Security and Performance Trade-Offs in I/O Operations for Virtual Machine Monitors

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VMMs have become an attractive way to improve system security by providing strong partitioning between different guest operating systems. However, the primary reason to believe that a VMM can create stronger partitions between guest operating systems than the operating system can create partitions between processes is that the VMM is much smaller and simpler than the operating system. Madnick and Donovan [20] first proposed VMMs for security in 1973 by pointing out that “… since virtual machine monitors tend to be shorter, simpler, and easier to debug than conventional multiprogramming operating systems, … the VMM is less error-prone.” One difficult problem in keeping a VMM small is the complexity of modern I/O architectures and devices. Many current hypervisors move the large, complex, and sometimes proprietary device drivers out of the VMM, into one or more guest partitions which causes inherent tradeoffs in complexity, security and performance. This paper discusses these tradeoffs.

By: Paul A. Karger; David R. Safford

Published in: IEEE Security & Privacy, volume 6, (no 5), pages 16-23 in 2008


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