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A Glance at Virtual Machine Monitor

Teddy Rogers

About This File

Virtual-machine monitor (VMM) manages the resources of the underlying hardware and provides an abstraction of one or more virtual machines [1]. Each virtual machine can run a complete operating system and its applications. Software running within a virtual machine is called guest software. All guest software runs in user mode; only the VMM runs in the most privileged level (kernel mode). The host OS is used to provide portable access to a wide variety of I/O devices [2]. virtual machine monitors export hardware-level abstractions to guest software using emulated hardware. The guest OS interacts with the virtual hardware in the same manner as it would with real hardware, for example IN / OUT instructions, and these interactions are trapped by the VMM and emulated in software. This emulation allows the guest OS to run without modification while maintaining control over the system at the VMM layer [2].

Virtualization has become an important tool in computer system design, and virtual machines are used in a number of sub-disciplines ranging from operating systems to programming languages to processor architectures. By freeing developers and users from traditional interface and resource constraints, virtual machines enhance software interoperability, system impregnability, and platform versatility [4]. The primary motivation for using a virtual machine is that it decouples the design of computer software from the evolution and diversity of computer hardware and operating systems. This is because the same application code can be used on any system that supports the appropriate virtual machine. Advocates of virtual machines say that it is far more convenient to implement a single virtual machine for each computer than it would be to re-implement or even just recompile each application for every different system. Furthermore, a virtual machine that allows one program to be used on different computers also aids mobility: allowing programs to move seamlessly between computers, perhaps to follow the user to a different physical location, or to relocate from a busy computer to an idle one [3]. By virtual machine, a software-implemented abstraction of a physical machine that is at a low-enough level to run an operating system, running the Operating System inside a virtual machine enables the programmer to stand outside the Operating System being debugged. From this vantage point, the programmer can use a debugger to examine and control the execution of the Operating System without perturbing its state [5].

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