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14.16.3. Determining a Compatible CPU Model to Suit a Pool of Host Physical Machines

Now that it is possible to find out what CPU capabilities a single host physical machine has, the next step is to determine what CPU capabilities are best to expose to the guest virtual machine. If it is known that the guest virtual machine will never need to be migrated to another host physical machine, the host physical machine CPU model can be passed straight through unmodified. A virtualized data center may have a set of configurations that can guarantee all servers will have 100% identical CPUs. Again the host physical machine CPU model can be passed straight through unmodified. The more common case, though, is where there is variation in CPUs between host physical machines. In this mixed CPU environment, the lowest common denominator CPU must be determined. This is not entirely straightforward, so libvirt provides an API for exactly this task. If libvirt is provided a list of XML documents, each describing a CPU model for a host physical machine, libvirt will internally convert these to CPUID masks, calculate their intersection, and convert the CPUID mask result back into an XML CPU description.
Here is an example of what libvirt reports as the capabilities on a basic workstation, when the virsh capabilitiesis executed:

<capabilities>
  <host>
    <cpu>
      <arch>i686</arch>
      <model>pentium3</model>
      <topology sockets='1' cores='2' threads='1'/>
      <feature name='lahf_lm'/>
      <feature name='lm'/>
      <feature name='xtpr'/>
      <feature name='cx16'/>
      <feature name='ssse3'/>
      <feature name='tm2'/>
      <feature name='est'/>
      <feature name='vmx'/>
      <feature name='ds_cpl'/>
      <feature name='monitor'/>
      <feature name='pni'/>
      <feature name='pbe'/>
      <feature name='tm'/>
      <feature name='ht'/>
      <feature name='ss'/>
      <feature name='sse2'/>
      <feature name='acpi'/>
      <feature name='ds'/>
      <feature name='clflush'/>
      <feature name='apic'/>
    </cpu>
 </host>
</capabilities>

Figure 14.3. Pulling host physical machine's CPU model information

Now compare that to any random server, with the same virsh capabilities command:

<capabilities>
  <host>
    <cpu>
      <arch>x86_64</arch>
      <model>phenom</model>
      <topology sockets='2' cores='4' threads='1'/>
      <feature name='osvw'/>
      <feature name='3dnowprefetch'/>
      <feature name='misalignsse'/>
      <feature name='sse4a'/>
      <feature name='abm'/>
      <feature name='cr8legacy'/>
      <feature name='extapic'/>
      <feature name='cmp_legacy'/>
      <feature name='lahf_lm'/>
      <feature name='rdtscp'/>
      <feature name='pdpe1gb'/>
      <feature name='popcnt'/>
      <feature name='cx16'/>
      <feature name='ht'/>
      <feature name='vme'/>
    </cpu>
    ...snip...

Figure 14.4. Generate CPU description from a random server

To see if this CPU description is compatible with the previous workstation CPU description, use the virsh cpu-compare command.
The reduced content was stored in a file named virsh-caps-workstation-cpu-only.xml and the virsh cpu-compare command can be executed on this file:
# virsh cpu-compare virsh-caps-workstation-cpu-only.xml
Host physical machine CPU is a superset of CPU described in virsh-caps-workstation-cpu-only.xml
As seen in this output, libvirt is correctly reporting that the CPUs are not strictly compatible. This is because there are several features in the server CPU that are missing in the client CPU. To be able to migrate between the client and the server, it will be necessary to open the XML file and comment out some features. To determine which features need to be removed, run the virsh cpu-baseline command, on the both-cpus.xml which contains the CPU information for both machines. Running # virsh cpu-baseline both-cpus.xml, results in:

<cpu match='exact'>
  <model>pentium3</model>
  <feature policy='require' name='lahf_lm'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='lm'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='cx16'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='monitor'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='pni'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='ht'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='sse2'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='clflush'/>
  <feature policy='require' name='apic'/>
</cpu>

Figure 14.5. Composite CPU baseline

This composite file shows which elements are in common. Everything that is not in common should be commented out.