In computing, paravirtualization is a virtualization technique that presents a software interface to virtual machines that is similar, but not identical to that of the underlying hardware.
The intent of the modified interface is to reduce the portion of the guest's execution time spent performing operations which are substantially more difficult to run in a virtual environment compared to a non-virtualized environment. The paravirtualization provides specially defined 'hooks' to allow the guest(s) and host to request and acknowledge these tasks, which would otherwise be executed in the virtual domain (where execution performance is worse). A successful paravirtualized platform may allow the virtual machine monitor (VMM) to be simpler (by relocating execution of critical tasks from the virtual domain to the host domain), and/or reduce the overall performance degradation of machine-execution inside the virtual-guest.
Paravirtualization requires the guest operating system to be explicitly ported for the para-API a conventional OS distribution that is not paravirtualization-aware cannot be run on top of a paravirtualizing VMM. However, even in cases where the operating system cannot be modified, components may be available that enable many of the significant performance advantages of paravirtualization. For example, the Xen Windows GPLPV project provides a kit of paravirtualization-aware device drivers, licensed under the terms of the GPL, that are intended to be installed into a Microsoft Windows virtual-guest running on the Xen hypervisor.
Linux paravirtualization support
At the USENIX conference in 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts, a number of Linux development vendors (including IBM, VMware, Xen, and Red Hat) collaborated on an alternative form of paravirtualization, initially developed by the Xen group, called "paravirt-ops". The paravirt-ops code (often shortened to pv-ops) was included in the mainline Linux kernel as of the 2.6.23 version, and provides a hypervisor-agnostic interface between the hypervisor and guest kernels. Distribution support for pv-ops guest kernels appeared starting with Ubuntu 7.04 and RedHat 9. Xen hypervisors based on any 2.6.24 or later kernel support pv-ops guests, as does VMware's Workstation product beginning with version 6