Modern computers are sufficiently powerful to use virtualization to present the illusion of many smaller virtual machines (VMs), each running a separate operating system instance. Successful partitioning of a machine to support the concurrent execution of multiple operating systems poses several challenges. Firstly, virtual machines must be isolated from one another: it is not acceptable for the execution of one to adversely affect the performance of another. This is particularly true when virtual machines are owned by mutually untrusting users. Secondly, it is necessary to support a variety of different operating systems to accommodate the heterogeneity of popular applications. Thirdly, the performance overhead introduced by virtualization should be small.
Xen is a virtual machine monitor for x86 that supports execution of multiple guest operating systems with unprecedented levels of performance and resource isolation. Xen is Open Source software, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License. We have a fully functional ports of Linux 2.4 and 2.6 running over Xen, and regularly use it for running demanding applications like MySQL, Apache and PostgreSQL. Any Linux distribution (RedHat, SuSE, Debian, Mandrake) should run unmodified over the ported OS.
In addition to Linux, members of Xen's user community have contributed or are working on ports to other operating systems such as NetBSD (Christian Limpach), FreeBSD (Kip Macy) and Plan 9 (Ron Minnich).