Introducing Intel® Scalable I/O Virtualization

The computing environment for businesses has been rapidly transforming, creating the need to manage ever-expanding pools of resources and accommodate newer software models such as containers and function-as-a-service. Such hyperscale containerized workloads require an order of magnitude more isolation domains than typically encountered with traditional datacenter consolidation deployments. To address these challenges, Intel has been developing a new hardware-assisted approach to I/O virtualization called Intel® Scalable I/O Virtualization (Intel® Scalable IOV).

As the name implies, the technology is focused on efficient and scalable sharing of I/O devices, such as network controllers, storage controllers, graphics processing units, and other hardware accelerators across a large number of containers or virtual machines. Intel Scalable IOV not only provides much more scalability at a lower cost than today’s standard, Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV), it does so without sacrificing the performance benefits that SR-IOV is known for.

Another important aspect of Intel Scalable IOV is that it introduces the notion of composability, allowing more frequent and performance-critical operations to be run directly on hardware while complex control and configuration operations are emulated through software. This flexibility enables simpler device hardware designs and can help address limitations associated with direct device assignment such as generational compatibility, live migration, and memory over-commitment.

We have just released an initial technical specification for Intel Scalable IOV, available through Intel’s developer website. This specification is intended as an architectural blueprint for software and hardware vendors to use in implementing and enabling this new hardware-assisted virtualization model. Along with this specification, we are releasing an update to the Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) for Directed I/O (Intel® VT-d) specification which comprehends platform support for Intel Scalable IOV.

We are excited to bring this new technology to market which will help the industry to advance I/O virtualization performance and scalability as the demands for virtualization and containerization continue to grow. We look forward to continued work with the ecosystem to ensure that software support is in place to take full advantage of this new I/O virtualization architecture.

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.