Live updating operating systems using virtualization

Haibo Chen, Rong Chen, Fengzhe Zhang, Binyu Zang, Pen Chung Yew

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Many critical IT infrastructures require non-disruptive operations. However, the operating systems thereon are far from perfect that patches and upgrades are frequently applied, in order to close vulnerabilities, add new features and enhance performance. To mitigate the loss of availability, such operating systems need to provide features such as live update through which patches and upgrades can be applied without having to stop and reboot the operating system. Unfortunately, most current live updating approaches cannot be easily applied to existing operating systems: some are tightly bound to specific design approaches (e.g. object-oriented); others can only be used under particular circumstances (e.g. quiescence states). In this paper, we propose using virtualization to provide the live update capability. The proposed approach allows a broad range of patches and upgrades to be applied at any time without the requirement of a quiescence state. Moreover, such approach shares good portability for its OS-transparency and is suitable for inclusion in general virtualization systems. We present a working prototype, LUCOS, which supports live update capability on Linux running on Xen virtual machine monitor. To demonstrate the applicability of our approach, we use real-life kernel patches from Linux kernel 2.6.10 to Linux kernel 2.6.11, and apply some of those kernel patches on the fly. Performance measurements show that our implementation incurs negligible performance overhead: a less than 1 % performance degradation compared to a Xen-Linux. The time to apply a patch is also very minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2006
EventVEE 2006 - 2nd International Conference on Virtual Execution Environments - Ottawa, ON, Canada
Duration: Jun 14 2006Jun 16 2006


OtherVEE 2006 - 2nd International Conference on Virtual Execution Environments
CityOttawa, ON


  • Availability
  • Live Update
  • Operating System
  • Virtualization


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