Inside KVM: Delving into Internals and Module Interactions


In the realm of virtualization, Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) stands as a pivotal technology, bridging the gap between hardware and software by enabling efficient virtualization on the Linux kernel. Understanding the inner workings of KVM is crucial for both systems administrators and developers. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey to explore the intricate internals and module interactions of KVM, shedding light on its core mechanisms and how different components collaborate to provide a robust virtualization environment.

A Glimpse of Virtualization

Before we dive into the depths of KVM, let’s briefly revisit the concept of virtualization. At its core, virtualization allows multiple virtual machines (VMs) to run on a single physical machine, abstracting and sharing hardware resources efficiently. This is accomplished through a hypervisor, a software layer that manages and orchestrates the VMs.

The Birth of KVM

KVM, introduced as part of the Linux kernel in 2007, brought about a new era in virtualization. Leveraging hardware virtualization extensions like Intel VT-x and AMD-V, KVM offers a performance boost by enabling direct interaction between the VMs and the underlying hardware.

KVM Architecture: Unveiling the Layers

KVM Module: At the heart of KVM lies the kernel module, aptly named kvm.ko, which provides the core virtualization infrastructure. It handles the creation, execution, and management of VMs.

KVM/QEMU Interaction: While KVM handles processor virtualization, QEMU comes into play for device emulation, disk I/O, and other hardware-related tasks. The two collaborate using the KVM/QEMU API to create a complete virtualization solution.

From VM Creation to Execution

VM Creation: Delving into the details of VM creation involves understanding the role of libvirt, a library that offers a higher-level API for managing VMs. We’ll explore how VM parameters are set and how libvirt interacts with KVM to bring a VM to life.

Memory and CPU Management: Once a VM is up and running, KVM manages the allocation of CPU time and memory resources. We’ll dissect how these resources are distributed and how KVM ensures fair sharing among VMs.

Taking a Peek at Performance Optimization

Huge Pages and Memory: One of the ways KVM optimizes performance is through the utilization of huge pages for memory management. We’ll explore why huge pages matter and how KVM leverages them.

CPU Pinning and Overcommitment: To maximize CPU performance and prevent resource bottlenecks, KVM allows CPU pinning and overcommitment strategies. We’ll discuss their significance and implications.

Virtualization Extensions: Nested Virtualization

KVM doesn’t stop at basic virtualization; it supports nested virtualization, enabling VMs within VMs. We’ll unravel the concept of nested virtualization and explore its potential use cases.


Diving into the intricacies of KVM reveals a fascinating landscape of virtualization technology. Understanding the internals and module interactions empowers administrators and developers to make informed decisions, optimize performance, and build robust virtualization solutions. With KVM continuing to evolve, this knowledge opens doors to innovation in the world of virtualization.

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