An Open-Source ARM Virtualization System

As ARM CPUs become increasingly common in mobile devices and servers, there is a growing demand for providing the benefits of virtualization for ARM-based devices. We present our experiences building the Linux ARM hypervisor, KVM/ARM, the first full system ARM virtualization solution that can run unmodified guest operating systems on ARM multicore hardware. KVM/ARM introduced various virtualization innovations including split-mode virtualization, allowing a hypervisor to split its execution across CPU modes and be integrated into the Linux kernel. This allowed KVM/ARM to leverage existing Linux hardware support and functionality to simplify hypervisor development and maintainability while utilizing ARM hardware virtualization extensions to run virtual machines with comparable performance to native execution. KVM/ARM has been successfully merged into the mainline Linux kernel, and has been widely adopted as the virtualization platform of choice for ARM. We provide the first measurements on real hardware of a complete hypervisor using ARM hardware virtualization support. Our results demonstrate that KVM/ARM has modest virtualization performance and power costs, and can achieve lower performance and power costs compared to x86-based Linux virtualization on multicore hardware.

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