Multi-Hypervisor Virtual Machines: Enabling an Ecosystem of Hypervisor-level Services


Kartik Gopalan, Rohit Kugve, Hardik Bagdi, and Yaohui Hu, Binghamton University; Daniel Williams and Nilton Bila, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center


Public cloud software marketplaces already offer users a wealth of choice in operating systems, database management systems, financial software, and virtual networking, all deployable and configurable at the click of a button. Unfortunately, this level of customization has not extended to emerging hypervisor-level services, partly because traditional virtual machines (VMs) are fully controlled by only one hypervisor at a time. Currently, a VM in a cloud platform cannot concurrently use hypervisor-level services from multiple third-parties in a compartmentalized manner. We propose the notion of a multi-hypervisor VM, which is an unmodified guest that can simultaneously use services from multiple coresident, but isolated, hypervisors. We present a new virtualization architecture, called Span virtualization, that leverages nesting to allow multiple hypervisors to concurrently control a guest’s memory, virtual CPU, and I/O resources. Our prototype of Span virtualization on the KVM/QEMU platform enables a guest to use services such as introspection, network monitoring, guest mirroring, and hypervisor refresh, with performance comparable to traditional nested VMs.

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@inproceedings {203173,
author = {Kartik Gopalan and Rohit Kugve and Hardik Bagdi and Yaohui Hu and Daniel Williams and Nilton Bila},
title = {{Multi-Hypervisor} Virtual Machines: Enabling an Ecosystem of Hypervisor-level Services},
booktitle = {2017 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-38-6},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {235--249},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul

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