Fast Virtio VM

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This page explains a way to build a blazing fast Gentoo VM under KVM using Virtio and mdev.


Use a fast computer

No really, this is probably the most important thing of all, don't expect a 2 second booting VM if you are on a P3 with a slow IDE disk. This tutorial is Build on a CentOS 6.2 KVM HypverVisor on a Dual QuadCore Xeon 2.4Ghz with 8 (v)CPU's and 2GB RAM assigned to the VM. The disk file is on an SSD (old Intel x25-M 80GB, so there is more to gain if you use a faster SSD).

Use ext2

It has the fastest mount time.


Compile the kernel with:

  • VirtIO support
  • Hugetlb support
  • NO usb support (Unless planning to passthrough USB from the host).
  • NO HID support (see above).
  • NO extended video/device drivers/filesystem drivers that will not be used. (duh)
  • NO fuse support (Slow...)
  • NO modules (Slower...)

Kernel boot options

  • noapic (APIC is for hardware management, and since we are in VM and the hardware is managed by our host, we don't need it).
  • notsc (TSC is CPU clock synchronization, not needed in a VM).

Because they cannot be removed from the kernel itself, no need these as kernel boot options.

Use a static IP

DHCP is slow.

Use mdev

Replace udev with mdev (BusyBox), udev is dead slow vs mdev.

Configure mdev

Remove useless mdev devices (tun,tap, all sound, hd*, sd*, fd*, md*, grsec(*), zap, dvb, v4l stuff)


Prelink all binaries:

root #emerge --ask prelink
root #prelink -amRf


Use rc-update to delete all non-essential daemons (git, consolefont, devfs, keymaps, modules, sysfs, swclock, staticroute)


Use tmpfs for /tmp and /var/run (will not necessarily speedup boot, but for startup services that /tmp heavily, it might help).


I created my own boot time init script, which echoes the current kernel uptime.

Please keep in mind that all of this is without *any* dirty tricks like initrd or initramfs. It's just static sequential boot. Even using parallel start of services (thru RC_PARALLEL="yes") would slow down the system.