Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) Benchmark Results

General Approach

Over the past week, I have been doing benchmarking on KVM performance. The reason for this is that I want to use KVM on my new server and need to know what the impact of KVM is on performance and how significant the effect of certain optimizations is.

Googling about KVM performance, I found out that a number of optimizations can be useful for this:

  • huge pages: By default, linux uses 4K memory pages but it is possible to use much larger memory pages as well (i.e. 2MB) for virtual machines, increasing performance, see for instance here for a more elaborate explanation.
  • para-virtualized drivers (virtio): Linux includes virtio which is a standardized API for virtualized drivers. Using this API, it becomes possible to (re)use the same para-virtualized drivers for IO for different virtualization mechanism or different versions of the same vritualization mechanism. Para-virtualized drivers are attractive because they eliminate the overhead of device emulation. Device emulation is the approach whereby the guest emulates real existing hardware¬† (e.g. RTL8139 network chipset) so that a guest can run unmodified. Para-virtualized drivers can be used for disk and/or network.
  • IO Scheduler (elevator): Linux provided the completely fair queueing scheduler (CFQ), deadline scheduler, and noop scheduler. The question is what an optimal scheduler for the host is in combination with that for the guest.

The tests will include specific benchmarks focused on disk and network, s well as more general benchmarks such as unixbench and a kernel compilation..

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