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Is Your Car Your Next Hypervisor?

In the last decade, we have seen virtualization fully mature in the data center and now it is beginning to transition into the embedded space.

Embedded systems are systems where the software stack is specifically designed and integrated with the hardware to provide a specific function.

Since 2011 when the Xen port to ARMv7 with Virtualization Extensions was announced, the Xen Community has been working tirelessly to provide the best Open Source hypervisor for embedded and automotive applications, not just on ARMv7, but also ARMv8, x86-64, and RISC-V.

Why Xen?

Xen is key to enabling any modern embedded deployment as it allows a larger operating system, such as Linux, to run alongside a smaller RTOS, such as Zephyr.

Xen ensures freedom from interference and real-time isolation: Zephyr meets stringent real-time deadlines while Linux handles more complex management software and cloud connectivity.

Here are a few highlights of features that helped make Xen successful in embedded:

  • Real-time and cache isolation in software (cache coloring)
  • Fast parallel VMs booting and static partitioning (dom0less)
  • Virtio and Xen PV Drivers support with freedom from interference
  • Cortex-R52 and R82 support, Xen on MPU systems

Today Xen is used in anything from 5G antennas, industrial robots, medical devices, and cars.

Getting Xen Safety Certified

The Xen Community is working on making Xen easier to safety-certify. AMD is currently sponsoring a series of activities around Xen and safety targeting ISO 26262 ASIL D and IEC 61508 SIL 3 both ARM and AMD x86.

Some examples are a MISRA C course for key community members and MISRA C compliance of the Xen upstream codebase. A safety-certified Xen enables it to be used in places where human lives could be at risk.

The Xen Project Users

The Xen Project’s growth in embedded and automotive has a fleet of organizations that contribute to its continued growth in these environments, including GlobalLogic, EPAM, ARM, Qualcomm, Bosch Car Multimedia Gmbh and more.

The Xen Project hypervisor is already being used in embedded and automotive systems, including GlobalLogic’s Nautilus, EPAM Fusion Cloud, BAE Systems, Dornerworks, and Star Labs.