SERIES: Linux Support at Comtrol – Part II

Linux Virtualization with Comtrol Products: Extending hardware to serve a wider purpose


Comtrol products work very well in a Linux virtual machine / Hypervisor environment. Below I will outline how some of our customers are extending the use of a DeviceMaster® or a RocketPort® uPCI / RocketPort® Infinity / RocketPort® Express by using a virtual machine solution called Xen.

– Nick Thompson

Xen PCI Pass Through and the advantages offered to our uPCI / PCIe offerings:

Xen is by far the most simple Linux virutualization solution regarding PCI Pass Through. PCI Pass Through comes in handy in that we are able to offer the PCI bus of the ‘Bare Metal’ Hypervisor  /  O/S install up to the Virtual Machines running on the Hypervisor. This allows us a lot of possibilities.

One of these possibilities, and one that we’ve had customers use before, is the ability to give 4 machine 4 serial ports each off of a 16 port card, or 8 machine 4 ports off of a 32 port card, etc. This, in the end, allows you a very large number of virtual machines; who all may be in need of a serial port or four (or more) to connect to whatever serial devices you may be using.

Xen working with the DeviceMaster: Simple, yet elegant:

Xen allows internal to the Hypervisor network traffic to communicate on virtual network interface cards inside of the Hypervisor itself. That traffic is then allowed to communicate into what is essentially a virtual switch which allows this traffic out to the real world network interface card, thus allowing traffic from a virtual machine with no physical network interface to communicate with a DeviceMaster which is on a switch connected to the physical, bare metal PC – and all with ease.

Effectively using all your resources: Xen and Comtrol

By making use of Xen, a company is able to stretch not only the use of one PC and its CPU power to make what are essentially multiple PCs – but also to stretch the number of ports on a DeviceMaster or RocketPort product out to multiple virtual machines. This is largely important as far as making full use of a company’s hardware, and I find that customers make good use of resources once a situation like this has been planned out and set up.

Xen in pictures: Understanding the basics of Virtualization with Xen:

Below you’ll see the Host Hardware (bare metal machine / PC) with its ram, hard drives and pieces of real hardware—its PCI bus and Network Interface Card, etc. These are ‘exported’ via the Hypervisor layer to the various virtual machines. (vm0, vm1, vmN, etc.) The control domain is there to handle the Virtual Machines themselves.

Xen Diagram

Xen and Comtrol hardware go well together, and can be leveraged to save money and make the best use of a companies hardware; to squeeze out extra performance enough from resources that are being unused to create Virtual Machines that wouldn’t have existed without this setup. This is a huge leap in cost effectiveness of hardware, and we will continue to see Virtualization shape the map of resource usage in the future. Comtrol will be here to help you manage your resources in the best manner possible.

If you have any questions whatsoever regarding Linux support, please contact Nick Thompson with Technical Support at [email protected] or (763) 957.6138.


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