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Subject[announce] [patch] KVM paravirtualization for Linux

i'm pleased to announce the first release of paravirtualized KVM (Linux
under Linux), which includes support for the hardware cr3-cache feature
of Intel-VMX CPUs. (which speeds up context switches and TLB flushes)

the patch is against 2.6.20-rc3 + KVM trunk and can be found at:

Some aspects of the code are still a bit ad-hoc and incomplete, but the
code is stable enough in my testing and i'd like to have some feedback.

Firstly, here are some numbers:

2-task context-switch performance (in microseconds, lower is better):

native: 1.11
Qemu: 61.18
KVM upstream: 53.01
KVM trunk: 6.36
KVM trunk+paravirt/cr3: 1.60

i.e. 2-task context-switch performance is faster by a factor of 4, and
is now quite close to native speed!

"hackbench 1" (utilizes 40 tasks, numbers in seconds, lower is better):

native: 0.25
Qemu: 7.8
KVM upstream: 2.8
KVM trunk: 0.55
KVM paravirt/cr3: 0.36

almost twice as fast.

"hackbench 5" (utilizes 200 tasks, numbers in seconds, lower is better):

native: 0.9
Qemu: 35.2
KVM upstream: 9.4
KVM trunk: 2.8
KVM paravirt/cr3: 2.2

still a 30% improvement - which isnt too bad considering that 200 tasks
are context-switching in this workload and the cr3 cache in current CPUs
is only 4 entries.

the patchset does the following:

- it provides an ad-hoc paravirtualization hypercall API between a Linux
guest and a Linux host. (this will be replaced with a proper
hypercall later on.)

- using the hypercall API it utilizes the "cr3 target cache" feature in
Intel VMX CPUs, and extends KVM to make use of that cache. This
feature allows the avoidance of expensive VM exits into hypervisor
context. (The guest needs to be 'aware' and the cache has to be
shared between the guest and the hypervisor. So fully emulated OSs
wont benefit from this feature.)

- a few simpler paravirtualization changes are done for Linux guests: IO
port delays do not cause a VM exit anymore, the i8259A IRQ controller
code got simplified (this will be replaced with a proper, hypercall
based and host-maintained IRQ controller implementation) and TLB
flushes are more efficient, because no cr3 reads happen which would
otherwise cause a VM exit. These changes have a visible effect
already: they reduce qemu's CPU usage when a guest idles in HLT, by
about 25%. (from ~20% CPU usage to 14% CPU usage if an -rt guest has

Paravirtualization is triggered via the kvm_paravirt=1 boot option (for
now, this too is ad-hoc) - if that is passed then the KVM guest will
probe for paravirtualization availability on the hypervisor side - and
will use it if found. (If the guest does not find KVM-paravirt support
on the hypervisor side then it will continue as a fully emulated guest.)

Issues: i only tested this on 32-bit VMX. (64-bit should work with not
too many changes, the paravirt.c bits can be carried over to 64-bit
almost as-is. But i didnt want to spread the code too wide.)

Comments, suggestions are welcome!

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