Current cloud computing research is focused on providing a scalable, on-demand, clustered computing environment. One of the major challenges in this field is bridging the gap between virtualization techniques and high performance network I/O retrieval techniques. This study endeavors to address this seemingly contradictory issue.

Virtualizing physical components requires hardware-aided software hypervisors to control I/O device access. These hypervisors provide abstract methods for Virtual Machines to utilize the available resources. Data access in HPC is conducted via User-level Networking and OS-bypass techniques, through which one may achieve high bandwidth and low-latency communication between nodes. As a result, line-rate bandwidth in 10GbE interconnects can only be realized by alleviating software overheads imposed by the virtualization abstraction layer, namely the driver domain model, the hypervisor, and so on.

Previous work has also concluded that the integration of virtualization semantics in specialized software running on Network Processors can isolate and finally minimize the VM hypervisor overheard associated with device access.

We design a framework in which Virtual Machines efficiently share network I/O devices bypassing overheads imposed by the hypervisor. Specifically, our framework allows VMs to optimally exchange messages with the network via a high performance NIC, leaving security and isolation issues to the hypervisor. This mechanism, however, necessitates hardware support in order to provide packet matching on the NIC; for instance, packet delivery to unprivileged guests is realized without the intervention of the VMM or the driver domain.

Myrinet NICs offload the messaging protocol processing on the interface and provide an aspect of virtualization semantics. This feature allows us to integrate these semantics in the Xen netfront / netback drivers and present a mechanism to transfer messages efficiently between VMs and the network. With MyriXen, multiple Virtual Machines that reside in one or more Xen VM containers use the MX message passing protocol as if the NIC was assigned solely to them.

The driver domain model holds physical to unprivileged virtual address mappings and vise-versa. The privileged guest runs a netback driver, which can communicate with the VMs via multiple event channels. A netfront driver residing in each VM is responsible for initializing each transfer, while protocol processing runs on the NIC itself as in the standard model. All data transfers between the VM and the NIC are performed via a direct data path using the mappings provided by the driver domain model. In this way, the hypervisor and the privileged guest are only aware of the initiation and the completion of send or receive events. Thus, the hypervisor, the driver domain model, and the netback / netfront drivers are omitted from the critical path that affects throughput and latency.


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Topic revision: r1 - 2009-09-21 - AnastasiosNanos

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