Optimizing Nested Virtualization Performance Using Direct Virtual Hardware

Session: Virtualized environments--Take the blue pill.

Authors: Jin Tack Lim (Columbia University); Jason Nieh (Columbia University)

Nested virtualization, running virtual machines and hypervisors on top of other virtual machines and hypervisors, is increasingly important because of the need to deploy virtual machines running software stacks on top of virtualized cloud infrastructure. However, performance remains a key impediment to further adoption as application workloads can perform many times worse than native execution. To address this problem, we introduce DVH (Direct Virtual Hardware), a new approach that enables a host hypervisor, the hypervisor that runs directly on the hardware, to directly provide virtual hardware to nested virtual machines without the intervention of multiple levels of hypervisors. We introduce four DVH mechanisms, virtual-passthrough, virtual timers, virtual inter-processor interrupts, and virtual idle. DVH provides virtual hardware for these mechanisms that mimics the underlying hardware and in some cases adds new enhancements that leverage the flexibility of software without the need for matching physical hardware support. We have implemented DVH in the Linux KVM hypervisor. Our experimental results show that DVH can provide near native execution speeds and improve KVM performance by more than an order of magnitude on real application workloads.