Utilizing IOMMUs for Virtualization in Linux and Xen

IOMMUs are hardware devices that translate device DMA addresses to proper machine physical addresses. IOMMUs have long been used for RAS (prohibiting devices from DMA'ing into the wrong memory) and for performance optimization (avoiding bounce buffers and simplifying scatter/gather). With the increasing emphasis on virtualization, IOMMUs from IBM, Intel, and AMD are being used and re-designed in new ways, e.g., to enforce isolation between multiple operating systems with direct device access. These new IOMMUs and their usage scenarios have a profound impact on some of the OS and hypervisor abstractions and implementation.

We describe the issues and design alternatives of kernel and hypervisor support for new IOMMU designs. We present the design and implementation of the changes made to Linux (some of which have already been merged into the mainline kernel) and Xen, as well as our proposed roadmap. We discuss how the interfaces and implementation can adapt to upcoming IOMMU designs and to tune performance for different workload/reliability/security scenarios. We conclude with a description of some of the key research and development challenges new IOMMUs present.

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