Comparing Approaches to Virtualized Page Translation in Modern VMMs

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Executive Summary

Virtual machine monitors for modern x86 processors can use a variety of approaches to virtualize address translation. These include the widely-used software approach of shadow paging, with and without caching or prefetching, as well as the widely used hardware approach of nested paging. The authors compare and analyze the measured performance of these approaches on two different VMMs, KVM and Palacios, under a variety of different workloads on physical hardware (AMD Barcelona). They find that which approach is best is very dependent on the workload, and the differences can be quite significant. The difference between the worst and best approach can be as much as a factor of 53, with typical differences being a factor of 2.

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