Performance Profiling of Virtual Machines
Profilers based on hardware performance counters are indispensable for performance debugging of complex software systems. All modern processors feature hardware performance counters, but current virtual machine monitors (VMMs) do not properly expose them to the guest operating systems. Existing profiling tools require privileged access to the VMM to profile the guest and are only available for VMMs based on paravirtualization. Diagnosing performance problems of software running in a virtualized environment is therefore quite difficult. This paper describes how to extend VMMs to support performance profiling. We present two types of profiling in a virtualized environment: guest-wide profiling and system-wide profiling. Guest-wide profiling shows the runtime behavior of a guest. The profiler runs in the guest and does not require privileged access to the VMM. System-wide profiling exposes the runtime behavior of both the VMM and any number of guests. It requires profilers both in the VMM and in those guests. Not every VMM has the right architecture to support both types of profiling. We determine the requirements for each of them, and explore the possibilities for their implementation in virtual machines using hardware assistance, paravirtualization, and binary translation. We implement both guest-wide and system-wide profiling for a VMM based on the x86 hardware virtualization extensions and system-wide profiling for a VMM based on binary translation. We demonstrate that these profilers provide good accuracy with only limited overhead.