Linux kernel now supports OpenRISC, nested virtualization

Linux 3.1 is available at its temporary new home on GitHub

Linus Torvalds has released the next version of the Linux kernel, and with it come virtualization enhancements and support for the emerging OpenRISC processor architecture.

Linux 3.1 also includes updates to graphics drivers that expand its range of 3D image rendering -- and, for the first time, a driver to support use of the Nintendo Wii handheld motion-control device. As usual, the new version also includes many other additional drivers and bug fixes.

Torvalds released the new version during the security session at the Kernel Summit, being held this week in Prague.

This release is notable in that it is the first version to be hosted on distributed code hosting service GitHub, where it will reside while its usual home,, gets revamped after the damage caused by a security breach.

In its new iteration, Linux has support for nested virtualization within the KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor. This feature, built from AMD's Nested VMX, allows a virtual machine to be run from inside another. Linux will also provide KVM with the ability to tap into the SMEP (Supervisory Mode Execute Protection) of Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which should reduce some of the performance overhead typically associated with virtual clients.

Users of the Xen hypervisor get some new features as well: Linux 3.1 will be the first to allow Xen-based virtual machines to directly access devices on a PCI bus, a capability previously only available through a patch. It also folds in Xen's Balloon Driver, which can be used to adjust the amount of working memory used by a virtual machine during operation.

In the realm of processors, Linux 3.1 is the first version that can be run on the 32-bit OpenRISC 1000 family of processors. OpenRISC is a volunteer-driven project to design an open-source processor architecture. Linux 3.1 also supports the newest version of the Oracle Sparc processor, the SPARC-T3 series.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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