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Xen 3.0 Virtualization User Guide
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1.2 Operating System Support

Para-virtualization permits very high performance virtualization, even on architectures like x86 that are traditionally very hard to virtualize.

This approach requires operating systems to be ported to run on Xen. Porting an OS to run on Xen is similar to supporting a new hardware platform, however the process is simplified because the para-virtual machine architecture is very similar to the underlying native hardware. Even though operating system kernels must explicitly support Xen, a key feature is that user space applications and libraries do not require modification.

With hardware CPU virtualization as provided by Intel VT and AMD Pacifica technology, the ability to run an unmodified guest OS kernel is available. No porting of the OS is required, although some additional driver support is necessary within Xen itself. Unlike traditional full virtualization hypervisors, which suffer a tremendous performance overhead, the combination of Xen and VT or Xen and Pacifica technology complement one another to offer superb performance for para-virtualized guest operating systems and full support for unmodified guests running natively on the processor. Full support for VT and Pacifica chipsets will appear in early 2006.

Paravirtualized Xen support is available for increasingly many operating systems: currently, mature Linux support is available and included in the standard distribution. Other OS ports--including NetBSD, FreeBSD and Solaris x86 v10--are nearing completion.

Xen 3.0 Virtualization User Guide
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