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Beautiful Architecture

Cover of Beautiful Architecture by Georgios Gousios... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.


The idea of paravirtualization is to remove all the features of an architecture (such as the x86) that are difficult or expensive to virtualize, and to replace these with paravirtual operations that communicate directly with the virtualization layer. The technique was first used in Denali, a virtual machine monitor that hosts the specially written Ilwaco guest operating system. Xen went one step further by running paravirtualized versions of commodity operating systems.[32]

Paravirtualizing an operating system involves rewriting all of its code that is incompatible with the paravirtualized architecture. Performance improves because the changes are made in advance, by developers, rather than at runtime. To demonstrate the power of paravirtualization, the Xen team first required an operating system that they could change. Fortunately, Linux was available, open source, and widely used. Only 2,995 lines in the Linux kernel were modified or added to make it run on Xen: this represents less than 2% of the x86 Linux codebase. With paravirtualization (as with virtualization), all of the existing user applications can continue to be used without modification, so the overall modifications are not too invasive.

To achieve paravirtualization, you must either write the operating system yourself (the Denali approach), modify an existing open source operating system (such as Linux or BSD), or convince the developers of a proprietary operating system that paravirtualizing their ...

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