Hardware virtualization solutions provide users with benefits ranging from application isolation through server consolidation to improved disaster recovery and faster server provisioning. While hardware assistance for virtualization is supported by all major processor architectures, including Intel, ARM, PowerPC & MIPS, these extensions are targeted at virtualization of the same architecture, e.g. an x86 guest on an x86 host system. Existing techniques for cross-architecture virtualization, e.g. an ARM guest on an x86 host, still incur a substantial overhead for CPU, memory and I/O virtualization due to the necessity for software emulation of these mismatched system components. In this article we present a new hardware accelerated hypervisor called CAPTIVE, employing a range of novel techniques, which exploit existing hardware virtualization extensions for improving the performance of full-system cross-platform virtualization. We illustrate how (1) guest MMU events and operations can be mapped onto host memory virtualization extensions, eliminating the need for costly software MMU emulation, (2) a block-based DBT engine inside the virtual machine can improve CPU virtualization performance, (3) memory mapped guest I/O can be efficiently translated to fast I/O specific calls to emulated devices, and (4) the cost for asynchronous guest interrupts can be reduced. For an ARM-based Linux guest system running on an x86 host with Intel VT support we demonstrate application performance levels, based on SPEC CPU2006 benchmarks, of up to 5.88x over state-of-the-art QEMU and 2.5x on average, achieving a guest dynamic instruction throughput of up to 1280 MIPS and 915.52 MIPS, on average.
Hardware accelerated cross-architecture full-system virtualization
In ACM Transactions on Architecture and Code Optimization (TACO)