Goal of this document is to bring-up ACRN as a nested Hypervisor on top of QEMU/KVM with basic functionality such as running Service VM (SOS) and User VM (UOS) for primarily 2 reasons,

  1. Allow users to evaluate ACRN.

  2. Make ACRN platform agnostic and remove hardware-specific platform configurations setup overhead.

This setup was tested with the following configuration,

  • ACRN Hypervisor: v2.6 tag

  • ACRN Kernel: v2.6 tag

  • QEMU emulator version 4.2.1

  • Service VM/User VM is Ubuntu 20.04

  • Platforms Tested: Kaby Lake, Skylake


  1. Make sure the platform supports Intel VMX as well as VT-d technologies. On Ubuntu 20.04, this can be checked by installing cpu-checker tool. If the output displays KVM acceleration can be used the platform supports it.

    INFO: /dev/kvm exists
    KVM acceleration can be used
  2. The host kernel version must be at least 5.3.0 or above. Ubuntu 20.04 uses a 5.8.0 kernel (or later), so no changes are needed if you are using it.

  3. Make sure KVM and the following utilities are installed.

    sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
    sudo apt install qemu-kvm virtinst libvirt-daemon-system -y

Prepare Service VM (L1 Guest)

  1. Use virt-install command to create Service VM.

    virt-install \
    --connect qemu:///system \
    --name ACRNSOS \
    --machine q35 \
    --ram 4096 \
    --disk path=/var/lib/libvirt/images/acrnsos.img,size=32 \
    --vcpus 4 \
    --virt-type kvm \
    --os-type linux \
    --os-variant ubuntu18.04 \
    --graphics none \
    --clock offset=utc,tsc_present=yes,kvmclock_present=no \
    --qemu-commandline="-machine kernel-irqchip=split -cpu Denverton,+invtsc,+lm,+nx,+smep,+smap,+mtrr,+clflushopt,+vmx,+x2apic,+popcnt,-xsave,+sse,+rdrand,+vmx-apicv-xapic,+vmx-apicv-x2apic,+vmx-flexpriority,+tsc-deadline,+pdpe1gb -device intel-iommu,intremap=on,caching-mode=on,aw-bits=48" \
    --location 'http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/bionic/main/installer-amd64/' \
    --extra-args "console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8"
  2. Walk through the installation steps as prompted. Here are a few things to note:

    1. Make sure to install an OpenSSH server so that once the installation is complete, we can SSH into the system.

    2. We use Grub to boot ACRN, so make sure you install it when prompted.

    3. The Service VM (guest) will be restarted once the installation is complete.

  3. Login to the Service VM guest. Find the IP address of the guest and use it to connect via SSH. The IP address can be retrieved using the virsh command as shown below.

    virsh domifaddr ACRNSOS
     Name       MAC address          Protocol     Address
     vnet0      52:54:00:72:4e:71    ipv4
  4. Once logged into the Service VM, enable the serial console. Once ACRN is enabled, the virsh command will no longer show the IP.

    sudo systemctl enable serial-getty@ttyS0.service
    sudo systemctl start serial-getty@ttyS0.service
  5. Enable the Grub menu to choose between Ubuntu and the ACRN hypervisor. Modify /etc/default/grub and edit below entries,

  6. The Service VM guest can also be launched again later using virsh start ACRNSOS --console. Make sure to use the domain name you used while creating the VM in case it is different than ACRNSOS.

This concludes the initial configuration of the Service VM, the next steps will install ACRN in it.

Install ACRN Hypervisor

  1. Launch the ACRNSOS Service VM guest and log onto it (SSH is recommended but the console is available too).


    All the steps below are performed inside the Service VM guest that we built in the previous section.

  2. Install the ACRN build tools and dependencies following the Getting Started Guide

  3. Clone ACRN repo and check out the v2.6 tag.

    cd ~
    git clone https://github.com/projectacrn/acrn-hypervisor.git
    cd acrn-hypervisor
    git checkout v2.6
  4. Build ACRN for QEMU,

    make BOARD=qemu SCENARIO=sdc

    For more details, refer to Getting Started Guide.

  5. Install the ACRN Device Model and tools

    sudo make install
  6. Copy acrn.32.out to the Service VM guest /boot directory.

    sudo cp build/hypervisor/acrn.32.out /boot
  7. Clone and configure the Service VM kernel repository following the instructions at Getting Started Guide and using the v2.6 tag. The User VM (L2 guest) uses the virtio-blk driver to mount the rootfs. This driver is included in the default kernel configuration as of the v2.6 tag.

  8. Update Grub to boot the ACRN hypervisor and load the Service VM kernel. Append the following configuration to the /etc/grub.d/40_custom.

    menuentry 'ACRN hypervisor' --class ubuntu --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-simple-e23c76ae-b06d-4a6e-ad42-46b8eedfd7d3' {
       gfxmode $linux_gfx_mode
       insmod gzio
       insmod part_msdos
       insmod ext2
       echo 'Loading ACRN hypervisor with SDC scenario ...'
       multiboot --quirk-modules-after-kernel /boot/acrn.32.out
       module /boot/bzImage Linux_bzImage
  9. Update Grub: sudo update-grub.

  10. Enable networking for the User VMs

    sudo systemctl enable systemd-networkd
    sudo systemctl start systemd-networkd
  11. Shut down the guest and relaunch it using virsh start ACRNSOS --console. Select the ACRN hypervisor entry from the Grub menu.


    You may occasionnally run into the following error: Assertion failed in file arch/x86/vtd.c,line 256 : fatal error occasionally. This is a transient issue, try to restart the VM when that happens. If you need a more stable setup, you can work around the problem by switching your native host to a non-graphical environment (sudo systemctl set-default multi-user.target).

  12. Verify that you are now running ACRN using dmesg.

    dmesg | grep ACRN
    [    0.000000] Hypervisor detected: ACRN
    [    2.337176] ACRNTrace: Initialized acrn trace module with 4 cpu
    [    2.368358] ACRN HVLog: Initialized hvlog module with 4 cpu
    [    2.727905] systemd[1]: Set hostname to <ACRNSOS>.


    When shutting down the Service VM, make sure to cleanly destroy it with these commands, to prevent crashes in subsequent boots.

    virsh destroy ACRNSOS # where ACRNSOS is the virsh domain name.

Bring-Up User VM (L2 Guest)

  1. Build the User VM disk image (UserVM.img) following Build the Ubuntu KVM Image and copy it to the ACRNSOS (L1 Guest). Alternatively you can also use an Ubuntu Desktop ISO image. Rename the downloaded ISO image to UserVM.iso.

  2. Transfer the UserVM.img or UserVM.iso User VM disk image to the Service VM (L1 guest).

  3. Launch User VM using the launch_ubuntu.sh script.

    cp ~/acrn-hypervisor/misc/config_tools/data/samples_launch_scripts/launch_ubuntu.sh ~/
    cp ~/acrn-hypervisor/devicemodel/bios/OVMF.fd ~/
  4. Update the script to use your disk image (UserVM.img or ``UserVM.iso).

    acrn-dm -A -m $mem_size -s 0:0,hostbridge \
    -s 3,virtio-blk,~/UserVM.img \
    -s 4,virtio-net,tap0 \
    -s 5,virtio-console,@stdio:stdio_port \
    --ovmf ~/OVMF.fd \
    $logger_setting \