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The ADvanced Systems Laboratory (ADSL)
Publication abstract

Antfarm: Tracking Processes in a Virtual Machine Environment

Stephen T. Jones, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau, Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau,
Department of Computer Sciences , University of Wisconsin-Madison


In a virtualized environment, the VMM is the system's primary resource manager. Some services usually implemented at the OS layer, like I/O scheduling or certain kinds of security monitoring, are therefore more naturally implemented inside the VMM. Implementing such services at the VMM layer can be complicated by the lack of OS and application-level knowledge within a VMM. This paper describes techniques that can be used by a VMM to independently overcome part of the "semantic gap" separating it from the guest operating systems it supports. These techniques enable the VMM to track the existence and activities of \emph{ operating system processes}. Antfarm is an implementation of these techniques that works without detailed knowledge of a guest's internal architecture or implementation. An evaluation of Antfarm for two virtualization environments and two operating systems shows that it can accurately infer process events while incurring only a small 2.5% runtime overhead in the worst case. To demonstrate the practical benefits of process information in a VMM we implement an anticipatory disk scheduler at the VMM level. This case study shows that significant disk throughput improvements are possible in a virtualized environment by exploiting process information within a VMM.

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