The Linux Foundation has announced a new hypervisor for use in embedded and internet of things scenarios.

Project ACRN (pronounced “acorn”) will offer a “hypervisor, and its device model complete with rich I/O mediators.”

There’ll also be “a Linux-based Service OS” and the ability to “run guest operating systems (another Linux instance, an RTOS, Android, or other operating systems) simultaneously”.

Xen project logo

Xen Project’s plan after AWS goes KVM: Talk up embedded future


The Linux Foundation already hosts the Xen Project, which has an effort under way to adapt that hypervisor for embedded and automotive applications. Xen has made that effort a priority after Amazon Web Services signalled its hypervisor will not be its long-term choice, as The Reg revealed last year.

But ACRN thinks Xen and other hypervisors built for data centre use can’t do embedded well due to two problems: they’re big, and; they can’t prioritise certain workloads.

ACRN addresses the first issue by being small: the project claims it’ll have just 25,000 lines of code, compared to over 150,000 for data centre hypervisors.

The second issue is important because one target for ACRN is automotive use. Today, cars have several computers linked over a bus. It’s widely envisaged that future cars will have one computer running a hypervisor to isolate workloads, an arrangement that will mean fewer integration hassles and lower costs for auto-makers. ACRN likes that idea, but thinks a hypervisor used in such scenarios needs to prioritise workloads related to safety. Conventional hypervisors can’t do that, so ACRN will so that future in-car computers know when to starve the entertainment system of resources in order to ensure drivers’ or riders’ safety.

Project ACRN schema

Project ACRN’s innards. Click image to embiggen.

ACRN may have another purpose, too: Intel’s responsible for lots of its code and for now it only runs on select Intel PCs. The project’s GitHub page says “We welcome community contributions to help build Project ACRN support for a broad collection of architectures and platforms.” But for now it looks like the ACRN hasn’t fallen far from the x86 tree. Which is good for Xen’s efforts, as it runs on just about anything.

The Register has asked The Linux Foundation how its hypervisor projects interact and will update this story, or pen a new one, if we receive a response. ®

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