Re: A proposal - binary

From: Andrew Morton
Date: Fri Aug 04 2006 - 00:22:57 EST

On Thu, 03 Aug 2006 19:52:40 -0700
Jeremy Fitzhardinge <jeremy@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Greg KH wrote:
> > On Thu, Aug 03, 2006 at 12:26:16PM -0700, Zachary Amsden wrote:
> >
> >> Who said that? Please smack them on the head with a broom. We are all
> >> actively working on implementing Rusty's paravirt-ops proposal. It
> >> makes the API vs ABI discussion moot, as it allow for both.
> >>
> >
> > So everyone is still skirting the issue, oh great :)
> >

A reasonable summary. A few touchups:

> I don't really think there's an issue to be skirted here. The current
> plan is to design and implement a paravirt_ops interface, which is a
> typical Linux source-level interface between the bulk of the kernel and
> a set of hypervisor-specific backends. Xen, VMWare and other interested
> parties are working together on this interface to make sure it meets
> everyone's needs (and if you have another hypervisor you'd like to
> support with this interface, we want to hear from you).
> Until VMWare proposed VMI, Xen was the only hypervisor needing support,
> so it was reasonable that the Xen patches just go straight to Xen.

No, even if vmware wasn't on the scene, the proposal to make the
Linux->hypervisor interface be specific to one hypervisor implementation is
a concern. That would remain true if vmware were to suddenly vanish.
It is a major interface, and interfaces are a major issue.

> But
> with paravirtops the result will be more flexible, since a kernel will
> be configurable to run on any combination of supported hypervisor or on
> bare hardware.
> As far as I'm concerned, the issue of whether VMI has a stable ABI or
> not is one which on the VMI side of the paravirtops interface, and it
> doesn't have any wider implications.
> Certainly Xen will maintain a backwards compatible hypervisor interface
> for as long as we want/need to, but that's a matter for our side of
> paravirtops. And the paravirtops interface will change over time as the
> kernel does, and the backends will be adapted to match, either using the
> same ABI to the underlying hypervisor, or an expanded one, or whatever;
> it doesn't matter as far as the rest of the kernel is concerned.
> There's the other question of whether VMI is a suitable interface for
> Xen, making the whole paravirt_ops exercise redundant. Zach and VMWare
> are claiming to have a VMI binding to Xen which is full featured with
> good performance. That's an interesting claim, and I don't doubt that
> its somewhat true. However, they haven't released either code for this
> interface or detailed performance results, so its hard to evaluate.

That was a major goofup from a kernel-development-process POV. They're
working hard to get that code out to us.

> And
> with anything in this area, its always the details that matter: what
> tests, on what hardware, at what scale? Does VMI really expose all of
> Xen's features, or does it just use a bare-minimum subset to get things
> going? And how does the interface fit with short and long term design
> goals?

This is a key issue and to some extent all bets are off until that code
emerges. Because it could be that the VMI->Xen implementation works well,
and that any present shortcomings can be resolved with acceptable effort.

If that happens, it puts a cloud over paravirtops.

But we just don't know any of this until we can get that code into the
right people's hands.

> I don't think anybody is willing to answer these questions with any
> confidence. VMWare's initial VMI proposal was very geared towards their
> particular hypervisor architecture; it has been modified over time to be
> a little closer to Xen's model, in order to efficiently support the Xen
> binding. But Xen and ESX have very different designs and underlying
> philosophies, so I wouldn't expect a single interface to fit comfortably
> with either.

Maybe, maybe not. Until we have an implementation to poke at this is all
speculation. And it is most regrettable that we're being put in a position
where we are forced to speculate.

> As far as LKML is concerned, the only interface which matters is the
> Linux -> <something> interface, which is defined within the scope of the
> Linux development process. That's what paravirt_ops is intended to be.

I must confess that I still don't "get" paravirtops. AFACIT the VMI
proposal, if it works, will make that whole layer simply go away. Which
is attractive. If it works.

> And being a Linux API, paravirt_ops can avoid duplicating other Linux
> interfaces. For example, VMI, like the Xen hypervisor interface, need
> various ways to deal with time. The rest of the kernel needn't know or
> care about those interfaces, because the paravirt backend for each can
> also register a clocksource, or use other kernel APIs to expose that
> interface (some of which we'll probably develop/expand over time as
> needed, but in the normal way kernel interfaces chance).

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at