. This would allow us to 
leverage existing PV protocols (e.g virgil 3d) and offering an easy way for 
users to migrate to Xen.

The topics expected to be discussed during the sessions are:

   - Transport to be used
   - How to prevent backend to access all the guest memory
   - Sketch a plan and potential contributors

For notes, see

Technical debt in the Xen ecosystem (inc libxc/xenstored discussion)

Xen has evolved over time, but there are areas of technical debt which have built 
up and are getting in the way.

For notes, see

Rust and Xen

Discussing the usage of Rust with Xen. Rust is a safe systems language with a 
focus on zero-cost abstractions. A low level effort is underway to provide 
native bindings to the hypercall ABI to allow native simple recompiling of 
Rust programs as unikernels.

For notes, see

Sessions without published Notes

A Journey through Unikraft's Build System

The purpose of this session is to give a tutorial on how to write Unikraft Makefiles and 
Configuration files. This task is needed when developing or porting applications or libraries 
with Unikraft.

Exposing hardware-backed CPU timers to limit overhead from Xen's software timers

Problem to Solve
Software-based virtual timers implemented in Xen are a source of overhead and non-determinism 
for virtualized applications. For some industries and use cases, these observables effects 
prevent Xen from being used - performance guarantees and determinism trump almost all other 
matters in some applications.

Ryan Thibodeaux and Christopher Clark seek to host a design session to discuss a proposal 
for exposing hardware-backed CPU timers to guests, with an initial emphasis on Intel CPUs 
and Linux guests. The approach considered would selectively expose the local APIC timers 
in each Intel CPU core, thereby allowing Linux guests to directly utilize high-resolution 
timers in hardware.

The proposed approach would likely entail a new guest configuration option that would control 
access to hardware timers. It is expected that the feature would be available to specific 
configurations where side-effects and guest features are limited, e.g., CPU pinned guests 
using the NULL scheduler and without migration support.

Attendee Contributions
Ryan and Christopher seek feedback and guidance from both the Xen and Linux maintainers. 
Ryan and Christopher will present an initial approach to expose CPU / hardware-backed 
timers (likely including patches for both projects). It is expected that the audience 
will review the design concepts and help to identify risks and limitations of this approach.

Ideally, the design session will conclude with a decision on the feasibility of an 
approach to improve timer performance and identify the configuration options to extend 
or add in support of this approach.

Ryan Thibodeaux has already submitted a related patch to the Linux kernel project that 
allows a guest kernel to change (at boot) the minimum timer resolution in the kernel (see https://github.com/torvalds/linux/commit/2ec16bc0fc7ab544f2d405fd4fdd0d717c5ec0c5). 
This mirrors an existing feature in the Xen hypervisor (the "timer_slop" Xen option).

LivePatch improvements and features

Development plans for LivePatch on Xen:

Support for module parameters
Additional hooks support
Concept of expectations
inline assembly patching
Replaceable apply/revert actions
Fixes and improvements for stacked modules

Xen Adventures in Edge Computing

Since Xen's origin in cloud computing, the bare-metal hypervisor has been applied 
to desktops, network middleboxes, vehicles, aerospace, accelerator, graphics and 
other "edge" applications. Vendors have applied Xen in a range of system architectures, 
for performance, security, safety, reliability, power and other axes of optimization.

In long-lived business workflows at the power-constrained edge, domain-specific Xen 
and guest configurations have different priorities than general-purpose Linux 
distributions and cloud platforms. As each vendor's product team earns hard-won 
platform lessons in their domain, how can reusable knowledge be shared with Xen, 
guest and hardware developers in neighboring domains?

Until now, the answer has been fragmentation of the Xen ecosystem, with Xen Summit 
bridging some gaps. Can we borrow from the anti-fragmentation techniques of the 
KVM community, including the rust-vmm "building blocks" approach employed by RedHat, 
AWS, Google and Intel? Can OSS subsets of code, config, policy, build and test 
infrastructures can be shared by multi-domain, Xen-based embedded products?

If you are working with Xen in unusual applications, this session may be of interest.