Unifying Virtual Drivers

Para-virtualization presents a wide variety of issues to Operating Systems. One of these is presenting virtual devices to the para-virtualized operating system, as well as the device drivers which handle these devices. With the increase of virtualization in the Linux kernel, there has been an influx of unique drivers to handle all of these new virtual devices, and there are more devices on the way. The current state of Linux has four in-tree versions of a virtual network device (IBM pSeries Virtual Ethernet, IBM iSeries Virtual Ethernet, UML Virtual Network Device, and TUN/TAP) and numerous out-of-tree versions (one for Xen, VMware, 3leaf, and many others). Also, there are a similar number of block device drivers.

This paper will go into why there are so many, and the differences and commonalities between them. It will go into the benefits and drawbacks of combining them, their requirements, and any design issues. It will discuss the changes to the Linux kernel to combine the virtual network and virtual block devices into two common devices. We will discuss how to adapt the existing virtual devices and write drivers to take advantage of this new interface.

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