This is part two of my blog post about Kernel-Virtual Machine (KVM) on a 32-Bit ARM architecture. The post is meant as a starting point for those who want to play with KVM and provide a useful collection of Qemu commands for virtualization.
Virtualization host setup
The Kernel configuration I used for my platforms Host kernel can be found here. Since I run my experiments on a Toradex Colibri iMX7D module, I started with the v4.1 configuration of the BSP kernel and updated that to v4.8 plus enabled KVM as well as KSM (Kernel same-page merging).
As root file system I use a slightly modified version of the Ångström distributions “development-image”, version 2015.12 (built from scratch with OpenEmbedded). Any recent ARM root file system should do it. I let Qemu v2.6.0 preinstall (by just adding “qemu” to the image and specifying ANGSTROM_QEMU_VERSION = “2.6.0” in conf/distro/angstrom-v2015.12.conf).
Virtualization guest setup
For the virtualization guest setup I was looking for something minimalistic. I uploaded the compiled binary of the Kernel (as tared zImage) and initramfs (as cpio.gz).
I built a custom kernel directly using v4.7 sources and a modified/stripped down version of the vexpress_defconfig (virt_guest_defconfig). I found it useful to look into Qemu’s “virt” machine setup code (hw/arm/virt.c) to understand what peripherals are actually emulated (and hence what drivers are actually required). Read more »
The newer ARMv7 Cortex-A class cores such Cortex-A7, A15 and A17 come with a virtualization extensions which allow to use KVM (kernel virtual machine). The NXP i.MX 7Dual SoC which I worked with lately includes the ARM Cortex-A7 CPU. I went ahead and tried to bring up KVM on i.MX 7. I was not really familiar with the ARMv7 virtualization architecture, so I had to read up on some concepts. This post summarizes what I learned and gives a big picture of software support.
The Hypervisor mode
To provide hardware support for full CPU virtualization an additional privilege level is required. User-space (PL0) uses the SVC (Supervisor) instruction to switch to kernel-space (PL1, SVC mode). A similar separation between Kernel and hypervisor is required. The ARMv7 architecture with virtualization extension calls this privilege level PL2 or HYP mode.
Linux with KVM for ARM uses this mode to provide CPU virtualization. The CPU needs to be in HYP mode when Linux is booting so KVM can make use of the extension. How KVM uses the HYP mode in detail is explained in this excellent LWN article. After building a kernel with KVM support, I encountered this problem first: By default, the system did boot in SVC mode.
Brought up 2 CPUs
CPU: All CPU(s) started in SVC mode.
kvm : HYP mode not available
Secure and Non-Secure world
ARMv7 privilege levels
To understand how to switch into Hypervisor mode, one needs to understand the whole privilege level architecture first. Notable here is that on ARMv7 CPU’s the HYP mode is only available in non-secure mode, by design. Any hypervisor needs to operate in non-secure mode, there is no virtualization extension in secure mode. Read more »