GPU Pass-Through for Guest VMs

  • 20 January 2022
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  • Nutanix Employee
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AHV hosts support GPU pass-through for guest VMs, allowing applications on VMs direct access to GPU resources. The Nutanix user interfaces provide a cluster-wide view of GPUs, allowing you to allocate any available GPU to a VM. You can also allocate multiple GPUs to a VM. However, in a pass-through configuration, only one VM can use a GPU at any given time.


Host Selection Criteria for VMs with GPU Pass-Through


When you power on a VM with GPU pass-through, the VM is started on the host that has the specified GPU, provided that the Acropolis Dynamic Scheduler determines that the host has sufficient resources to run the VM. If the specified GPU is available on more than one host, the Acropolis Dynamic Scheduler ensures that a host with sufficient resources is selected. If sufficient resources are not available on any host with the specified GPU, the VM is not powered on.

If you allocate multiple GPUs to a VM, the VM is started on a host if, in addition to satisfying Acropolis Dynamic Scheduler requirements, the host has all of the GPUs that are specified for the VM.

If you want a VM to always use a GPU on a specific host, configure host affinity for the VM.


Support for Graphics and Compute Modes


AHV supports running GPU cards in either graphics mode or compute mode. If a GPU is running in compute mode, Nutanix user interfaces indicate the mode by appending the string compute to the model name. No string is appended if a GPU is running in the default graphics mode.


Switching Between Graphics and Compute Modes


If you want to change the mode of the firmware on a GPU, put the host in maintenance mode, and then flash the GPU manually by logging on to the AHV host and performing standard procedures as documented for Linux VMs by the vendor of the GPU card.

Typically, you restart the host immediately after you flash the GPU. After restarting the host, redo the GPU configuration on the affected VM, and then start the VM. For example, consider that you want to re-flash an NVIDIA Tesla® M60 GPU that is running in graphics mode. The Prism web console identifies the card as an NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPU. After you re-flash the GPU to run in compute mode and restart the host, redo the GPU configuration on the affected VMs by adding back the GPU, which is now identified as an NVIDIA Tesla M60.compute GPU, and then start the VM.



GPU pass-through support has the following limitations:

  • Live migration of VMs with a GPU configuration is not supported. Live migration of VMs is necessary when the BIOS, BMC, and the hypervisor on the host are being upgraded. During these upgrades, VMs that have a GPU configuration are powered off and then powered on automatically when the node is back up.

  • VM pause and resume are not supported.

  • You cannot hot add VM memory if the VM is using a GPU.

  • Hot add and hot remove support is not available for GPUs.

  • You can change the GPU configuration of a VM only when the VM is turned off.

  • The Prism web console does not support console access for VMs that are configured with GPU pass-through. Before you configure GPU pass-through for a VM, set up an alternative means to access the VM. For example, enable remote access over RDP.

  • Removing GPU pass-through from a VM restores console access to the VM through the Prism web console.


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