Tracing and Logging High-Level Design

Both Trace and Log are built on top of a mechanism named shared buffer (sbuf).

Shared Buffer

Shared Buffer is a ring buffer divided into predetermined-size slots. There are two use scenarios of sbuf:

  • sbuf can serve as a lockless ring buffer to share data from ACRN HV to Service VM in non-overwritten mode. (Writing will fail if an overrun happens.)

  • sbuf can serve as a conventional ring buffer in hypervisor in over-written mode. A lock is required to synchronize access by the producer and consumer.

Both ACRNTrace and ACRNLog use sbuf as a lockless ring buffer. The sbuf is allocated by Service VM and assigned to HV via a hypercall. To hold pointers to sbuf passed down via hypercall, an array sbuf[ACRN_SBUF_ID_MAX] is defined in per_cpu region of HV, with predefined sbuf ID to identify the usage, such as ACRNTrace, ACRNLog, etc.

For each physical CPU, there is a dedicated sbuf. Only a single producer is allowed to put data into that sbuf in HV, and a single consumer is allowed to get data from sbuf in Service VM. Therefore, no lock is required to synchronize access by the producer and consumer.

sbuf APIs

The sbuf APIs are defined in hypervisor/include/debug/sbuf.h.

ACRN Trace

ACRNTrace is a tool running on the Service VM to capture trace data. It allows developers to add performance profiling trace points at key locations to get a picture of what is going on inside the hypervisor. Scripts to analyze the collected trace data are also provided.

As shown in Figure 289, ACRNTrace is built using Shared Buffers (sbuf), and consists of three parts from bottom layer up:

  • ACRNTrace userland app: Userland application collecting trace data to files (Per Physical CPU)

  • Service VM Trace Module: allocates/frees sbufs, creates device for each sbuf, sets up sbuf shared between Service VM and HV, and provides a dev node for the userland app to retrieve trace data from sbuf

  • Trace APIs: provide APIs to generate trace event and insert to sbuf.


Figure 289 Architectural diagram of ACRNTrace

Trace APIs

See hypervisor/include/debug/trace.h for trace_entry struct and function APIs.

Service VM Trace Module

The Service VM trace module is responsible for:

  • allocating sbuf in Service VM memory range for each physical CPU, and assign the GPA of sbuf to per_cpu sbuf[ACRN_TRACE]

  • create a misc device for each physical CPU

  • provide mmap operation to map entire sbuf to userspace for high flexible and efficient access.

On Service VM shutdown, the trace module is responsible to remove misc devices, free sbufs, and set per_cpu sbuf[ACRN_TRACE] to null.

ACRNTrace Application

ACRNTrace application includes a binary to retrieve trace data from sbuf, and Python scripts to convert trace data from raw format into readable text, and do analysis.


There was no Figure showing the sequence of trace initialization and trace data collection.

With a debug build, trace components are initialized at boot time. After initialization, HV writes trace event date into sbuf until sbuf is full, which can happen easily if the ACRNTrace app is not consuming trace data from sbuf on Service VM user space.

Once ACRNTrace is launched, for each physical CPU a consumer thread is created to periodically read RAW trace data from sbuf and write to a file.


TODO figure is missing Figure 2.2 Sequence of trace init and trace data collection

These are the Python scripts provided:

  • converts RAW trace data to human-readable text offline according to given format;

  • analyzes trace data (as output by acrntrace) based on given analyzer filters, such as vm_exit or IRQ, and generates a report.

See Acrntrace for details and usage.


acrnlog is a tool used to capture ACRN hypervisor log to files on Service VM filesystem. It can run as a Service VM service at boot, capturing two kinds of logs:

  • Current runtime logs;

  • Logs remaining in the buffer, from the last crashed run.

Architectural Diagram

Similar to the design of ACRN Trace, ACRN Log is built on top of Shared Buffer (sbuf), and consists of three parts from bottom layer up:

  • ACRN Log app: Userland application collecting hypervisor log to files;

  • Service VM ACRN Log Module: constructs/frees sbufs at reserved memory area, creates dev for current/last logs, sets up sbuf shared between Service VM and HV, and provides a dev node for the userland app to retrieve logs

  • ACRN log support in HV: put logs at specified loglevel to sbuf.


Figure 290 Architectural diagram of ACRN Log

ACRN Log Support in Hypervisor

To support acrnlog, the following adaption was made to hypervisor log system:

  • log messages with severity level higher than a specified value will be put into sbuf when calling logmsg in hypervisor

  • allocate sbuf to accommodate early hypervisor logs before Service VM can allocate and set up sbuf

There are 6 different loglevels, as shown below. The specified severity loglevel is stored in mem_loglevel, initialized by hv.DEBUG_OPTIONS.MEM_LOGLEVEL. The loglevel can be set to a new value at runtime via hypervisor shell command loglevel.

#define LOG_FATAL     1U
#define LOG_ACRN      2U
#define LOG_ERROR     3U
#define LOG_WARNING   4U
#define LOG_INFO      5U
#define LOG_DEBUG     6U

The element size of sbuf for logs is fixed at 80 bytes, and the max size of a single log message is 320 bytes. Log messages with a length between 80 and 320 bytes will be separated into multiple sbuf elements. Log messages with length larger than 320 will be truncated.

For security, Service VM allocates sbuf in its memory range and assigns it to the hypervisor.

Service VM ACRN Log Module

ACRNLog module provides one kernel option hvlog=$size@$pbase to configure the size and base address of hypervisor log buffer. This space will be further divided into two buffers with equal size: last log buffer and current log buffer.

On Service VM boot, Service VM acrnlog module is responsible to:

  • examine if there are log messages remaining from last crashed run by checking the magic number of each sbuf

  • if there are previous crash logs, construct sbuf and create misc devices for these last logs

  • construct sbuf in the usable buf range for each physical CPU, assign the GPA of sbuf to per_cpu sbuf[ACRN_LOG] and create a misc device for each physical CPU

  • the misc devices implement read() file operation to allow userspace app to read one sbuf element.

When checking the validity of sbuf for last logs examination, it sets the current sbuf with magic number 0x5aa57aa71aa13aa3, and changes the magic number of last sbuf to 0x5aa57aa71aa13aa2, to distinguish which is the current/last.

On Service VM shutdown, the module is responsible to remove misc devices, free sbufs, and set per_cpu sbuf[ACRN_TRACE] to null.

ACRN Log Application

ACRNLog application reads log messages from sbuf for each physical CPU and combines them into log files with log messages in ascending order by the global sequence number. If the sequence number is not continuous, a warning of “incontinuous logs” will be inserted.

To avoid using up storage space, the size of a single log file and the total number of log files are both limited. By default, log file size limitation is 1MB and file number limitation is 4.

If there are last log devices, ACRN log will read out the log messages, combine them, and save them into last log files.

See Acrnlog for usage details.