Feeds

Citrix and Intel go to bare metal to virtualize PCs

Giving VPro a Type 1 personality

Security for virtualized datacentres

Intel and hypervisor provider Citrix Systems are announcing a joint collaboration that will see a bare-metal hypervisor based on the commercial variant of the Xen hypervisor delivered later this year.

While there are a number of different ways that you can use hypervisors to virtualize your x86 or x64 desktop or laptop computer these days, they all employ what is called a type 2 hypervisor instead of the more robust and secure type 1, or bare metal, hypervisor.

There are lots of ways to give end users a virtual PC, but running a bare-metal hypervisor and its operating systems locally on the machine is the way that companies are probably going to be most comfortable doing it. VMware's Workstation (and its Fusion variant for the Mac), Microsoft's Virtual PC, Parallels' Desktop and Workstation, and Sun's VirtualBox (from the Innotek acquisition), and a number of others all work by loading a hypervisor on top of an operating system and then allowing multiple operating systems to pile into virtual machines running atop the hypervisor.

The underlying operating system - usually Windows, Linux or Mac OS on x64 PCs - provides system services to the VMs, and is a single point of failure and a potential security risk for the virtualized environments. Moreover, operating systems running inside type 2 hypervisors are often clunky and slow.

For security and isolation between VMs, which would allow people to mix personal life and business applications on the same physical machine - something we all do, so don't lie - what you really need is a type 1 hypervisor running on the desktop or laptop machines. So Citrix is teaming up with Intel, which supplies most of the chips used in desktops and laptops, to create a variant of the XenServer hypervisor aimed at PCs.

Under the agreement announced today, the two companies are cooking up a PC hypervisor that will be optimized for Intel's VPro business PC designs and the latest generations of Core 2 and Centrino 2 laptops, which all have the hardware and BIOS features in place to support a hypervisor being buried in their electronics. Significantly, the way Citrix and Intel are doing this, desktops shipped over the past two years and laptops from the last year or so will be able to make use of the Xen desktop hypervisor, not just new machines that start shipping sometime in the second half of the year when this project gets out product.

While Citrix was fired up to be partnering with Intel, the two companies were a little short on the specifics of the agreement and exactly how the hypervisor would be deployed in desktops and laptops. The PC hypervisor will, of course, exploit the VT hardware features in Intel's x64 chips to goose the performance of the Xen hypervisor. Intel expects that its OEM partners will be able to easily pick up this technology and run with it, so presumably Xen will be stored on an internal flash drive inside a machine, much as it is with modern servers using the embedded versions of hypervisors from VMware and Citrix.

The two companies are particularly interested in letting businesses know that the bare-metal hypervisor they are building will allow for encryption of the data that represents an entire machine - a virtual machine is just a monster file on a disk - and that the Trusted Platform Module electronics on VPro motherboards and the related TXT feature that makes use of it will be used by the hypervisor to do this encryption and to otherwise secure the VMs.

Ian Pratt, Xen project founder and the vice president of advanced product for Citrix' Virtualization and Management Division, says that the agreement between Intel and Citrix is not exclusive, and that there are no specific hooks between the VPro electronics and the modified version of the hypervisor. This means you can expect a similar announcement between Intel and VMware soon, and probably one between Intel and Microsoft in the not-too-distant future.

The future Xen PC hypervisor being developed is distinct from XenDesktop, which is the Citrix product for storing virtualized PC servers back in the data center and streaming them down to thin clients or regular PCs. Intel and Citrix expect to be streaming data between PCs and laptops and corporate data centers, just as with XenDesktop, but this time software will be running locally on the PCs instead of back on the servers. That means applications can make use of local hardware, such as USB devices and graphics cards. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
IBM storage revenues sink: 'We are disappointed,' says CEO
Time to put the storage biz up for sale?
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.