This post was authored by Felipe Franciosi, Software Engineer at Nutanix
One of the hot new features available in the next major Nutanix OS 5.5 release is the AHV Turbo Technology that you may have heard about at our .NEXT events. A key enabler of this solution is a component internally referred to as Frodo. This article discusses how it fits in the storage datapath and what differentiates it from any other storage virtualisation engine available on the market today.
Traditionally, AHV presents virtual machines with a single queue Virtio-SCSI PCI controller. This means that, independent of the number of disks or vCPUs, a guest can only submit up to 128 requests at a time. Additionally, this single data structure can only be managed by one thread from the hypervisor side. This model is similar to other hypervisors.
While this architecture works really well on most scenarios, it shows signs of abate at higher throughput or IOPS rates. This will be a concern as modern hardware such as NVMe and RDMA gain in adoption. Other hypervisors circumvent this limitation by allowing the configuration of more virtual controllers to each guest. That solution, however, doesn't improve the performance of single virtual disks and just adds complexity to the VM configuration. Additionally, it doesn't reflect what has been done to overcome this limitation for real hardware.
Starting with NVMe controllers, a single drive can deliver hundreds of thousands of IOPS. In order to achieve such levels of performance, each one of these drives presents multiple hardware queues. Operating systems, in turn, introduced support for multi-queue block layers. This allows better scalability all across the stack: applications can submit IO in parallel over multiple queues and, at the same time, the hardware can process the queues also in parallel.
If it works well for real hardware, why can't hypervisors follow suit? AHV does.
Frodo is a new Acropolis Hypervisor component which handles the Virtio-SCSI PCI controller presented to virtual machines. As far as the guest is concerned, the only difference is that this controller is now multi-queue. From the hypervisor side, however, Frodo is designed to be more efficient and also to process the different queues in parallel using multiple threads.
In order to achieve this, Frodo was specifically designed to work with Nutanix. On top of being multi-threaded to process the request queues in parallel, each thread is also extremely efficient. For starters, Frodo knows that the requests are SCSI commands. It can therefore pass them, without any translation, directly to the CVM which already supports this protocol. Next, the virtual queues to threads mapping is done in such a way that allows for intelligent request batching, making the communication also more efficient. Finally, it gives AHV complete control over the datapath, laying the foundation for many other future possibilities.
The graph above compares the IOPS obtained for 4k random read requests on a NX-3060-G5 AF setup. It shows how the performance improves as the number of outstanding requests is pushed higher on a single virtual machine with 8 vCPUs, 16GB of RAM and 6 virtual disks. The VM which is powered by Frodo can deliver IOPS as high as 180k while the standard VM using Qemu will not go above 80k.
The development of Frodo is a great example of why Nutanix is investing in AHV. When Nutanix has control over the entire stack, the possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, Nutanix AHV is an awesome hypervisor today. AHV Turbo builds on that by enabling the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS to take advantage of the next generation technologies like RDMA, NVMe and 3D XPoint.
If you have thoughts or questions, let's keep continue the conversation on our forum. Be sure to label/tag your post with AHVTurbo.
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