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The network stack architecture is under a revolution because the network is becoming faster than the CPU. Since the breakdown of Dennard scaling in 2006, the single-threaded performance of a CPU has stagnated [Rupp, 2014]. Meanwhile, NICs are getting faster and faster. 10 GbE NICs are a commodity today, but at high-end NICs are already at 200 GbE and improving further. The faster the NIC becomes, the smaller the time budget to process an individual packet is. For example, on a 10 GbE NIC, the time between two 1538-byte packets is 1230 ns [Corbet, 2015]. However, with 200 GbE, the…

Hypervisors are a virtualization technique that powers cloud computing infrastructure like Amazon EC2 and Google Compute Engine. Although container virtualization technology like Docker and Kubernetes have taken the spotlight recently, containers are often deployed on top of hypervisors on the cloud.

In this article, we will first outline the architecture of classical trap-and-emulate hypervisors that were invented in the 1970s. We then describe how hypervisors evolved from the 1970s to today’s cloud computing era. Finally, we will look at future trends that affect hypervisor design.

(This article was inspired by an awesome talk on Amazon’s Nitro project by Anthony Liguori…

Pekka Enberg

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