Evaluating Nested Virtualization Support

Sam Verboven, Ruben Van den Bossche, Olivier Berghmans, Kurt Vanmechelen, and Jan Broeckhove


Virtualization, Hypervisor, Nesting, Cloud Computing


Recent evolutions in the hard- and software used to virtualize x86 architectures have led to a rising popularity for numerous virtualization products and services. Virtualization has become a common layer between an operating system and physical hardware. Virtualized systems have already transparently replaced many physical server setups while virtual machines themselves are increasingly popular as a means to package, distribute and rapidly deploy software. Nested virtualization --running a virtual machine inside another virtual machine-- seems a logical next step. Presently, however, there is little to no information available on nested virtualization support by widely used virtualization applications such as VMware, VirtualBox, Xen or KVM. In this contribution, we evaluate the feasibility of nested virtualization using a range of currently available hard- and software products. We briefly explain the different techniques behind the tested virtualization software and an analysis is made whether particular nested virtualization setups should be feasible. All theoretically possible options are explored and the results are presented and analyzed. We conclude with a presentation of the results of some initial performance experiments. Our results show that nested virtualization is currently possible in selected combinations with promising results regarding recent evolutions in hardware assisted virtualization.

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