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[Qemu-devel] Live migration protocol, device features, ABIs and other be

From: Dor Laor
Subject: [Qemu-devel] Live migration protocol, device features, ABIs and other beasts
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 17:03:37 +0200
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In the last couple of days we discovered some issues regarding stable ABI and the robustness of the live migration protocol. Let's just jump right into it, ordered by complexity:

1. Control *every* feature exposed to the guest by qemu cmdline:

   While thinking on cross version migration, and reviewing some
   patches, I noticed that there are many times that we use feature bits
   in order to expose functionality for the guest driver - example:
   VIRTIO_BLK_F_BARRIER, but we do not control it from qemu cmdline.

   The result is that guest running on a newer qemu cannot live migrate
   into older qemu without the barrier feature.

   Like this barrier example, there are probably many cases that we
   do keep device/driver abi but forget new/old release abi.

   The solution here is simpler - Every guest visible change should
   translate into cmdline option. This is part of the machine type and
   in addition should be configurable.
   It's an issue we all should keep in the back of our heads and popup
   when a new capability/change are introduced.

2. Live migration inherent problem.

   Currently, even with VMState, the protocol is not flexible enough.
   We run into problem when we needed to fix pvclock migration issue.
   The fix included 2 additional fields in save/load state and thus
   needed a new version number.
   The trouble is that the load function does not accept sections with
   versions greater than the one it supports.
   We cannot even create a new 'hack section' for new code since the
   sections are ordered and expected to be exact match on the

   The result is that new->old migration cannot work. This is not cross
   releases even! It means that even a small bug in current release
   prevents live migration between various instances of the code.
   It forces us to decide whether to fix pvclock migration issue vs
   allow new->old migration. Another ugly hack is to add cmdline that
   will control this behavior. Still it's a pain to mgmt stack and

   The solution here is more complex. One can claim that we should allow
   newer sections to be accepted by current code (and send the section
   size) and send optional sections. This would be a nasty work around.

   IMHO we should 'specify' the migration protocol and introduce
   capabilities, feature bits, etc. This way we'll have a robust,
   extensible protocol that will withstand any potential issue. Both
   Michael Tisrkin and I suggest it at the time vmstate was introduced.
   Vmstate is good for the code but it's not a protocol.

Which protocol should we use? You're smarter than me, please suggest
wrt the above guest abi issue, we should write a qemu spec with clear definitions for devices, drivers, versions, etc.

Looking forward interesting fruitful discussion,

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