Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Google Brings ‘Nested’ VMs to Cloud 

Google Cloud Platform now supports nested virtualization, a feature that allows enterprise users to run multiple virtual machines inside a Linux VM—or as Google describes it, "VMs inside of VMs."

The cloud upgrade is aimed at enterprise users who want to run both legacy and cloud-native applications on hybrid IT without modifications.

The company noted in a recent blog post that nested virtualization eases the transfer of on-premises, virtualized workloads to the cloud without the hassle of importing and converting VM images. The feature also leverages Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) VT-x processor virtualization instructions, which outperform alternatives such as emulation.

The nested VM sits atop a hypervisor running on the Google Compute Engine VM. That configuration runs within a separate hypervisor running on a physical server.

Scott Van Woudenberg, product manager for Google Compute Engine, noted that the "VM inside of VMs" configuration is suited to DevOps and test functions along with continuous integration/continuous delivery workloads requiring software validation in multiple environments.

The cloud vendor also noted that nested virtualization could help reduce the cost of cloud-based disaster recovery and can also be used for training and certification courses.

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL) cloud uses kernel-based virtualization. The hardware-accelerated nested virtualization feature on its compute engine also supports KVM-based hypervisors, Van Woudenberg added.

The upgrade is in line with what other public cloud rivals are pursuing in the transition to container-based cloud services on hybrid infrastructure. In rolling out its Windows Server 2016, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) embraced Hyper-V containers with a nested virtualization feature that is supported on Microsoft Azure. The company described the feature as "a key enabling technology for Hyper-V containers."

Moreover, a security feature called container isolation can be used when applications enter production without having to change container images or configurations.

Google said it worked with several partners to bring nested virtualization up to speed on its cloud. Startup appOrbit's application platform used the feature to port both legacy and cloud-native applications to hybrid cloud infrastructure without the need to rewrite code. The combination, Google asserted, was faster deployment of applications workloads without modifications.

A beta version of nested virtualization is supported on Google Compute Engine as of the end of September, the company said. Google's nested virtualization requires higher-end Intel processors, starting with Haswell CPUs.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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