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Xen in EFI

Xen 4.3 and later can be built as EFI binaries. Xen 4.5 can be built as an EFI binary under ARM.

Linux 3.17 and later when built with CONFIG_XEN_EFI can be booted under Xen in EFI platform.

Xen does support verifying of payloads, such as the initial kernel and its ramdisk via the Shim protocol (GUID: 0x605dab50, 0xe046, 0x4300, {0xab, 0xb6, 0x3d, 0xd8, 0x10, 0xdd, 0x8b, 0x23).

For shim repo, please see [[1]shim].

Compiling Xen as EFI

Compiling under x86

During the compilation process most of the Xen hypervisor code is compiled using the normal compiler (GCC). Only during the link-time do we employ the EFI linker to built an EFI binary.

As such, you can use the GCC crosstool chain (hard) [UEFI link]

Or use the mechanism that Fedora 20 and later have to build EFI binaries:

  • Install mingw64-binutil.
  • Patch Xen source with [[2]xen.fedora.efi.build.patch] patch.
  • Set LD_EFI environment variable: export LD_EFI=/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/bin/ld
  • Compile Xen. You should see in the xen directory the xen.efi file.

In either way, you will have an xen.efi file.

Compiling under ARM

From: [[3]efi.html]: For arm64, the PE/COFF header is open-coded in assembly, so no toolchain support for PE/COFF is required. Also, the PE/COFF header co-exists with the normal Image format, so a single binary may be booted as an Image file or as an EFI application.

Booting Xen under EFI platform

There are two ways of booting Xen:

  • From the EFI platform - which shows up in BIOS boot menu.
  • Using an bootloader (such as GRUB2)

Xen as EFI binary (loading)

Xen.efi as an EFI binary can be executed by the EFI firmware immediately. As the firmware does not provide an command line (nor would you want to have it), Xen expects an configuration file to tell it what initial domain (and ramdisk) to load afterwards. This [[4]configuration file] must reside in the same directory as the xen.efi. Also the payloads (vmlinuz and ramdisk) MUST also reside in said directory.

The boot mechanism is simple:

EFI firmware => Xen.efi [loads vmlinuz and ramdisk and executes vmlinuz]

One can put the files in the /EFI/Boot and with efibootmgr configure the system to boot it:

efibootmgr -w -L Xen "\EFI\BOOT\xen.efi" -c which will produce a new boot target (for example):

[root@localhost EFI]# ls /boot/efi/EFI/Xen
initramfs-3.17.1-302.fc21.x86_64.img  vmlinuz-3.17.1-302.fc21.x86_64  xen.cfg  xen.efi
[root@localhost Xen]# efibootmgr -w -L Xen "\EFI\Xen\xen.efi" -c
BootCurrent: 0000
Timeout: 0 seconds
BootOrder: 0005,0001,0002,0003,0004,0000
Boot0000* Fedora
Boot0001* UEFI: ASUS    DRW-24B1ST
Boot0002* CD/DVD Drive 
Boot0003* Hard Drive 
Boot0004* Network Card 
Boot0005* Xen

Xen as gz binary

GRUB2 loader when built as an EFI binary can load various OS-es. The most common one is Linux where it uses the linuxefi GRUB module. However GRUB2 also has support for multiboot protocol which is what Xen uses. Sadly v1 of multiboot API does not have enough data to provide information to Xen under the EFI platform.

As such a [[5]proposal] had been discussed to add a multibootv2+EFI API which would provide enough data such that GRUB2's multiboot module could pass that to Xen compiled as ELF binary (.gz).

This would allow:

EFI firmware => GRUB2.EFI -> multiboot2 -> [xen.gz, vmlinuz, ramdisk]

And GRUB2 would be responsible for reading from the ESP the various files and loading them in the memory.

That work has been deferred to Xen 4.6.

As such the current workaround is to use the GRUB2 chainloader. Example:

menuentry "Xen EFI" {

   insmod part_gpt
   insmod search_fs_uuid
   insmod chain
   chainloader (hd0,gpt1)/EFI/XEN/xen.efi