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Virtualization Guide / Introduction / Introduction to KVM virtualization
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4 Introduction to KVM virtualization

4.1 Basic components

KVM is a full virtualization solution for hardware architectures that support hardware virtualization.

VM Guests (virtual machines), virtual storage, and virtual networks can be managed with QEMU tools directly, or with the libvirt-based stack. The QEMU tools include qemu-system-ARCH, the QEMU monitor, qemu-img, and qemu-ndb. A libvirt-based stack includes libvirt itself, along with libvirt-based applications such as virsh, virt-manager, virt-install, and virt-viewer.

4.2 KVM virtualization architecture

This full virtualization solution consists of two main components:

  • A set of kernel modules (kvm.ko, kvm-intel.ko, and kvm-amd.ko) that provides the core virtualization infrastructure and processor-specific drivers.

  • A user space program (qemu-system-ARCH) that provides emulation for virtual devices and control mechanisms to manage VM Guests (virtual machines).

The term KVM more properly refers to the kernel level virtualization functionality, but is in practice more commonly used to refer to the user space component.

KVM virtualization architecture
Figure 4.1: KVM virtualization architecture