Beyond that, what interested me most about this latest release was the introduction of new virtualization capabilities -- chief among them, a new BSD hypervisor technology dubbed "Bhyve," which creates yet another alternative platform to the open source Xen and KVM hypervisors commonly used within the Linux community. While not as advanced, the new hypervisor does offer an original design, maintains a GPL-free, BSD license, and is well-coded with a very small footprint. Hopefully, it too will continue to advance and improve much like Xen and KVM have over the years.
So far, because of Bhyve's different approach to its virtualization hardware architecture, the BSD hypervisor is limited in hardware choice; it requires an Intel CPU that supports VT-x and Extended Page Table (EPT), Intel's nested paging feature found in Nehalem core or later CPUs. The project is, however, looking for ways to expand support to older CPUs without nested paging virtualization requirements.
Out of the gate, some of the current features or capabilities found within this new hypervisor include:
- Support for a maximum of 16 vCPUs assigned to an individual virtual machine
- No hard limit of RAM currently assigned to an individual guest machine
- Support for ACPI and a clean and proper "power down" at shutdown, with full suspend, resume and live migration under development
- PCI passthrough on systems that have Intel IOMMU (aka VT-d)
- Memory overcommit where guest memory is pageable, allowing virtual machines to be allocated more memory than is physically available on the host
- Additional support for VirtIO net/block, AHCI SATA/ATAPI interfaces, and serial PUC/LPC device support
The current version of Bhyve also supports a limited set of guest operating systems. As of this writing, the hypervisor supports any version of FreeBSD amd64 with VirtIO support, plus OpenBSD amd64 and GNU/Linux amd64 operating systems. Illumos support is under active development, and Windows and NetBSD support are being researched.
Beyond trying to break into an already commoditized hypervisor market, FreeBSD 10 will have to grapple with finding a place within the new cloud-driven data center. Server operating systems and modern data centers are undergoing a technological transformation, and applications are becoming the focal point in a public and private cloud environment.
The question that begs to be answered: Can FreeBSD and Bhyve bring enough to the table in this new world to warrant ongoing development of this hypervisor, or is this just a valiant effort with bad timing?
This article, "FreeBSD 10 introduces brand-new virtualization platform," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.